Friday, May 14, 2010

Children's Birthday Party Guest List Etiquette

It never ceases to amaze me that people want to upset me or my children on something so small as a birthday party invitation. Not to be spiteful, but my memory is very long.....
I learned my lesson the hard way when I excluded a friend's child (she goes to a different school, did not invite my child to her party,etc.) and I thought I had lots of reasons to exclude her. The mother (who is a friend of mine) got wind that her daughter was not included and 2 other ballet class friends were invited and gave me the business. Her daughter probably would have never known about the party anyway, but this really changed my relationship with the mother and my child's relationship with the daughter. Her husband runs a major corporation and she is not someone you want to upset. This is when I changed my attitude about children's birthday parties. Recently, a good friend of mine excluded my son from her son's birthday party(pretty much invited all the other boys in the class), and frankly, my son is a pretty nice, likable kid, so my only thought of why he was excluded was because they asked their son for a list of 10 and my son did not make the cut. We are actually good friends with the family too (took them out to our club for Christmas brunch, celebrate birthdays together, etc.) To make matters even worse, another boy in the school (who was not invited to the party either), actually went to the same movie the party was at and ended up sitting behind the 1o boy party. This boy just hung his head down when he left. Gosh, is this worth it? Note: There are about 8 families of boys whom are all friends and they all were at a dinner party the night before with these people.
Story #2: My daughter is friends with a group of 4-5 girls at her school. I would say they are a little group and girl "b" is a little bit of an add-on but definitely someone my daughter would include in a party. My daughter is having her 16th birthday this Friday and I called a few mothers making sure that this date would work (last minute effort). Girl "b"'s mother said it may not work. The next day, all my daughters good friends were invited to girl "b"'s birthday on Sat (my daughters is Friday) and my daughter was not. So, I had my daughter deliver girl' "b" invitation knowing she was not invited to this girls birthday. We rise above these situations and do what is right. A friend of mine called this situation bullying because this girl deliberately did not invite my daughter and thinks she would not find out. Girl "b" actually yelled at one of the girls for telling my daughter. I think this girl and her parents are not very bright. This is a small school and we have two more years.
Yes, there is disappointment in life and you cannot always be included in everything. There are budgets, limits on space, and children your child just cannot tolerate. Here are my rules for children's parties and adult parties are the same.

1. If you are inviting 50% of the class, you need to invite everyone. Do not leave three children out or 3 girls out, etc.

2. Do not exclude people that you may regret the rest of your life. Children actually get over the fact they were not invited, their parents do not. Is it worth the $5 in party favors and cake to tick off someone you may need to write a letter of recommendation for your child to get into Medical School?

3. No invitations delivered at school, never, never, never!

4. No talking about the party (which will happen, just tell your child not to do that or you will have to cancel the party). One time I even wrote on the invitation for the teens to not discuss this at school-you have to be blunt sometimes.

5. Make sure you carefully select the location and time. If you run into a classmate at the location of your party, invite them to join in. If you do not have a treat bag, figure something out--does the birthday boy need really need a treat bag?

6. If you have a party at your home and your child is friends with the neighbor kids make sure you include them in someway. Nothing is worse than a big bouncy in the front yard and a child being allowed to participate.

7. If you are going to exclude people, make sure it can be justified. For example, we are only invited the girls from our class or we are only inviting boys from the soccer team. Again, advance damage control is good.

8. Most importantly, children and their friends change at a moments notice so you should guide them in identifying healthy relationships. You need to have some veto and amendment power. Is your child's best friend the girl who gave her a piece of candy the day before?

9. When kids get older (after elementary school), parties are a little different, but you still need to be kind. The kids know who their friends are and are not and at a small school, is it really worth hurting some one's feelings?
10. Yes, the birthday party is about the birthday child, but that does not allow them to feel good at an other's expense. Politically, I am about pre- damage control. For example, my daughter's party is on prom night and a really good friend of hers is going to the prom. We have known this fact for 2 months, but planned the party anyway. I emailed the mom letting her know about the date conflict and telling her we would like to plan another outing for my daughter and her daughter. Damage control.
The psychiatrist from my daughter's private school has a son in 8th grade and invited everyone in the class to his bar mitzvah. It was not at a fancy location where he would need to, for financial reasons, limit the numbers for kids . I am sure this mother sees kids often that are excluded and figured it is not worth it.