My going-on-10-year-old son was invited to a “destination” birthday party at 2:00 one Saturday. It was going to be a trip to a local sporting event more than an hour away (the birthday boy’s parents would be driving) and my son was really excited about the party, especially since he’d had to turn down another recent invitation because there was a conflict with hockey evaluations for next season. I told him we’d have to go straight to the birthday boy’s house from his Saturday hockey game, which wouldn’t be a problem because he’d have 40 minutes between the end of the game and the party arrival time.
A week later, the Birthday Mom sent out an update letting everyone know that they decided to get to the event early and “we’ll probably leave between 1 and 1:30.”
Grrrrrr, I thought. Now someone is going to be disappointed. Aside from my son, would it be his hockey team or the birthday boy? Because one way or another, my son was going to have to make a difficult and unfortunate choice. If the departure time was 1:30, he could probably play for two periods of the game, but if it was at 1:00, he would either have to miss the game or miss the party. (Never was it discussed that I would drive the hour to the party and bring him late, though the thought crossed my mind as a highly undesirable-to-me possibility and was immediately swapped out for the thought that this would be a good opportunity for my son to learn about social graces and managing priorities.)
I replied to Birthday Mom right away and asked if she could let us know *specifically* what time the departure was because my son had a hockey game (which I hadn’t mentioned before, since it was a non-issue before she changed the party time). She told me she’d get back to me.
I told my son about the potential conflict and we talked about what it might mean. I mentioned it to another hockey mom and she told us that her son doesn’t even get invited to birthday parties anymore because he always picks hockey over a party. I wasn’t sure my son was at that stage yet, since he did receive that other invitation on the same night as evals, but this year in was a make-it-or-break it year for him. As a first-year Squirt, his season began in August and will end in April; ice time started getting really early or really far away – and sometimes both. I had told him if he complained a lot about anything to do with hockey I would not re-register him for the following year, because without his enthusiasm, the investment in time and money was certainly not worth it for me. The investment (along with some of our other family priorities) came up occasionally throughout the season when he asked why this friend had another new pair of sneakers, that friend had five cable movie channels and all we have is streaming TV, and the other friend got to go on vacation during February break. He accepted my explanation and suffice it to say, he was seriously into hockey or else he wouldn’t have been going to the evaluations for next season in the first place.
I didn’t hear back from Birthday Mom for more than two weeks, and at that point it was only four days before the party, when she declared 1:00 to be the official start time of the party, because she wanted to get the kids to the game early for a chance to meet the team mascot. This was not good news. Miss the party or miss the game, which now included the added bonus of the meet-and-greet. My son had just finished watching a Hulu Original Series (on streaming TV) called Behind the Mask, which was about mascots, and thus is particularly intrigued by mascots as of late. It would be a difficult choice to make. I suggested he sleep on it, but we’d need to let Birthday Mom know as soon as possible.
The next morning when he was still having a hard time, I suggested he imagine telling his friend he was sorry he missed his party. (I was the one who would be emailing Birthday Mom so my son wouldn’t see his friend until next time he went to church, which would be after the party.) Then I suggested he imagine telling coach he’s sorry that he’ll be missing the game (since he’s expected to let coach know ahead of time if he can’t make a practice or game).
And that was how he chose game over party. I notified Birthday mom by return email with “Regrets” in the subject line. Birthday Mom said she hoped my son had a good hockey game. I wished her son a happy birthday.
Ultimately, the hockey game was one of the most exciting of the season with a dramatic tie-breaker goal at 4.2 seconds left that gave our team a 3-2 victory in a game that could’ve gone either way. My son got a lot of play time because we were down a defenseman; his line mate was participating in a charity event for a children’s hospital. I am sure he made the right choice.
I hope the party was just as exciting.