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Birthday Party Invitations & Etiquette

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Birthdays > Birthday Party Invitations & Etiquette


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July birthday - who to invite?

April 2012

I'm wondering how parents of kids with summer birthdays handle the question of whom to invite, especially when your kid doesn't seem to have a lot of super close buddies. My son is in K currently, and while there are a couple of boys he plays with more than others, there isn't any kid who is a 'best' friend, etc. This doesn't seem to bother him, and he does get along with all of the kids in his class, which is great; however, the lack of a core group of buddies means that I'm kind of at a loss as to who to invite to his birthday. In the past we have held small parties for him, with only a couple of playmates and family. This year, however, it seems he does want a larger party. I'm considering inviting all the boys in his class, but I wonder if that would be a little weird, considering that he'll be in a different class next year, with a different mix of kids. Any input from parents who have been in similar situations? Thanks so much in advance. anon


We have a daughter with a June birthday. Its been very difficult to get the friends she wants to come to her birthday party due to kids being on summer vacation. We resolved this issue with having her birthday party in May, this way she gets to invite her friends that she's currently in class works. This has been a great solution to the problem. anon
I have two girls with August Bdays (one is now 16!). Until age 10 or 11 we have always just put a slip and slide on the back lawn and invited maybe 6 children, along with their siblings. We've also tossed water balloons in swim suits. We invite the kids our daughter's been playing with from our street, as well as 2-4 friends from school. Small parties at home or a playground are the best! Jeanette

Should we invite the twin too?

Nov 2010

Hi, I would like to hear from moms with twins and triplets. What do you think is the correct protocol for birthday parties. I am organizing a birthday party for my daughter, and she wants to invite a friend who has a twin sister (she is not in the same classroom). When I asked my daughter if she wanted to invite her friend's sister, her answer was ''I don't know her''. Do I extend the invitation anyway..? I really don't want to hurt anybody's feelings but at the same time I want my daughter to decide who she wants at her party. S.


As the mom of twins, I feel that you don't need to invite both siblings to a birthday party for your daughter, especially if she only knows one of the twins. You didn't say how old your daughter is, but since she is at least school-age, I think that at this point the twins are learning to develop independent friendships and can handle one being invited without the other. Happy Birthday! Debbie
I'm a parent of twins and I appreciate the thought and care the other parents put into the invitation question but you should invite the girl who is your daughter's friend. It's important for twins to be known as separate people (though the larger culture and some twin parents seem to struggle with this), with individual interests and friends.

Once my kids moved into kindergarten and were in separate classes, it was only natural that they would make friendships with different kids and that one of them would get an invitation that the other wouldn't. It actually gave the uninvited twin a chance to do something fun alone with a parent. Thanks for thinking about it, Rachel


This is a great question to ask Twins by the Bay! You didn't mention your daughter's age, but here's my twin two cents: When my guys were young, preschool through about middle of 2nd grade, I really appreciated it when they were both invited, because in most cases I couldn't manage being with one guy at a party and what to do with the brother. If they weren't both asked, I would ask if it was ok to bring both. Some parents assume that for younger parties, when usually parents are present, of course siblings are present and counted as party members too. As my guys matured, their ability to understand why one is invited and the other is not got a lot easier. If the mom of twins does not ask about the sibling attending, you can ask the mom just to make sure there are no hard feelings. Parents of twins are totally used to this and have been dealing with it since preschool. It's really not a big deal Sue, mom of two guys
As a mom of twins I think the kids will ALL get to know eachother soon enough. Go either way i doubt harm will come if she doesnt go and it may happen again too Twin Mama
I generally ask the twins' mom (or other parent) what she thinks before I issue formal invitations - some twins are inseparable and would be hurt by not being included, and some really don't mind if you invite one and not the other to a playdate or party. I figure the mom knows her kids best and that way she knows up front I'm not intentionally excluding one of the twins. It seems to have worked well so far - I've had some moms say both twins would like to come, and some say it's fine to just invite the twin we know best. Mom of Singletons
We have boy-girl twins, so perhaps our situation is different, but we never felt like if one was invited to a birthday party the other should be invited even at a very young age. I think your daughter should invite who she wants. In school, twins are almost always split up, so the other twin is probably not in the same class as your daughter. parent of twins
I am the mother of 8yo twin boys & we have received party invitations over the years that came to both boys and to individual boys. I don't think there is any protocol, per se, but when the kids are very young it can be difficult for the twin who is left out. However, if your child doesn't know the other twin it makes sense that she wouldn't want them at her party. I have found it helpful to have a little heads-up from the parent if there isn't much notice for the party so I can plan something special for the child who won't be going to the party. It is part of life for the twins to learn that they are individuals and they won't be doing everything together. I hope this was helpful. Suz
Hi - I am a mom of b/g 9 yr old twins and they have had invitations extended to both of them when the know both kids. If only one child knows the bday child, we receive 1 invitation, which makes sense to me. This is how it would be w/any other sibling. Since the twins are not in the same class, it makes it even easier to ''justify'' not inviting both of them. If twins are the same gender in the same class, I might encourage my child to extend an invite to both explaining it might cause hurt feelings. Since this isn't the case in your situation, it seems okay to extend the invite to the girl in your daughter's class. anon
As a mother of twins, I have always operated under the policy that invitations are for the invited person only. If one child is invited, then that's who responds and attends. This is especially true if only one child is friends with the b'day child. I believe that it is important to allow multiples to have individual identities, and friendships are one place that this is more evident. That being said, it was initially hard to explain things to the uninvited child but that's not the concern of the b'day child's family. We would do something special with the uninvited twin during the time of the party, and we explained to both kids that, of course, the tables would be turned at some point (and they invariably were). Anon
All parents of twins end up dealing with this issue. You don't say how old your daughter is, but especially as my twins are getting older, they get invited to separate birthday parties and they are fine with it. The first few times we just emphasized how they are two different people with different friends and (in our case) in different classes, so naturally they will get invited to different birthday parties. I think if you are fine with how she's making up her guest list, don't worry about inviting only one of the twins. Not something to worry about
I'm not sure there is a ''correct'' answer, but as a twin myself, I know that my mother actually asked friends of my brother and mine to feel free to invite only one of us to things, and in certain cases encouraged it. She hoped that this would help us feel like individuals and not a package deal. Now as an adult, I appreciate the lengths my parents went to to treat us as if we were just normal siblings. If the other sibling was not a twin, would you want your daughter to invite her? If not, I'd be inclined to just invite the child she knows. (This said with the caveat that being same sex twins may bring up different issues than being boy/girl like I am!) Do you know the mother and would you feel comfortable asking her if the solo invitation would bring hurt feelings? twinsies
We have always welcomed siblings to join our kids' birthday parties, so of course twin siblings are included in that. But if you aren't generally inviting the siblings of your child's friends to come along, then no, you're not obligated to change that for a particular guest who happens to be a twin.

I don't have twins myself, but have several friends who do (including all possible gender combinations, with and without additional siblings, ages from infant to teen), and I assure you none of them would expect both kids to necessarily be invited to every party or playdate that involves one or other. Like any other parent of more than one child, they may find it more difficult to come if siblings aren't included, but it's generally understood that this is up to the host. You're not required or expected to invite siblings with whom your child doesn't have a relationship, whether they're twins or a few years apart.

