Birthday party drama is unavoidable in a child’s life. It gets to a point where the backyard party or the in-home party is impossible to carry out. Birthday parties can get large and expensive as the amount of friends that your children has grows larger and our property lines get smaller, especially if they are involved in different activities outside of school. It’s also harder when you have another factor like us, a large family with lots of cousins.
As my children have grown older, they also want to try different activities with their friends like laser tag, gymnastics, etc. All these activities usually have participation limits. This is where it gets tough. It is impossible to invite every friend your child has to a birthday party and it’s also hard for your child to choose who to invite to a limited number party.
But its a basic right of passage for every child to deal with the reality of being excluded from a birthday party. It happens. Sometimes your child’s friendships are tested and many times parents friendships are tested when a child is excluded from a birthday party. No one likes to witness their child in the depths of despair because they were not chosen. We have all been excluded from things in our lives and I try to teach and help my children learn how to deal with it, without feeling like they were shunned or that they are not part of the in/popular crowd.
Both my children have summer birthdays but they always want their friends to attend their parties. It’s hard when the numbers are large and the cousin numbers are large too…what do you do? Many times we celebrate with family on the day they were born with a simple dinner out and maybe a small cake. Then we usually try to plan a celebration with their friends, where they can participate in a fun experience or activity with their friends.
I also try to make sure that I am not specifically excluding one person, or that there is the perception that a specific person is being left out. We have always invited all The Boy’s neighbour gang of friends, “the goofball brothers” as The Man lovingly call them, just cause they are like wolves….they come in a pack. The Girl also has a different groups of friends, a group from dance, friends that are siblings, and a few from school. We try to keep the groups intact but it doesn’t always work.
I make sure to confirm the dates with all the parents and do my best to have them all there. One time The Boy didn’t have his celebration until November because we couldn’t get the whole gang together. Another time, only one boy was going to be away and his mom said not to try to plan around their vacation. I really appreciated that, as we were celebrating both The Boys and The Girls birthday together.
But everything isn’t always rosy in childhood friendships and I am sure that at some point, there will be one child who is part of one of the kids groups that isn’t fitting in like they were before or that my children have chosen a new child that they are now connecting more with.
In that case I will have to have that ‘awkward’ conversation with the parent but only if it’s a tight group. Let’s face it, when it comes to excluding someone, it’s all fine until you have to break of a group. Choosing all but a few or all but one feels like bullying, that’s hard for a child to understand and grasp. I wouldn’t want the child or the parent to think that I was shunning them and would want to explain it to them directly and preferrably in person. Children talk and they all know what’s going on even if they are not included in the birthday party group or even though their role or friendship status in the group has changed.
I believe it’s respectful, especially if you have a good friendship with the parents, to explain the circumstances before the truth gets out and may get skewed. But that’s just me. I would rather have that ‘awkward’ conversation than have it later after the child has found out and already has hurt feelings. Many times I have just incurred the cost of just one or two more children but again that’s what I would do.
There have been times when there is a sibling and I will include them in the party because I know it’s easier for the parents or that the sibling also knows many of the kids. Sometimes its nice because the sibling is friends with one of my children that isn’t the birthday party celebrant .
Speaking of siblings, another birthday party drama that I have experienced is what I lovingly call the ‘sibling slip’. This is when the parent brings the younger sibling or older sibling (who doesn’t know anyone) to the ‘drop off’ and then unbeknownst to the party holder parent, they will ask the staff if they can stay. Then if the staff, who are usually younger and inexperienced in the ‘sibling slip’ method, innocently say yes then the party holder parent is either stuck paying for them or stuck feeding them. Or if they are really brazen they will flat out ask the party holder parent, usually the parent says ‘yes’ because they are so frazzled or because they are too polite to say no in front of the child who wants to stay.
Even if the parent who is willing to pull the ‘sibling slip’ pays or is willing to pay for uninvited sibling, you are stuck with a child that is either too old or too young and doesn’t know anyone except their sibling. Sometimes that can be all fine and dandy for the extra child but then the party holder parent still needs to feed the extra child and sometimes feels obligated to supply this extra child with a goody bag or party favor. A few questions come to my mind…
Why would an older kid want to hang out with younger children that they don’t know?
Sometimes the younger sibling ‘slips’ need more attention, taking away from the actual paid for party friends. Is that fair, especially when your child has probably had to leave someone out?
Birthday party drama. It happens.