Thursday, January 24, 2013

Birthday Party Politics

"We are constantly invited to be who we are." -Henry David Thoreau

We are currently planning Peanut's 6th birthday party. (Sixth?! When the hell did THAT happen?) It'll be a small affair for a movie night at our house. Peanut picked eight girls, because that's her favorite number. Like five year-olds are prone to do, she insisted we stick to the number eight for no other reason than she likes the number. We added two more girls we thought should be included anyway. As her parents, we decided that actual friends of hers shouldn't be excluded simply because of Peanut's stubbornness, OCD, and love for the number eight. Let those things cost her friendships when she's older. Not yet. But ten is our limit. And no parents. I don't need to amuse parents anymore.

How things have changed. From pretty much the age of two, birthday parties quickly become the social life your child needs and you as a suddenly shut-in parent crave. They provide an instant play date and social interaction for parent AND child. So it is understandable that your first reaction is to take offense when the time comes that your child is NOT invited to a party. I mean, how dare someone not invite my precious little Peanut, right? There must be some mistake. I could see if they don't like me. (Have you read some of my blog posts?) But don't take it out on my child. What will she think? How will I explain it to her? How will we go on? Oh, the humanity.

Peanut and I were picking out a new baseball glove - her first. This is a big moment for a dad, even if his daughter has a marginal interest in the sport at best. (She's already very good at humoring me.) We ran into a boy and his mom that we know from day care. After some small talk about the first week of Kindergarten, how both kids are adjusting to their new schools, and other typical catching-up chit-chat, it was time for her and her son to leave.

"So we'll see you at so-and-so's party on Saturday?" She asked.

"Uh...I don't think so." I said, puzzled. (Only because I, like most men in the relationship, am not in charge of the social calendar.)

I stuck with my gut, knowing I definitely didn't remember My Director mentioning a party for so-and-so. (Maybe?) As you might have guessed, things immediately turned awkward. But they didn't have to. Right away, this poor woman felt the need to justify her son's invitation and my daughter's lack of one. I think we've all done this at one point. "Well, he/she is in dance class/swim class/karate/went to camp with him or her. So they've become close.

It's fine. Really, it is. And if it's not, we all need to get over it.

Princess Peanut's 4th Birthday
No Boys Allowed
That's what I said as I tried to diffuse the situation."Please don't even worry about it." I really didn't care. But the damage was already done. Awkwardness still hung in the air like the echo of a loud sneeze in church. But I say enough with inviting the whole class. Don't feel obligated please. It's happened before and will happen again. We've done it to other kids too. Peanut's fourth birthday was a girls-only princess party. The boys in her class were pissed. Too bad, fellas. (They weren't missed, either.)

Our children are a lot more resilient than we sometimes give them credit for. As Peanut was running around the store with her friend, she had no idea what was happening, that there was a party with some of her classmates and she wasn't invited. What she doesn't know won't hurt her. If she did happen to know, she didn't seem to care.

Let's all agree that it's ok for our child not to invite everyone, and not to be invited to everything. I know some schools have certain rules about such things. But how about we as parents agree that our kids are going to get their feelings hurt eventually. The sooner we - and they - realize that, the better.

Party on.

This post first appeared on Barista Kids in September. Peanut's resiliency also inspired the post about her first day of school, which you can read by clicking HERE.


  1. I agree in that not everyone is going to get invited to everything and I'm ok with that. My kids have been excluded and I brush it off as 'eh, who cares' to them.
    My kids' school also doesn't let the kids invite anyone to anything during school because of this. If you want to have a party, kids need to invite their friends after school to avoid hurt feelings.

  2. SO with you!! When did it become "required" to invite the whole class to birthday parties? I had girl only parties until I was in 6th grade. Some kids invited everyone, some kids didn't. No one ever really seemed to care. I have a few more years to worry about this still, but I have to say if my child is in a kindergarten class of 25 kids, no way will I be inviting everyone. It just seems nuts.

  3. Yes, this fairness doctrine has come about with the invention of participation trophies and the resulting helicopter parents. My 5yo's school has the same rule: if you hand out invitations in class, you have to give one to everyone. First time I realized having a kid with an August birthday is a TOTAL advantage. We invite only the friends we've gotten to know well enough for me to trade email addresses with the parents.

    Unfortunately, this means we get invited to kids birthday parties that I would rather stay away from but the 5yo KNOWS she got a card in her bag from some other kid and wants to know what it's about.
    Sigh - now I have to spend money on a gift for a kid who I think is a bad influence on my kid while we spend an afternoon in a germ-infested bouncy place.

  4. Congratulation Princess Peanut's for being 6th years with us. So cute princes!

  5. Hi I'm Heather! Please email me when you get a chance, I have a question about your blog! LifesABanquet1(at)

  6. I agree, the sooner the better, she looks very cute in the picture though! We also celebrated our daughter’s 5th birthday last month and all her friends from school were invited. We booked one of the home studios NYC for the party, it was a great success!


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