So do whatever makes sense given the event in question and your child's friendships. You're not violating any rules either way. Holly


Hi, You don't say how old the twins are, but here is my take as the mother of 4 year old fraternal twins: I would be THRILLED if my girls were invited as individuals to a birthday party. My girls are very different and they spend a LOT of time together. Time with just one is rare, and if one were invited somewhere without the other, it would give me a chance to be solo with one while the other had a chance to have a life without her sister. Good deal for everyone. I'd do something fun with the one who wasn't invited to make up for missing a party, & use it as a ''teaching moment'' to discuss how they are different people with different lives/friends/experiences bla bla bla. I say go for it & don't worry about the other twin! Just my take, not sure how other twin parents will feel about it. Twins are Individuals Too!
As a mother of 2-year old twins, I would totally understand and be fine with only one of the twins being invited to a party. Granted, that may make it more difficult for the invited twin to attend since that means that someone else will need to care for the other twin while we're at the birthday party (assuming parents need to accompany - not sure how old your daughter is), but if we can't go because of that reason, I suppose that's just the way things go. But from a non-logistics point of view, I think it's perfectly fine, and even welcomed, that each of the twins would have their own friends and not always have to do everything that the other twin does. Jua

My friends without kids want to be invited to 4yo's party

August 2009

Recently we held my daughter's 4th birthday party. We invited 8 of her best friends (yes, she has a lot of friends for a 4 year old), along with their families, including siblings, so it was a pretty big party already. We wanted to invite more of our friends with kids her age but figured that the party was already too big. But then my friends without kids heard that we had a party and are hurt that they weren't invited. Too late now, but for next year, do I really have to invite all of my adult friends to my kids' parties? Was I being rude or are they being ridiculous? -anon


The 4th bday was about when we stopped inviting *our* friends (even most of the ones with kids, but especially the ones without) and started inviting our *kids'* friends, since the kids were now old enough to have friends and preferences about who was there. In my experience, our childless friends mostly didn't want to be around a bunch of preschoolers, anyway. Have a grownup-friendly party some other time and invite all your friends, but don't feel bad about not inviting them to the kiddie bday. Practical
If you had had a party with your kids' school friends plus your friends with kids, and you didn't invite your kidless friends, then I could see why the latter would feel hurt. But if the party is centered around your kid's kid friends, and the grownups are there by virtue of being attached to those kids, then you didn't do anything wrong. As I see it, here is how to navigate these tricky waters.

Next year send out the invitations to the Kid Party to the kids, so it's clear that the kids are the Guests and whatever adults tag along to the Kid Party are just Handlers for the Guests. Activities and food are geared to the Guests. Note that adult food is not served to the Handlers because this is a Kid Party. (It is considered OK for the Handlers to eat scraps of pizza and leftover hot dogs off their Guest's plate at a Kid Party. Handlers may also be offered their own slice of birthday cake, though they may have to eat their cake from their Guest's plate.) I do not believe any reasonable adult would expect to be invited to a Kid Party unaccompanied by a Guest.

Since you seem to have a lot of friends who like your kid, and you are a social person, you also throw a separate party for your friends (both those with kids and without) to celebrate your kids' birthday. At the Friend Party, the adults acquire the status of Guests and kids now resume their traditional, secondary status. The Guests are served grownup beverages such as sparkling water, soda, and wine; and are given food suitable for adults on their own plates. Kids may partake of the Guest food and may receive soda at the discretion of their Guest. One or two food and beverage offerings centered around kid tastes but not totally repellent to Guests should be available (e.g. pizza, cut up vegetables, fruit juice). Cake is made equally available to all. Activities are centered around Guest interests (conversation). At an appropriate stage in the proceedings, kids may be invited to view a kid DVD in a separate room.

Having the separate Friend Party is a really good way to prepare for the next problem on the horizon: where you and your friends expect your kid to invite your friends' kids to be Guests at the Kid Party, but your kid doesn't go to school with your friends' kids and doesn't really like them. Your friends will be having more fun as a Guest at the Friend Party than they are having as a Handler at the Kid Party so they won't be upset in the slightest when you tell them that this years' Kid Party is not a Kid Party but a Classmate Party, and you can't wait to see them and their kid at the Friend Party. Good luck!


If adults' feelings get hurt over something this petty, it is totally ridiculous. My personal limit for a four-year-old birthday party: Four child guests, plus my own child's grandparents and/or aunts/uncles. That's it. This year my 7-year-old daughter invited 7 friends; and my 5-year-old got to invite 5. I don't care whose feelings get hurt. can't please everyone! ----------------------------------------- I don't see why your choices are that you are being rude or your friends are being ridiculous. I think it's nice they want to attend--I've dropped my friends off the invite list as I get the sense it's more obligation than fun. If I were you, I'd have a casual dinner/bbq or something for your daughter and invite your friends. They probably want to bring gifts, and all you'd have to do is get a birthday cake for dessert. Yay--no goodie bags! Anon
If you really can't have them there, then be honest about your limitations - space, money, whatever. If they are your friends, they will understand. But your post makes me wonder if you are not appropriately grateful for having them in your child's life as loving, supportive adults, even if they don't have children.

Our childless friends have been such an integral and important part of our son's upbringing. Many of them we even honor on mother's day and father's day with a little note or gift because they do play a role in ''parenting'' with us. Our son feels loved, and we as parents feel supported. So yes, when we are celebrating my son's birth, of course they are part of that. It wouldn't be the same without them.

Birthday parties aside, what your friends are saying is that your kid is important to them and they want to share in celebrations of his/her life. If you choose to see that as ridiculous, then I think you and your child care missing out. GNG


Ok, I am wondering how many of your grown-up friends were really upset. If one or two in conjunction said something, maybe they really do love your child and you should have them babysit more. Otherwise, I think maybe they were just trying to be nice and exaggerating the, ''Oh I wish I could have been there,'' thing. I think you should have (and still can) just explained to them (since they don't have kids they don't know) that while it was pretty fun to have grown-up parties for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd birthdays, now that she is 4, you have to concentrate on running the pinata and it's not really appropriate to have wine and stuff and you really don't have time to talk to your friends anyway. Just emphasize how it's really you working at your kid's party these days. anon
I have found that as my kids get older, adult friends are more and more understanding about it being a birthday party for the kid's friends. However, I do invite about 2-3 of my very best friends, partly because I want the HELP! We've realized this recently: it's a lot of work having that many guests/ kids, even when they come with parents, and it really helps to have our own assisting-type friends there, especially one who my other kid (not the birthday kid) enjoys, to give him/her special attention.

May 2009

My nine-year-old son, "Sam", was not invited to a large birthday party of one of his friends, "Tom". We'd like some assistance in how to approach Tom's family. Sam and Tom attend the same school and have been friendly the last three years. Last year, the mother told me Tom was having behavioral/oppositional issues at home and she was not allowing any playdates with my son as discipline. Soon after, my son became friendlier with another couple of boys who were more available. This year, Sam and Tom have ended up in some special classes together and now they both hang out with Sam's newer closest friends. Tom sent out his party invitations last week, inviting all of Sam's friends, and not Sam, to his large party at a local park. When Sam asked Tom why he didn't get an invitation, Tom said his mother wouldn't allow him to invite Sam. I have tried to call Tom's home twice and the mother hasn't called me back. Sam feels upset that he isn't included and now Tom is saying he does want Sam to come to his party. Neither of us can figure out why Tom's parents would not want to include Sam. Any ideas how I can approach this? Concerned Parent


