When did it become the expectation that parents would host birthday parties for entire school classes? I just don’t remember this being something that my mom did but maybe we were just the odd ones. Or its been a long time and I have forgotten. I remember lots of friends but that included neighbors, cousins and teammates.
Enter the pre-school age and all of a sudden there are rules and an entire social construct around kids birthday parties.
Elaborate invitations to big parties for all the kids in the class. Sign up sheets to attend parties at museums, trampoline parks, zoos and more. I was unprepared.
Parents have to learn the hard way that there are rules to party planning. If you can’t invite everyone then hurt feelings can get in the way. It doesn’t have to be so complicated. Call us antisocial but we made an arbitrary rule in our house that we would not be inviting entire classes to parties.
Our daughter was only given the option of an all-friends party when she hit kindergarten.
Until that point it was family only festivities with some close family friends mixed in to celebrate the special day.
We still did it up Pinterest style (or as close as I get) and let her pick her own decor and treats.
I put a lot of time and energy working with my mom or mother-in-law to make these events special and she had a blast, even when she was too young to know the milestones celebrated. It was just for her and for the people who love her most. It felt special and an easily adapted birthday tradition.
Now that we are in school and gaining a group of close friends things are changing again. So many celebration options available. The birthday girl has to prioritize and plan the who, what and where.
Now its a conscious decision about who to invite and who not to invite. There are more feelings involved.
Social media is also involved. Someone posts a few pictures on Facebook or Instagram of your daughters friends at what is clearly a celebration that your daughter wasn’t invited to. Does that make you wonder why? Do you think less of that child or parent? Do you show the pictures to your daughter and does she get upset?
The expectation that everyone needs an invite to everything just seems like a lot of unnecessary strain.
Let’s take a quick run through of some scenarios where your kid just might not make the party list.
Here are 8 Reasons Your Kid Might Not Get Invited To The Party.
She wants all the attention.
She wants the spotlight and the attention. All. Of. It. It’s the only day of the year that is all about her. Shes logical in her pursuits so she understands that more kids mean more divided attention. More kids increase the potential for hurt feelings all around.
It means more presents but she honestly doesn’t care about that. She wants the friends to orbit her on the special day. Do what she wants in the order she wants it done. To show praise and affection to only her. This day only comes around once a hear so, why not?
She doesn’t know you.
She has a fall birthday so that means that she has her special day just over a month into the new school year. That’s not enough time to get to know every kid in the class. It makes her uncomfortable to have forced interactions so this is not her favorite thing to do on her birthday.
In fact, she doesn’t show much of an interest in attending parties of classmates she doesn’t know well. Her party calendar doesn’t fill up until spring when she is more familiar with everyone.
I don’t know you.
Same goes for me. The print is barely even dry on the class directory list so if our kids haven’t been in a class before and I haven’t met you at the open house, it’s highly likely that I don’t know you yet. If I don’t know you then odds are small that I know your kid enough to convince my daughter to put him or her on the party list. It doesn’t feel good to me to force this shared celebration on anyone.
Family trumps friends.
We live a considerable distance from family. That means that we often plan visits around special events like holidays and birthdays. If family is coming to town then the festivities need to include family over friends. Grandma and grandpa aren’t coming to town to watch twenty other people’s kids run around on a sugar-fueled high. I can’t say I blame them.
It is impossible to make everyone’s schedule align. Between our work schedules and extra activities we have plan the party based on what works best for our calendar. We can’t be expected to consider every possible conflict. The host reserves the right to plan the party on their schedule. It’s not for guests to dictate.
Often the location dictates the size of the party. Nothing personal it just means that we ask her to weigh the options and decide. If she wants the whole class then it might limit the location. If she wants a smaller location then it limits the guest list.
Cost. Trampoline parks, movies, pizzas, pottery painting, go-carts, and more.
The larger the group, the more expensive for mom and dad. It’s not the cake cost but it is everything else that adds up to make one expensive event. Birthday girl has to make choices and if she wants the pricier option for more friends then she understands that the trade-off might mean less gifts. Similar to the location, she has to choose wisely.
No boys allowed.
We are at that age. Boys are gross and messy and loud and annoying and everything she doesn’t want. Its her day so if she doesn’t want to have a gender-neutral party activity then that’s ok. She would rather have no boys than run the risk of them getting bored with cupcake decorating or nail painting. It’s not insensitive it’s actually thoughtful.
It’s easy to assume its malicious intent to not invite every kid the party.
When you put the decision-making in the hands of the birthday girl, it changes things. So what do you tell your daughter if she finds herself on the outside looking in? You explain the eight reasons above or any other reason that lets her see that she did nothing wrong and it’s not personal.
There is a good chance if one, if not more than one prevented a big party for the entire class. Take the time to understand the situation and let her know that the birthday girl did what she thought was best.
Change your expectations as a parent. Go for the perfect party. You might just find yourself feeling less pressure to invite twenty-five first graders to invade your personal space for a day. Its one day and its her day so don’t take it personally.
While this makes sense and intellectually I know it isn’t always personal. I can assure you, it feels very different when the shoe is on the other foot. To go and have lunch with your son (second grade) and have all the boys around him (who he sits with every day) talking excitedly about the awesome birthday party they all attended, One that he wasn’t invited to. To sit there and watch his face as he realizes it, to see the tears well up in his eyes as he looks down to hide it. Then you watch him quietly put his lunch away because he has a lump in his throat. To watch him wonder why he wasn’t good enough to be invited when all the others were. To comfort him the moment he gets in the car and bursts into tears and not be able to answer why he wasn’t invited because you DO NOT know. You are not allowed to ask, after all. I guarantee you, if this was your child, girl or boy, you would feel entirely different about it.
5 reasons to include instead of finding reasons to be exclusive:
1. You want to model empathy
2. You want to raise compassionate adults
3. You want to teach inclusion not exclusion
4. If the shoe was on the other foot you would want your own kid to feel included
5. You DO NOT WANT TO RAISE SELF ABSORBED MEAN KIDS. The world has enough of those
* Our times it is totally OK to limit numbers of kids invited. It could be a maximum allowed at a venue. Etc. Thats reality. But if you have a group of 12 kids, and you invite 11, and exclude 1 that says more about you than it does the kid. Ir if your child has a friend they play with nearly every single day, yet exclude that 1 from the birthday party, but expect them to play every day you’re sending mixed messages.
Of the end of the day it’s about being reasonable and showing compassion. Host who you can. Be compassion with the rest.
It is very true, especially when your child invited the kid who ignored him to his birthday and you made especial arrangements to receive the child 🙁