Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Birthday Party of the RichMy daughter had another birthday party today. I was a bit apprehensive as I approached the building. It was smack in the middle of a number of Embassies. I can only imagine the real estate costs here.
I enter the building and am told by another mother dropping off a classmate that even though she'd hold the door open, I must wait for the host to buzz up the elevator. To get up to the top three floors, you must have a key or the host needs to "call" the elevator once you are inside.
I've been going to the school for many years and am there often -- usually four times a day to drop the kids off, pick up my daughter for lunch and then drop her off and then pick up both kids at the end of school. I had NEVER seen this mother before. I told her that I was very sorry, but I had to stay at the party with my daughter (my son was at a friend's house). She asked if that was really necessary, and right on cue, my daughter started crying at the prospect of me leaving. So the host let me stay.
For all the money this woman clearly had, it didn't buy any manners. She did not offer me a drink, a common courtesy (it's not like I thought she'd get it for me herself). I know it's not ideal to have this mother hanging around (although she didn't see me much because the mother hung out with a friend in the kitchen and the hired help stayed with me at the party), but really, she could have been a little welcoming.
I sat on a nearby couch and read a book and sometimes looked around at the apartment. It was separated into four floors (the private interior staircase and elevator were just off the living room where the party was held. Everything was perfectly placed with a minimalist look in the living room. The mother came out for the cake cutting and took pictures. She promptly left again.
This particular clown/princess/animator company ran a number of games at the party, which is not usual. I couldn't believe two kids, including the party boy, had to pick teams. There was a girl captain and a boy captain. My daughter was the first girl pick for the birthday boy and she was happy about that. However, one petite, shy little girl was the last to get picked. I felt bad for her! It truly was a popularity contest.
At the end, the animator put the birthday boy on some mahogany chest while the children sat on the couch waiting to give their gifts. After most of the gifts were open, the mother came out and nearly had a fit that her son was sitting on some priceless piece of furniture. She shouts for the hired help to get a proper chair and starts brushing off the cabinet looking for scratches. I guess even the rich have their worries....
-- said Auntie M in Paris
# posted by irene : 10:38 PM
# posted by : 11:05 PM
You mean to tell me that:
1. She didn't offer you a drink
2. She didn't participate in her kid's birthday party
3. She was in a different room as you talking to what must of been another mother.
# posted by Magabe : 11:05 PM
# posted by Anonymous : 11:24 PM
# posted by Lisa : 1:00 AM
I would think offering a cup of water would be globally considered a nice thing to do.
I feel sorry for her kid, being reprimanded at his own birthday.
# posted by BohemianMama : 5:21 AM
Magillicuddy, Personally, I like being the hired help at parties too, but I found it difficult to take pictures! I never have any pictures of my kids parties. This year I hired someone for the kids birthdays. Hopefully, I'll have some pictures! You sound like you create some great parties... I'd love to take notes!
Magabe, It's not like this was my first time staying at a party... her behavior was really surprising. I don't think it was another mother... I knew all the other mothers from my child's class. Very strange.
CMAC, Once the French mothers came to pick up the kids she was friendly with them. Maybe it was just me and my needy child that bothered her.
Lisa, I really have been to many, many parties and I always get offered a drink of water, at least. It's not like I want to stay at someone else's kids party. I so wanted to leave and check out Cidre Rouge, which was close by.
BM, The mother reprimanded the boy quietly and grabbed his arm to pull him off the furniture. I don't think anyone else noticed. I'm sure he knows he isn't supposed to sit on (or touch?) the furniture.
# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 8:07 AM
# posted by rowena : 8:23 AM
# posted by Nyx : 10:03 AM
Magillicuddy - 80m²?? In my book, you're damn well-off! :-)
Actually, I've found it rather common (amongst both the French and the Americans) to sit for a looong time without being offered a drink.
Sorry you had such an unfun time. I'm sure there's a reason behind your dd's feelings of insecurity when it comes to these parties. For example, it may have happened that she didn't understand instructions on what to do or how to play a game. She may just be someone who likes "home." I, for example, always had a really hard time at birthday parties, expecially overnights. The reason I created was that I was worried about my mom being without me!
# posted by RighteousBiche : 11:03 AM
RB, Welcome back! Good to hear from you. You are correct. Of course, the child will listen to an adult.. the animator. It may very well be typical not to be offered a drink, but it hasn't been my experience in my part of Paris in the last 5 years. My daughter is generally fine one-on-one with friends, but she gets overwhelmed with groups of people... like at parties. I'm sure she'll outgrow this stage, but I feel bad that she gets so upset in these situations with friends she knows so well.
# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 11:26 AM
I would certainly feel snubbed if I had been in that situation, but I suppose the mother didn't feel that anything was wrong with what she was doing.
On a different note, I wish I could see that apartments. Four floors?!
# posted by Sophie : 1:14 PM
That's why I think it could be something to with parties, in themselves. I'm just wondering if something happened once, or if she feels some kind of pressure to perform or something.
I didn't mean that it's typical. I meant that it's common in a derogative way. I'm always surprised by the number of times I am not offered a drink.
Anyway, she was rude.
# posted by RighteousBiche : 2:15 PM
They never dressed up; but defintely always were part of the fun!!!
# posted by Magabe : 2:49 PM
RB, My daughter is really shy generally around anyone outside of the immediate family. But she doesn't stop talking when it's just me.
Magabe, Your parents sound great. It's easy to generalize, but I certainly don't mean to imply that all French or all Americans are one way or the other. I love living in France and have met many wonderful people who I hope will be life long friends.
# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 3:56 PM
# posted by Oz : 3:57 PM
We're in "Spinal Tap" territory here - you know, he probably isn't even allowed to look at it!
# posted by Iain : 5:10 PM
It's a different culture and I must admit that I am puzzled indeed. (smile) Perhaps I'm missing something here.
I don't like to criticize but had this happened in _any_ 100% French family in my experience (by 100% French I mean a French mother and a French father), the invited child and the mother-who-wanted-to-stay without having made arrangements beforehand (i.e., warning the receiving mother prior to arrival) would have politely been asked to go away so as not to "ruin the party" or "upset the plans". Mothers most assuredly do not accompany children to birthday parties unannounced, period. It is a huge breach of etiquette.
Why didn't you simply tell the mother beforehand ? A quick phone call or a handwritten note delivered prior to the party, say ?
As a general rule, under the very best of circumstances, French people don't like to be faced with a fait accompli. They _hate_ the unexpected. (smile – the phrase "C'est pas normal" covers a whole lot of ground.) This party was obviously stressful for the mother. She probably thinks _you_ were rude by "imposing" yourself. If she let you hang around there with the hired help (obviously incompetent or frightened to death of her, by the way: they should've put a chair in the right place without having to be told !), with no refreshment, she was sending you a crystal clear message: that's as sure as little apples. That "rudeness" was planned, have no doubt of it.
Hopefully you're keeping a detailed record of all the b_parties your children are going to, so that when their b_day rolls around they can invite back those kids who invited them. "Le renvoi de l'ascenseur" ("sending the elevator back") is absolutely crucial in the case of French b_parties.(smile)
Rereading the above, I guess I must sound like some nightmarish version of Anne Landers. (wide smile). Sorry. No offense intended. I'm just perplexed.
# posted by L'Amerloque : 6:26 PM
Iain, Hello. What a nice surprise getting a message from my fellow Paris blogger! Thanks for your comment.
# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 6:34 PM
# posted by maryse : 6:51 PM
>>one could replace "french"
Of course ! Parisian and, perhaps, "très seizieme". (smile) It might even be generational, not just a "class" thing. In the latter case, though, I think the rude hostess should be reminded of "noblesse oblige" (smile)
L'Amerloque, ala "Anne Landaires"
# posted by L'Amerloque : 7:11 PM
Maryse, So often I'm told my experiences are more Parisian then French. My sister's life in the south of French is very different and much more easy going.
# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 7:19 PM
# posted by franchini : 9:01 PM
# posted by franchini : 9:01 PM
I would be tempted to telephone her again just to ask if I'd caused offense (of course thereby making light of the fact that she offended you and was a royal b*iatch as CMAC so rightly put it) The trouble is she is probably living in her own little world and won't even bat an eyelash about your call. But I'd just have to do something petty like that!
I don't agree that you should have called first! I mean c'mon it's a CHILD'S BIRTHDAY PARTY not a State dinner for goodness sake!!!
# posted by chrisc : 9:03 PM
# posted by : 9:46 AM
# posted by Lisa : 3:28 PM
I can't believe the manners of that woman? Pffft! And the picking of teams, that made me heart hurt. I remember being conscious of that in grade school so that if I ever got to pick teams, I would pick the ones I knew would get picked last. That meant that I was hardly ever chosen to be captin due to my team picking skills. Oh well.
Did your daughter have a nice time?
# posted by Flare : 4:54 PM
Chrisc, Thanks for commenting. There is no way I'm calling this mother again!
Louie, The mother didn't seem shy, but maybe you are right. She seemed to get along with the other mothers when they came to pick up their kids. Maybe she felt awkward with my poor French skills.
Lisa, I was surprised too! You never know.
# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 11:35 PM