I don't think there's anything for you to do: your son isn't invited. It sounds like a very weird situation the other kid's parents have created and you might never know what's really going through their heads (maybe they have reasons, valid or invalid, for not wanting your son to play with their son; maybe their son asked to not invite your son, but when confronted by your son he blamed his mom; who knows?). While it's definitely harder because it involves kids (and not just adults), I think still etiquette would say if you're not invited, you need to let it go. sarah
Perhaps you should let it go and take your child to a fun place in the same day of the party, such as Six Flags, Disneyland, WaterWorld, Great America, etc. Just say to him something like ''Let's go to [the fun place] on [the day of the party is]. We will have much more fun there!'' my 2 cents
My response: get used to it, it'll happen again. There isn't always a ''rhyme or reason'' to who gets invited and who doesn't, and the ''automatic''-seeming invitations only get fewer and farther between as your child gets older. He's old enough now that I don't think you can expect to be invited to every party, nor to expect any kind of explanation from the other parents. Chalk it up to your kid growing up; the social stuff only gets more and more complicated, and the days of all the moms and kids being invited to big group parties are over by this age. Sorry. Can't predict the invitations
This is not something that you control. Let it go. Your son may get hurt by not getting invited to this birthday party. But, there are plenty of things that he is going to be excluded from over time (it never gets easier, does it). There are some parents that I've tried to approach about issues that have cropped up in our children's relationships (or parents have approached me). Some parents have their own style that really is not open to negotiation (or often, to reason). Do something fun with your child that day... -anon
Wow, it seems evident that the family does not want their son to play with your son. I would leave it at that. Why must you have to push them about it? It's their choice and they have a right to it. The mother seemed to try and be polite early on by saying ''her'' son was having behavioral issues and couldn't play with yours. Actually, maybe that was the truth. But I am reading between the lines - perhaps she thinks your boy is not the best influence on her son. Perhaps there is a certain energy when your son and hers are together and she would rather not have that energy. For whatever reason, it seems obvious she doesn't want your son in their home. She can't control whether her son plays with yours at school but she should be able to control what happens at her home. So, don't push it. It sucks for your son, and it's tough, but that's life sometimes. If you try to always fix things for your son, he will not learn that he can't always have everything his way and that there will be people he won't get along with and vice versa in his life. just deal with it
Hmm. It sounds like Tom's mother has concerns about the relationship between your son and her son. They may be based on nothing, on something in her imagination, or on something that you don't know about. Are you at all friendly with her? Is there any way you can talk about it? This may not be the case, or it may be that her answer would not give you any insight. It sounds like it may be likely that you can't resolve this before the birthday party. Something like this happened to my son, and it was very difficult. But I reminded him often that it was not his fault, that he is a good friend to have for anyone, and that sometimes we have to respect other people's boundaries even when we don't understand them. Then I would make sure that we had lots of play time with other friends. anon.
It's obvious the mother saw that Tom was abusive towards your son, Sam, so SHE DECIDED as a RESPONSIBLE mother to keep her son away from yours. I understand children are children and act like a newly wed couple, fight and make up. However, for whatever reason, the parents have decided to not invite your son. Please DON'T embarrass your son by pushing yourself on them insisting they invite your son. How embarrassing for your son. Do you realize how you are coming across? I understand being snubbed is hurtful and I understand your maternal instincts of wanting your child included but the fact is he has been excluded and you can't force other parents to invite your child to their son's party. Stop it and get your MIND out of analyzing the reasons WHY he wasn't invited. You are probably making a bigger stink out of it than your son is. Please, on that day, do something special with your own child. Perhaps, this is a wonderful lesson for your child to see how life isn't always fair. It's all in how you look at it. Really, if the mother doesn't want your child there, she's really doing you a favor. You don't need to be around people who don't want your presence, so please, get a grip, and move on with your child for your child's sake. mom of boys
I would probably ask the mother if there's a problem between the boys that you should know about. That may help you understand why the mother wants them separated. If she's says no, it's fine, then you probably have to drop it. Yes, your son is hurt, but you can't always come to his rescue, or he'll come to rely on you fighting all his battles. This is pretty normal kid stuff, and you don't want to become a ''helicopter parent''! The less of a deal you make about it, the sooner your son will get over it. good luck
It is crystal clear to me that Tom's mom is rejecting your son for reasons she hasn't shared. How well or bad behaved is your son at playdates? Tom's mom doesn't seem to dare share her thoughts and observations with you, but this is not going to help you or Sam. What to do? Call her one more time and say:''I've come to understand that there si something about Sam that you don't want him to be friends with Tom. Not knowing what it is is breaking Sam's heart and I don't know what to tell him, because I simply don't know. For the sake of Sam, please call me or write me a letter or e-mail, letting us know what we need to work on from your point of view. I will not judge or defend or ask for more communication - I am simply seeking clarification. If things don't look too bad for you but supervision/monitoring are of primary concern, I could also offer to join and provide supervision at the party. Maybe it's the last thing you want, but I thought I should at least offer that, unaware of the reasons. I very much hope that you feel comfortable getting back to me.'' Anonymous
Can you imagine our own parents ever asking this question? I am not judging you but I do wonder how it is we (and that includes me) have gotten to the point where we are so highly involved in every detail of our childrens' lives? I worry that we are shielding them from every little pain or upset that life throws at them and wonder how in the world they will become healthy grown ups?

That being said, I would encourage your boy to have friendships with other kids. For whatever reason (and you probably won't ever find out since the mother obviously does not want to talk to you) this kid is not allowed to be friends with your son.

If this type of thing comes up again, then you know the first incident was not a fluke and you will need to explore your son's behaviors and talk to his teachers etc to figure out why he might be excluded from others. anon


Come on, you really need to stop harassing this family for the birthday invite. Obviously they have an issue either with your son or with you, that's why they excluded your son from thier kid's party and won't return your phone calls. It's your job as a parent to explain to your boy (if he is trully upset about that) that sometimes other people don't feel the same way about us as we feel about them. There are so many all kind of people around, some are good and gracious friends,others are not, why waste your time and energy on the ones who clearly don't value your son's friendship ?!!! (although I have a feeling from your post that it may be something to do with you). But anyway, you need to move on. Lola
Having been on the receiving end in different parts of my life that I would call this a 3 strikes situation. When there are at least 3 instances - doesn't want the playdate due to behav issues, child not invited, no returned calls, that you just have to move on. I give the benefit of the doubt up to 2 things, but then 3 is the kicker. This is not a chance situation - this family doesn't want to have a relationship with you. And I mean this with some sensitivity. I just feel that you will eat yourself up wondering what went wrong when you should just move on. Good luck - these matters are hard not to take personally. Anon

April 2009

OK, I need a reality check... My kindergartner is having a birthday soon and I'm having trouble with the invitation list. This is the first year he's said he only wants to invite certain people. In previous years, he said he wanted to invite everyone on the class or just never claimed any preference. Last month (he's been talking about his party for a while), he said he wanted to invite only the boys. Today he said he wanted to invite boys and girls but not everyone. I mean, yes, of course, it seems reasonable that when it's your own birthday party, you should be able to choose the list, but because his list changes weekly and because some of the kids who are not on the list have parents that I'm friends/friendly with, I feel some need to ''influence'' his list. I mean, I asked things like ''oh, I thought you said earlier that you wanted to invite so-and-so, what changed your mind?'' but haven't had any substantive response. I'm curious, how much influence do you have on your children's birthday party guest list? anon


As a mom of two older children, I think we give our kids way too much choice these days, and it does not necessarily benefit them. You are the mother. You finalize the list. You can just say, ''X, Y, and Z are coming because they are my good friends' kids and the polite thing is to invite them.'' It is never too early to emphasize that a host ensures that his guests have a good time. And that sometimes, we invite people who aren't our absolute best friends to functions because that is the ''correct'' thing to do. While I am on my soapbox, may I also add that I regret that children no longer write thank you notes for their gifts and indeed do not say thank you at all, in most cases. I always remind my children to thank the hostess for a nice time when I pick them up. Because my boyfriend's children never thank me for gifts, I have stopped giving them gifts. If they ever ask me, I will be direct in explaining it to them. Berkeley Mom
Why are you giving your child so much control over their birthday list? The fact that he/she keeps changing their mind just shows that they are too young. I say either let them pick 3 kids to come, invite the whole class, or do boys only. You are going to really hurt yourself socially if you arbitrarily leave out a few kids. It will really hurt the parents feelings. People can deal with it if they know that you only invited a few kids or only kids of the other gender and theirs wasn't one of them, but if they found out you invited 16 random kids and theirs was one of the 4 who was left out, they will feel really bad and will be mad at you for a long time. So do yourself a favor and just invite the whole class until you kid is ready to have a 3-4 kid slumber party. anon
I have total control over my kids' invitation lists, for the reasons you mention (fickleness at this age) and also because I am paying for it! Obviously a party with 20 kids will cost more than one with 6. I basically invite the kids they actually have playdates with, though this year I am considering inviting my daughter's entire class of 16 or so (knowing that not all will come). I think for a 5 yo, it's totally acceptable for the parent to take charge of the guest list, with some reasonable input from the birthday child. Not a birthday party fan, but I do it for the kiddos!
you're the parent, you're hosting the party, therefore you control the invitation list. Every year I tell my child how many friends she can invite to her party. This year she will be 5 - so she can choose 5 friends to invite. If she only wants to invite 4 friends, or 3, great. She is a child, so I define the limitations and she is thrilled to make a few small choices. That's it. anon.
I did not let my son make the guest list until he was older. Even then I screwed up and he didn't invite someone he should have. He claimed this kid had been mean to him so I left him off the list (we were inviting about 10 kids). Of course the next week they were tight buds again, and it was totally embarrassing. Also, ten is the wrong number. I strongly believe now that you have to either have a very small party (5 guests max), or invite everyone in the class. Small is totally fine but medium is not: people will feel left out. Fran ------------------------------------------ Hi! These birthday parties are indeed tricky. But you are the adult and you have a lot of say in what kind of party your family chooses to have and who will be invited. This is a wonderful opportunity to teach your child to be generous, inclusive and considerate of everyone's feelings. I strongly suggest inviting everyone if you can since he is in kindergarten, which is an age when all the kids are likely to play together. Or, invite only the boys because then it will be clear to the girls that it was a ''boy party'' only and therefore they will be less likely to feel left out and suffer hurt feelings. As your child gets older it is normal that he will be more discriminating about who gets invited and the list of true friends might include boys and girls. In that case, invitations are never passed out at school -- they are sent through the mail or e-mail and your child is asked not to talk about the party at school so that those who weren't invited don't feel left out. Kids should always be told not to talk about the birthday parties at school (unless they KNOW the whole class was invited) and to be considerate of the feelings of others. anon
I also have a kindergartener so I have been down this road. I think if you are having a small party, like 4 or 5 children, then your child gets to pick the kids - that is what we did this year. On the other hand, if it is a large party, he needs to invite either ALL the boys OR the WHOLE class. Kindergarten is way to young to start being exclusionary, especially since it seems like they have a different best friend every day of the week.
Reasonable to choose yourself who to invite? In kindergarten? What if he wants to invite Santa Claus? I don't think you should see this as you ''influencing'' his choices. I think you should see it as another opportunity to teach your child about your family's ethics. Do you think he should invite the whole class or do you want him to begin practicing being exclusive? Explain to him how it is that you come to decisions about this and he gets to begin to understand that birthday parties are not just about what you ''want'' but also about how to behave, how to treat other people, etc. I don't meant to sound heavy-handed about something as simple as a birthday party, but I also think you can expect a five year old to change his mind every twenty seconds, and I have spent lots of time listening to kindergarten kids saying, ''I'm not inviting you to my party'' every time they feel mad at a friend. Stephanie Brown
The good thing about not inviting everyone is that the kids can actually interact and have a social experience. Yes, it would be easier if it was just ''all the boys'' or something like that, and you should remind him that the school rule is not to talk about who you are inviting and not inviting at school. As for your influence, you should just pick a (small) number, like maximum 10, and have him choose that many friends. Do it on one day and then send the invites and that is that. anon
I believe the recommendation is for kids to have no more guests at a party than their age. THat would be five or fewer guests for your child. Tell him to choose 5 people for his party, then make and send the invitations so that he can't change his mind. If you feel that this is not going to seem special enough, then use the money you will save by having fewer guests to do something special. YOU are in charge of the party, not him, so, yes, you do get a say in the guest list. in favor of sane parties
Yes, I had the same problem, with my kindergartener too. One time, when she was younger and in pre-school, I went with her list (and excluded some kids, because she did not mention them,or changed the list daily), which turned out to be a grave error in judgement. Later that day she was wondering why the others did not come, and later I found out that the feelings of those who did not get invited were really hurt, because as much as you don't want to let them know, they will always find out who had a birthday and who was and was not invited. Since that experience, I use my own judgement, and use a lot of influence on my daughter to either invite everybody in a classroom, or, if it is going to be school friends/other friends mix, make sure to have an event in school with everybody (we love birthday parties anyway), and then maybe invite a few very close friends (that I am friends with their parents) for the other occasion. At her age, she is always happy to see as many people from her class as possible, and so I am the boss in making party decisions. We love big parties, too... birthday mom
The rule we have is: no more kids than will fit at the dining table. This sets the expectation that she can invite 7 friends. Only. As for who she invites, she is allowed to invite anyone she wants, but she understands that she can't change her mind after the invitations are out. It's hard explaining that not everybody can be invited to everything, but it's a good lesson to learn early. Personally, I think people who invite whole classrooms to a small child's party are nuts! Happy with small parties
I think your child is much too young to have the final say on his own list. There are social ramifications he can't possibly understand at such a young age. My daughter was best friends with the little girl across the street from nursery school through 4th grade. Needless to say, her mother and I were close also, having spent years carpooling, etc. In 5th grade, the girls had some sort of falling out, and my daughter refused to invite her ''ex-friend'' to her birthday party. The neighbor and her daughter didn't speak to us for years. They did invite my husband and me (but not my daughter) to the daughter's wedding last summer. The whole thing seems kind of childish, but it was uncomfortable, and if you can avoid a similar situation by insisting that your son invite your friend's child, I'd say do it! Jackie
You have COMPLETE control - you are the parent! We had the following birthday party guidelines from year 1: Family party/dinner every year - meaning just Mom, Dad, and sibs - birthday boy chooses food. Party with friends - every couple of years. Number of invited guests equals child's age. That lasts until they want sleepover parties (around 9 or 10) and then guests are limited to 4 or 5 max. They do need to go to sleep at some point and party ends at 10 am. We have done lots of fun things over the years for parties - miniature golf, Air Museum near Oakland Airport, football theme with games in back yard, paper airplane party. Parents and party-goers all had a good time! Birthday mom
I guess I agree that the party is best kept to a small number of kids (probably turning 6 in kindergarten, so 6-10 kids, max), but disagree with many of the posters about how much say your child should have in the guest list. By kindergarten, the party is a celebration for HIM, not for you, like when he was younger. He should celebrate with kids he enjoys spending time with. It's not your job to keep your adult friends happy by telling your child who HIS friends should be. It's his job to start learning to make possibly difficult choices, understand the ramifications of his choice, and that he can't keep changing his mind once a guest list is settled on (there will be other parties, and lots of other play opportunities), and the intricacies of being a fun, yet gracious host. Of course you should help him think through why to invite/not invite certain kids (including consideration of feelings, but please don't start guilting him into always making decisions based ONLY on the feelings of others; his feelings are important, too). He may not be invited to the parties of kids he excludes, but dealing with that disappointment, and understanding that other hosts also have to make difficult choices with limited resources, is also an important part of life.

Those families who ''didn't talk to us for a year'' after being excluded from a particular party are just acting childish. Letting something like that get in the way of life means they are missing out on some good times - and that, sadly, is their loss. While we all want kids to grow up considerate of others, it's not your job (or your child's) to make sure that no one is ever disappointed. R.K.


Not inviting neighbor to daughter's birthday party

March 2009

My daughter will be turning 12 in a few weeks. She does not want to invite a girl who lives across the street to her party. The mother and I are good friends and we carpool together. The daughter has said some mean things to my daughter and my daughter doesn't really hang out with her at school although they do carpool together and have almost every class together. My daughter's friends find this neighbor very annoying and mean too. I actually find her very annoying as well. The problem is that neither my daughter or I want to hurt this little girl's feelings but my daughter really doesn't want to have her at her birthday party. I'm not sure what to do. She has gone to every other birthday party my daughter has had (always with the same dilemma) and my daughter has always been invited her hers. If we don't invite her what do I say to the mother, if anything? What does my daughter say when the neighbor asks if she is having a birthday party? I understand that in life we must do things sometimes that we don't want to do but this is my daughter's birthday...her day. What to do??? Torn Mom


It seems to me that not inviting her is too powerful a statement, given the prior involvement of the families. Surely she will see the party in progress, since she lives across the street. On the other hand, her ways of relating to others needs help, feedback. Could you, and your daughter, give her more direct feedback on her actions? When she says ''mean'' things, tell her that she is saying mean things that make you not want to be friends with her? Discuss it with your daughter, and figure out some responses to the most frequent transgressions, and then use them. This could possibly end up being a beneficial lesson for all concerned. Gail
I may be in the minority in this, but I think it's mean not to invite her, especially when you have invited her through the years. It's part of being in a community and being a neighbor. You say that the other girl is mean, but it seems to me that your daughter is being mean to a girl that doesn't have a lot of other friends. I think part of the problem in our society these days is intolerance. Not just of skin color or religion, but of anyone who isn't ''cool'' enough. You can teach your daughter a good lesson in seeing the good in people. Also, treating the neighbor girl kindly in spite of her own shortcomings is a better way to be in society than just cutting her off. You will damage your friendship with the mother if you don't invite her and you will cause issues with the both of them as neighbors. a good neighbor
Don't invite this neighbor. In fact, I would consider distancing myself from her a bit so that you don't find yourself in this situation every year. Require that you invite a mean, rude girl to your daughter's birthday? I would find other carpool mates too, if she is indeed that mean, why would you want to put her in that situation on a regular basis? Help your daughter make good friendship decisions
I'm not really sure what you should do, but I'd like to offer a little perspective from the other side of childhood.... I grew up next to a boy my age. Our parents were friends, and we were when we were little. As time went on, we grew apart--we had different groups of friends and were in different classes. We went through times when we really didn't associate--I might have said he was annoying, as your daughter says about her friend. We hardly saw each other in high school. We are now in our 30's, married with children, and live in different states. We are great friends. We visited each other in college and went to each others weddings. Our parents don't live near each other anymore, but we still keep in touch. He's one of the few people I would say that really know me as I am, fully. He has seen the whole story, even when that story didn't involve him.

I would be very sad today if my mother had allowed me to do anything that would have truly ruin that friendship, even because of very large differences between us at the time. Just something to think about


We had a similar situation, not that the girl was nasty just that she had some personal habits that were not easy to ignore. For elementary school,we invited back and forth but by middle school we just stopped and nothing was mentioned. The easy course would be to host a birthday party not in your house but somewhere else....movies and pizza? just a thought
You should talk to the parents of the neighbor kid your child no longer wants at her birthday parties, and work out as a team of parents the best way to handle it. Or/and hold the party at another location, not at your house. It's a very different matter not to be invited when there's no avoiding the party itself: Our son has some behavioral issues, and it's been difficult when the next door neighbors stopped inviting him to their birthday party, especially when the party was at the house and we were having to watch and listen to it next door all day. It would have been very helpful if they had discussed the matter with us first. We probably would have explained to our son the real reasons why he wasn't invited to the party, because his politeness was not up to their standards, or whatever the real problems are that he could improve on - but also planned something else for our child to do elsewhere, so that the punishment of hearing the party would not go on and on and on all day, which is a long time for a little kid. We explained to our son the next door neighbors didn't always like his behavior, but we were not sure which bad things he did were the problem; we know he got out too many toys at their house, for example. We said they might not they might not like our behavior either.

It would have been nice if the parents had had a good relationship, as you seem to, to talk over with the other parents what is going on, and work as a team on how to handle it. As it was, it caught us by surprise, and made it worse. My son, bless his heart, poked his head over the fence and said very politely,"Hi Joey, looks like a nice party. Happy Birthday" Then there was an awkward silence and Joey and his parents looked like real creeps in front of all their guests. Then we took our son out for the rest of the day when we had important things to do at home, when we could have organized our weekend easily to be away for most of the party time had we known about the party in advance. It severed any possibility of a future good neighbor relationship. been on the other side of the fence


I have heard of similar scenarios, quite similar in fact and there is always much regret for not having invited the neighbor. There is no going back once the event is over and the invitation not extended. If the girls are together everyday in a car pool and in all classes the resentment that will grow from being excluded and the hurt will come back around to you. They are together so much.....unless you are ready for all the repercussions from this--invite the neighbor, be as pleasant as possible to her, gently guide her when she gets out of line and move on. Take the higher road! Taught my daughter to take the higher road!
I don't understand why you just don't invite the neighbor? It is part of one day! You can turn this into a lesson that we can be gracious and kind neighbors even to those we don't like as much as others. anon
I'd say go ahead and invite her. If all the others are around 12 years old and know the girl and her usual behavior they can just try to take it easy and ''ignore'' that kid's behavior. I'm sure that girl is not enjoying being where she is socio-emotionally... Otherwise you'll probably create a very awkward situation with your neighbor/friend, unless you are willing to let go of the friendship/neighborly relationship/carpooling (not saying it WILL happen, but it might). EP
This one is easy - been through it (the ride share, the not being friends nor having the same friends). You let them know that you're dealing with a limit of guests to invite and would like to honor the relation by taking the neighbor's daughter and yours out to a special birthday dinner (Pizza, Mexican - whatever)a few days before the party. Now the spell is broken of having to invite the kids to each others birthdays. Still friends with the parents (who suggested the dinner), still ride sharing. Everyone wins. Anonymous
You are not obligated to invite the girl if she's not, or is no longer, a friend of your daughter. I would simply not mention the party/birthday (and remind your daughter not to mention it during carpool). If the girl or her mother asks, be ready with a kindly truth or half-truth, so as to not hurt the girl's feelings. Say something like, ''Oh, Sally wanted a really small party for her birthday this year.'' This won't work if you're planning a party for 50 and they all show up on your doorstep in view of the neighbor, but any reasonably small gathering can pass for ''small''. only obliged to be kind
I would sit down and talk to the other parent and child HONESTLY. Tell them that it is the girl's behavior which is keeping her from being invited to the party, and although you would very much like to have a social relationship with the daughter, until she starts to be more pleasant to be around, you will not extend an invitation to her. This is an important wake up call for this family. Unless they start addressing the ''mean girl'' behavior now, they will find themselves with an impossible teenager. Reformed Mean Girl
Sorry I did not read the original post, but just read the responses. When I was about 8, we had a carpool of 3 girls who were also in my class at school. Jane had a birthday party and called the other girl in my car pool but not me. I had always invited both of them to mine. By accident, the birthday party was mentioned in the car on the way home on Friday before the party that weekend. I luckily had a book in my hand and promptly pretending to be reading it, once the eye glances started. Once I was dropped off, I came home to a babysitter. I remember distinctly, even today that tearful phone call I made to my Dad at work.It wasn't that I wanted to be invited, I was hurt that they were talking about it even though they ALL knew I was not invited. The next morning Jane's Mother called and said Jane was in tears about the party and lack of invitation and could I come over inspite of what had transpired.For the sake of being the better person, my Mother came with me and we stayed just for half an hour with the excuse of having a prior commitment. We took a nice gift. You could have cut the atmosphere with a knife. All the children were so quiet when I walked in. Sitting here, having been reminded of this story from all the responses, I have tears rolling down my face. Jane and I stopped being friends after that day. My family made an excuse to stop being in the carpool altogether, the other family stopped after a few weeks also. In hind sight it would have been better for them not to invite me last minute and just leave things as they were.You must do what you feel is right, but your decision will be final. Anon
I hope you can stand one more response, even though I know it's probably too late for your decision. I am the mother of one of the girls who doesn't get invited to playdates and parties. She has social problems, in addition to learning disabilities and neurological problems. She can be difficult, but she can also be really sweet. It breaks my heart when she hears about all of the playdates and parties that the other girls are having that she isn't invited to. I also wonder what ever happened to ''it takes a village''? Why can't we help our kids to be more sympathetic towards other kids. I'm not saying that we should make kids play with each other if they don't want to, but in the case of a birthday party where all the other girls are invited, wouldn't it be the kind thing to teach our kids about compassion? It's only a few hours on one day. When my daughter complained about a classmate who is even more socially awkward, I talked to her about how some kids need a little extra help and understanding, and I arranged for a playdate. It did wonders for both of them! The parents who have encouraged their kids to play with my daughter have been wonderful, and it has helped my daughter quite a bit. She is learning more about socially acceptable behavior and making good friends. When she is excluded, it makes her more anxious, and she doesn't have a chance to make things better. I know that other families aren't responsible for my child, but would it really hurt to have another kid at your birthday party? Compassion, please

None of the toddlers can come - should I reschedule?

March 2009

I've sent out invites for my son's birthday. Good news is that many of the invitees can join (family members and friends). The bad news is that none of the parents with kids can attend due to various conflicts. I'm wondering if I should reschedule for another time, when at least a couple of the kids can join, or if I should stick to the date and have a toddler party without any toddlers? Any thoughts? bday mom


You don't say how old your child is, but my 3-year-old didn't really care that there were only adults at her party. I think the only way a child at this age would have expectations that could be disappointed is if they have been to a lot of other b-day parties with lots of kids. I like the adult-only version in that the kid gets to be the undivided center of attention and you don't have to ride herd on a wild screaming mass of toddlers.
Have the party as scheduled. Your son won't know any different. It's actually less overwhelming if there aren't kids there at those early birthdays I think. Big plus, your son can have the pleasure of opening his presents - and the relatives & friends can enjoy that too - whereas when other little kids are there, the tendency is to hold off. If he's turning one or two (you didn't say), he's not all that interested in other kids yet either (the 'parallel play' stage). If you did change the date, there is no guarantee you'd definitely get kids, and you might lose some of the folks who already RSVPd. Changing the date should be just for illness or emergency not to get a better guest list IMO. Have fun!
You don't say your child's age. If under age five, I'd not worry if the other kids can't come. They won't realize it. We did not have a friend party for our kids until their 3rd birthdays. Once they are school age they tend to notice but before that, they really should be fine. If they are younger than 6, they shouldn't have more friends than their age if any at all. I think some of these baby and toddler birthday parties get way out of control. anonamom
Definitely make an effort to get some kids, but without the hassle of rescheduling. Take this as an opportunity to get to someone new from the neighborhood, or a friend from your child's school that they might want to know better. This is a chance to branch out and make new friends! anon

Invite the whole pre-K class?

Sept 2006

My four year old daughter is in a pre-k class of about twenty kids, and we will be having a party for her fifth birthday. Last year we invited the whole class (she was in preschool at the same place) plus some playgroup friends and neighborhood playmates, and ended up with almost thirty kids (thankfully not at our home, haha) AND we also ended up with almost thirty gifts, of course. My husband, who is anti-clutter and constantly bothered by all the mess that goes with kids who play at home a lot, was beside himself and wants to note on the invites this year ''no gifts'' -- I would rather get them and then either donate or recycle some things that are not up her alley -- he also wants to pare down the list and not have the whole class but I feel funny not including all the children, even if I mail the invites instead of putting them in cubbies at school (I would mail them anyway) -- I know there have been a few parties that my child has not been invited to, and I admit that it has bothered me, although I don't think it did her. At this age I don't think that kids should have the option of ruling anyone out -- I think that parents can decline the invite if they feel that their child is not compatible with the birthday child, etc. I would love to give my daughter a fun party with all her playmates and not worry about excluding anyone or having too many toys in the living room. Anyone have thoughts on any of this? party softie


Dear Party Softie, That is WAY too many kids for a child that age to have at a party. Talk about overwhelming. I think it's suggested by early childhood professionals to invite the number of children per years old of the host. So, this would mean having her pick five of her closest friends. And, if you do feel the need to have 30 kids, it's kind of rude to recycle or donate the gifts that people took time to pick out for your child. Your husband's suggestion is a good one. Another good idea is having people bring a wrapped book each and then have each of them take one home to keep for themselves. I'm sure you and your family get your daughter enough gifts to keep her happy. -Keep it simple
If you want to invite the whole class, you can opt to do a book exchange, in which each child (including the birthday kid) brings a gift-wrapped book. At the end of the party, each child selects a book to take home. Or you could ask for a toy to donate to toys for tots, which you can save until holiday time.

Or, you can cut the guest list way back. If you do this, you must mail or personally deliver the invitations to the guests' homes. It doesn't hurt to tell the parents of the invitees that not everyone in class is invited so maybe they can talk to their kids about not discussing the party at school. And be sure to instruct your child on this too. Kids loooove to talk about their birthday parties at that age, so be sure you child understands that she could be hurting the feelings of other kids in the class if she does so.

We always just opted for the big blow-out parties with 25 or so kids at that age. We gave our kids the big parties at ages 4,5, and 6, then we started really scaling back at age 7 when their friendships start to become more selective anyway anon


Why not invite just his best friends plus the kids from play group and have a ''party'' at the pre-K for all the kids there. Talk to the teachers but at my daughter's schools you can bring cupcakes the day of the BD and everyone sings happy birthday and celebrates. That way you don't have to worry about gifts either marga
My husband also hates the clutter of many gifts. For my daughter's upcoming 9th birthday party, we are trying something new: a grab bag. Each child brings a modest, wrapped gift; towards the end of the party, instead of a goodie bag, each child gets one of the grab bag gifts. Our neighbor did this with great success and I've decided that it is the only way to go when you have a big party Ann
How about this. Have a birthday party in a local park. Make it a potluck & invite everybody. That takes care of the space, clutter & clean up issues (other than cleaning up your picnic) and there's automatically stuff to do- kids never tire of swings and jungle gyms. Also I've observed presents are less of an issue if there is some fun craft activity or such that everyone can do Room for everybody.
We went to a party years ago that stands out as one of the best we've attended. It was held at the Marine Mammal Rescue Center in the Marin Headlands, and the invitation said ''DON'T buy any present but please bring the money you would have spent on the present to the party in cash or a check.'' Then, the kids got a wonderful tour of the facilities and they saw where their money went -- surgery on an injured sea lion or medication for a sick sea otter. And they even got to see a recuperated sea lion released into the ocean (I think that it not an everyday occurrence so don't tell the kids to expect it.) My kids still talk about that day years later. Hope your party is fun! ''No More Presents'' Mom
In the past, we've had both large and small parties for our kids. When it has been a handful of kids, we allow presents. When there are more than a certain number of kids, we ask invitees to bring a book (wrapped, of course) for a book exchange. (We have also been to a birthday party where everyone brought a present but then got to leave with a present.) The birthday child gets to distribute the books/presents. Our kids have never noticed that they didn't get a mountain of presents -- having the party itself is exciting enough. Of course, the kids at the party absolutely love it and we are always relieved not to have to bring in a ton of new toys into our house Hope this Helps
For my son's 4th birthday, we invited his entire preschool class and some of our friends to his party. I, too, hate to leave anyone out. On the invitations sent to his classmates, we requested that they donate a book to the school instead of bringing a gift. At the time, my son spent more waking time at school than home, so it was a gift that both he and his classmates could enjoy. We put no such request on the invites to our friends, so he had a few gifts to open after the party, not to mention all the gifts from grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. It worked really well. One or two people seemed embarassed upon seeing some gifts not to have brought a gift to the party, but once I explained what we had done, it was fine Susan
We too limit the number of guests our son can invite to his birthday parties, partly with my own ulterior motive of controlling the clutter that accompanies the deluge of birthday gifts if his entire class were invited to the party. (We don't explain it to my son that way, though, we just emphasize the positive of being able to give full attention to a handful of guests at the party.)

Some kids are very social, though, and do enjoy having the entire class attend their birthday party, so there's nothing inherently wrong with that (as long as parents of invited guests respond to RSVPs--ahem!). My son has received invitations to whole-class birthday parties requesting ''no gifts'', and this has been totally OK with us. Other ideas--request each kid bring a new or gently used toy or book in lieu of a gift to collectively donate to a charity in the birthday child's name; or have each kid bring some material to contribute to an art project (like a quilt or something) that they can all assemble at the party--their collective ''gift'' to the birthday child.

After the party is over and the guests have gone home, present your child one really cool gift she has been asking for her birthday Anti-clutter


well, I am in the same situation. Here are a few thoughts on the various things you asked: As for gifts, I can understand your husband's perspective and yours. Everyone WANTS to bring a gift to a birthday party, that is a part of our social custom. I know when I have been asked to not bring a gift, I feel awkward about honoring the request. Usually I will bring some flowers or something from our garden so as to not go ''empty-handed'' - but in years past I have put on my daughters invitation ''Gifts are unnecessary, but if you feel you must, books are always welcome...'' There may be such a thing as too much clutter/toys but who has ever complained about too big a library??!! This way, your daughter gets something to open, people get to bring a gift which makes them feel good, and no clutter is created by unwanted toys. It is also a nice message about the importance of literature...(and books are easy to exchange if you get any duplicates). As for inviting the whole class, your daughter is old enough to choose who she would like to invite - at almost five she is probably choosing her own friends and making her own connections. It is a good opportunity to teach some social skills - ''if you accept an invitation to someone else's party, then it is appropriate to invite them to yours...'' I understand about not wanting kids to feel left out but these are the realities of life and knowing how to deal with being ''left out'' is more valuable than getting disingenuously invited and disingenuously attending everything in order to prevent the inevitable... It's a tough one, good luck! anon
20-30 kids sounds like a LOT!

Our formula is age of child +1 or 2 = number of guests. It can be overwhelming for a young kid to have so many guests and so many presents. Not to mention expensive! Advantages: The birthday kid gets more attention if there are fewer kids, the line or wait for games, pinata, etc. is shorter, each kid gets more turns, gifts are more meaningful when you can remember who gave them to you, and a child of this age is better equipped to write a half-dozen thank-you notes than 20 or 30. Plus, at this age, and with a small number of kids, you can sort of rig any games so everyone wins something.

Some options to inviting the whole class might be to invite just the girls (or boys as the case may be), or mostly neighborhood friends + 1 or 2 from school. Feelings of being left out come up if it is widely talked about and all the kids with the exception of a few are invited. Boys not invited to a girls party probably won't feel left out, and vice versa. If only a couple from the class are invited, there's less talk about it, and it gives an opportunity to teach sensitivity (i.e. not bragging about the party and who's invited).

I'm looking forward to reading your other responses. I, too, love hosting the kids birthday parties,and agree that hurt feelings are no good, but I can't help feeling that many birthday parties are a bit over the top these days -Keeping it small and sane


You are right on to take the initiative to invite the whole class. It is simply the nice thing to do, and we are all trying to raise nice kids, right? Excluding a few kids just feels yucky. anon
My almost 4 year old has been going to the same daycare/pre- school since he was 6 months old. No one there does the invite the whole class party thing, especially now that they are older and definately have a core group of friends they always play with. I'm not insulted when he isn't invited to a party, especially if it's for a kid he doesn't play with. I don't need to be spending money on a gift and 1/2 a precious weekend day for a kid my son isn't friends with. It's not fair to expect our kids to get along with everyone and be friends with everyone just because they're in the same class, as we don't hold ourselves to that same standard either. At my work when someone gets married or has a party, they just invite their close workmates and not the 20 plus people in the department. So I always just invite the 3 or 4 kids that my son always talks about playing with, plus our neighborhood/mom's group friends. That way we can do a nice party that isn't a total stress for me, give out a nice gift bag with a decent present instead of a bunch of cheap stuff and the kids can actually interact with each other instead of being in total chaos anon
Do a book swap; have everyone bring a wrapped book and every kid takes one home Anne
My son's preschool had a policy that if one classmate was invited, all should be. My son has a winter birthday that made that really difficult, as we don't have a large space in our home to accomodate so many kids, and the park in December was not an option. I, like you, had all kinds of social angst about leaving anyone out, but in retrospect I honestly think the parents cared more than the kids about not being invited. And I cared more than my son when people simply didn't show up or respond to the invitation at all. In the end, there were almost 20 parties of 20 kids over the year, and we all had burn out. Many families spent oodles of money renting spots for parties. So, if you have a choice, I'd strongly suggest you make the party for the one person you're celebrating-- your daughter-- and make it as she would like it to be. reformed party momma
My mother had a rule that the number of children invited to a party was equal to their *new* age -- i.e. a 5 year old gets to have 5 guests. I know, it sounds like a tiny party, but it makes sense because kids really don't need to have a zillion presents, and having fewer kids make it possible for them to play together without a lot of drama. Also, it makes giving the party a lot easier, and you can spend a bit more to make it special. If you're determined to invite a whole gaggle of kids, I'd suggest having a park party, so that there's lots of room and invite parents, too, so that there's adequate parental coverage. Oh, and if you do decide to keep it small, make sure you mail the invites (as you said you would), rather than bring them to school. You don't want to hurt anybody's feelings! I can't imagine having 30 kids at a party for such a young person! Yikes! Anon
The whole birthday party thing is so tricky, I'm curious to hear what other parents have to say. I would suggest either inviting the whole class and saying either ''your presence is your present'', ''no gifts please'' or ''small or handmade gifts only please'' on the invitation. It might feel awkward but I am relieved when I receive such an invitation. Or you could invite a small (4-5) group to the party, although it does get into the picking and choosing thing for your kid. Either way I would put the focus on something other than the gifts. anon
Well, I'm in your camp: It's more fun to invite lots of people and receive lots of gifts. (And I always have the parties in my own home, too!) But that doesn't help, because I'm not married to you!

The real issue here isn't whether inviting the whole class is ''right'' or not -- there is no etiquette rule on the subject, except that one shouldn't exclude a small minority. In other words, inviting the whole class is fine, inviting all the girls but no boys is fine, inviting all the 5-year-olds but not the 3- year-olds is fine, inviting 3 people is fine. The only thing that isn't fine is inviting the whole class EXCEPT for 3 people.

The real issue is that you and your husband have a conflict about what sort of party fits into your life. And nobody can resolve that conflict except you and your husband. (And by the way, what does your daughter prefer? I think she's old enough to express her wishes and have them respected, to the extent you are able. My own son, at the same age, agreed that a smaller party than he'd previously had would be good, and afterwards we had an interesting conversation about how that had been better in some ways and worse in other ways than a bigger party.) Donating ''excess'' gifts sounds like the sort of compromise that should work, but apparently that isn't the whole story for your husband. Is he concerned about the expense? Is he afraid of the amount of work involved? Or is he just the sort of person who doesn't LIKE big parties? If you can figure out what the real issues are, you should be able to find a solution that will satisfy everyone. Good luck! Holly


I am, like your husband, anti-clutter. When we had a birthday party for my son I asked on the invites for guests to bring one gift wrapped book for a book exchange. We wrapped and couple of books my son picked out and for the party we put them all into a basket. then He got to distribute a book to each child during the party. no gift bags and no pile of toys. we had a great time. By the way, I got the book idea from BPN. check out the archives pro-party, anti-clutter
Here's a hybrid solution for you -- its what I have done in the past (and will do again in a couple of months):

Ask to bring cupcakes (or whatever) to pre-school for your child's birthday. Your child will feel special, and no one is left out --- but no one is obligated to come up with a gift or a reciprocal party invitation.

Then, separately, I'd host a birthday party for no more than 4 or 5 of his friends, whether pre-K or other. Presents he receives at the party are from kids who are actually his favorite friends, and the party is more fun.

At his age I would still invite the parents to attend the party, too, or at the very least be sure my husband was there to help herd little boys, etc.

I also learned from a child this age that the best party entertainment ever was cardboard boxes left from a recent move -- not the coy little beanbags and fishing rods I'd lovingly made for the occasion. It was hard to be grown up enough to give up my vision of what my child's party would be like... but boy did we have fun! Heather


I agree that it's rude not to invite the entire class - but there are a few things you might be able to do. You could only invite the girls (I think you referred to a daughter), but they're probably a little young for that. You could also throw a 'group' party with other kids in the class that have a birthday the same month. I've always done that with my kids and it works out great. Your kids get a party and you get to share the expense. Instead of gifts, we do a book exchange.

Every child brings a wrapped book. At the end of the party, each child gets to choose a book. Everyone gets a gift - and no gift bags needed! We then followup with a small party at home for family and close friends. The birthday child gets more than enough gifts then


Possible Tension between Birthday Party Guests

March 2006

My daughter's third birthday is quickly approaching. In the past our celebrations have only included her small extended family (grandparents and a few uncles and aunts), but this year we would like to invite several of her friends to the party. Unlike my daughter, about half of these friends have two-mommy or two-daddy families. My husband's parents, who live in a small town within driving distance of the Bay Area, have made many comments over the years that clearly show their discomfort/unfamiliarity with gay and lesbian people. We don't think that they would be likely to make such comments in front of our friends, but we are worried about how they might react when they ask a partygoer what her husband does for a living, for example, only to hear her reply, ''she's a teacher,'' and we worry that their reaction might make our friends uncomfortable in turn. (What we expect, based on past situations when the grandparents have felt uncomfortable, is whispering, staring, and general clamming up rather than overt hostility). I don't think that a prior warning to the grandparents will help, because they will attend in any case and then will know exactly who to whisper about and stare at. And because we don't know precisely how they will react, I feel like we would be putting our guests in the position of acting as unwitting social guinea pigs. The only solution that has occurred to me is to throw two separate birthday parties, one for family and the other for friends, but I dread doing all the extra work, and I think my daughter would enjoy seeing all of her loved ones at the same party. Has anyone else faced a similiar situation? Is there an obvious solution here that I've overlooked? A Hostess and a Cupcake


As a lesbian, I can tell you we are used to this sort of thing. I encourage you to have one party because, as you said, your daughter would like to have all her loved ones with her. After a few of these yearly parties, your in-laws may even come to like some of your friends. Anon
Tough situation! But, ultimately, your husband's parents are being very out of line. You are inviting them to YOUR house. If they are uncomfortable with your guests because of something that is none of their business, they either need not to attend, or learn to be respectful and not act like their in junior high. Granted, you can't change who they are. But you can tell them your expectations of conduct. I realize that this would cause tension which is exactly what you want to avoid. But you are giving them way too much control, and some tension may not be avoided. Perhaps they would prefer taking their grandchild on a birthday excursion, instead? This allows them to celebrate with their granddaughter and you don't need to throw two parties. If your daughter is concerned that her grandparents won't be at her birthday party, then let her know that she will be having a very special day with her grandparents, instead. I know that it's easier for me to say this than to actually do, but this is probably a better alternative than to having everyone in the same room with tension, if your parents-in-law aren't willing to conduct themselves properly. There is no reason that everyone else should have to suffer because two people are uncomfortable with something they don't understand. I'm sorry that you have to deal with this! Best of luck. Cathy
I think the option you've overlooked is that you are not responsible for your in-laws' behavior or for the feelings of your gay/lesbian friends, unless you personally have done something to insult them. I am a mom in a 2-mom family and we sometimes attend birthday parties or other events where it is abundantly clear that certain guests don't approve of our family situation. In a million years, I wouldn't hold the party host responsible for that. Why would I? People who are members of marginalized or less mainstream groups live this way every day . . . we don't need to go to a party to encounter homophobia. Depending on where we are (say, anywhere outside the 9 bay area counties), we get stared at when we go to the store. This won't be a new experience for your guests at all. In our case, it doesn't bother us too terribly. We try to treat everyone with the respect and dignity with which we would like to be treated, and for the most part, it works out fine. Even the worst homophobes are usually nice if I am nice to them. They don't have to approve of the way we live, it's enough to just behave in a civilized manner. Sometimes we do decline invitations where we think the majority of guests would stare and whisper . . . we just don't need to spend our leisure time that way. But that is very rare. If someone asks me what my partner does, and I say, ''She does [blank],'' and they clam up, what happens? I just move right along to another guest. Life is too short to worry about what some kid's grandma thinks of me! But if you can't get over your feelings that you are responsible for how your guests feel -- and that can be hard -- maybe two parties are best? Happy Queer Mama
I say invite everyone and have one party. You are trying to manipulate a social occasion so that everything will be perfect and everyone will get along. Yes, tell the grandparents up front that there will be several same-sex parental units at the party, but don't point them out. Let the grands know that they can make an effort to get to know the guests if they choose, and that you firmly expect them to be gracious to all your guests (no whispering). Tell them they can do that crap on their drive home. This is a learning experience for your parents, that sadly, you have to be part of. Beyond that, warn your friends about the old fashioned folks, and then let it go - leave everyone to their own devices. In the end, you cannot really control what anyone else does. Good luck!
If I were in your shoes (and have been in a similar situation), this is what I would do. Have one party. Invite your friends and tell them the grandparents are coming and they are on the conservative side. Don't tell the grandpraents anything and treat it all as normal. This is a good chance for the grandparents to experience a same sex couple and find out that they are just people too. This will not be the first time your same sex couple friends will experience this, and I'm sure it won't be the last. They can be ambassadors, and although it will still shock the grandparents, in the end it will be good for them, and demistify the whole thing. Hopefully the grandparents will remember their manners. Good luck to you and happy birthday to your child. Been there
Dear Cupcake I think that you are a great friend for considering all of your guests' feelings. But, as one mommy in a two-mommy family, I wanted to let you know that it's probably fine to have one party and trust that your gay and lesbian friends will know how to handle this and that they have dealt with similar situations before. While it's wonderful that you care about them, I don't think that it's your responsibility to protect your friends. Enjoy this wonderful celebration! Ruth
Your situation sounds uncomfortable, but also unnecessary. Why not have a weekday afternoon party for your child's playmates and ask one of your extended family members to host your child's bday at their house on the weekend. If that won't work, meet at Picante for dinner. No cooking, no cleanup and you can have birthday flan if you're not into making a second cake. two is not as hard as you think
I had a somewhat similar situation at my daughter's 3rd birthday party. We are a hetero couple with lots of gay friends. My mom, who isn't exactly an anti-gay activist, but is pretty traditionally Catholic, met several of my gay friends without knowing they were gay. She actually metioned after the party that she really liked 'Sam' and 'Mark' (names changed), and that Sam should date my single friend Kathy. I said, ''Mom, Sam is gay. Mark is his partner.'' She said, ''No, I can't believe that. They were both so nice! They didn't seem perverted at all!'' I just let it sink in for her that gay people can be normal & don't necessarily go around dressed in drag or whatever her perception has been.

Since that time she has mentioned Sam again (I think she may have a little crush on him!) & has said things like ''your friend you claim is gay'' but when I say ''Mom, he IS gay'' she will again remark that she didn't know gay people could be so nice and normal.

I think it was a great experience overall! And lest you think Sam and Mark were offended, no. Sam gets a kick out of hearing what my mom says and is always asking about her. (She really is a kind and sweet person, just sheltered.)

To answer your specific question: If your relatives are of my mom's generation, raised with more emphasis on politeness than ours, if a child answers ''I don't have a daddy, I have two mommies,'' they will probably get a little uncomfortable but won't make a scene. I think it's a really great experience for homophobic people to experience normal gay people in their everyday lives, rather than just what they see on the TV news coverage of Halloween in the Castro. I hope you have a really fun party. F.H.


Absolutely do not have two separate parties! If your parents were so badly behaved that you thought they would do something rude, I would say you should not even invite them. But you say they are just unfamiliar/ uncomfortable around gay people, so how are they supposed to learn if you never give them a chance? It is a kids birthday party for pete's sake, do you really think they are going to point across the room, and do you think your friends will have a chance to notice if they are whispering?

I think you should give your parents a heads up, so they are not too surprised in the case you suggested (''What does your husband do?'' ''SHE is a teacher''). I am sure your friends have dealt with such situations before and will be able to cope. If, worse case, it freaks your parents out too much to even talk to gay people, they can just talk to the straight couples they see and no one will notice. I hope that everyone will be pleasantly surprised--you with your parents behavior and your parents with the normalness of your gay friends. Finally, homophobia is a lot like racism. Would you even be contemplating having separate parties if your parents were racist and half your friends were of another race? I Half my best friends are gay


If it were me, and I could well imagine this happening in my own life, I would definitely have two parties. My three year old would like the extra event and doesn't need everyone in the same room at the same time. My friends certainly don't need to be made to feel uncomfortable (at best) or insulted (at worst) by my parents. And why make my parents uncomfortable, asking them to confront a situation that clearly puts them ill at ease? I'd figure at this late date, my folks aren't changing. Why use my daughter's party as a battle ground over these issues? Whatever extra work and/or expense is involved would be, to me, a smaller price to pay. Plus, selfishly, I'd have the peace of mind of enjoying each separate event without the dread of worrying about what would go wrong at the combined party. definitely two parties for this crowd
i would warn your friends and not worry too much about the grandparents anon
You have the right idea -you need to have two parties, one for family and one for friends. We always have two parties - the family one on the actual birthday and the friends one on the closest weekend after the birthday. The family one is just a special dinner chosen by the birthday person and cake and presents. The friends one is the more involved one with games, goodie bags, etc. This way we get to celebrate the actual birthday in a very intimate way that our children will come to expect but the party with friends etc may not happen every year. good luck. party mom
I can understand your desire to protect your friends from rude behavior, but throwing two parties also seems like hiding them from your husband's parents. In my experience, LGBT folks are quite used to handling people like this (unfortunately), and honestly, it sounds like your husband's parents could benefit from the exposure/familiarity. I think the key is that you make clear through your behavior (not through ''advance warnings'') that these are YOUR friends and you expect them to be treated accordingly. Certainly this is what you want to model to your young daughter, isn't it? If you don't feel comfortable ''managing'' your husband's parents this way, then perhaps you have some of your own issues to think through as well. anon
I know that you wrote in your request for advise that probably telling your parents in advance will not do much good. I disagree. I suggest putting your foot down. They are going to see their granddaughter and your daughter's friends will be there. The common theme is that this is your daughter's birthday. Tell your parents that there will be two mom or two dad families there and that you want your parents to behave. Tell them that you will not tolerate their difficulties, their comments or any bad behavior.

As far as your concern about the discomfort of your gay and lesbian guests, I applaud you for your concern however you can not make homophobia and heterosexism go away just like that. I wish that it was that easy. Many of us who are gay or lesbian, bi, trans or queer have had enough to deal with and more than likely your parents comments will be just one more. Right now, it sounds to me that you are the one who is stressing out more than necessary.

You can not control your parents thoughts and hence, homophobia. You can not control your friends. You are not your parents and your parents are not you. You welcome your daughter's friends.

So, here are some questions for you. What values do you want your daughter to have? What kind of person do you want to be? What can you do to have a pleasant party? What can you do to take care of yourself?
Here and Queer


Been there. My Southern Belle of a Mother has said many rude and ignorant things about LGBT people over the years. Several of our closest friends are L and T and they are always invited to birthday parties and holiday parties, so we have dealt with this for more than 10 years. My mother's Southern Belle kicks in at the parties and she behaves herself. She doesn't go out of her way to make conversation with our friends, but she is cordial when they go out of their way to say hello to her. When she makes one of her comments to me in private, I cut her off and remind her she is talking about my good friends.

The only thing I would caution against is prepping your friends about your bigoted family members. I did this, with the best of intentions, but it was a mistake. It resulted in my best friend always feeling anxious about coming over when my mom is here, even though my mother has never said anything mean to my friends. So it would have been better to just let things flow. My advice is: assume the best, and there is a pretty good chance that the best will happen!


Invite uncle to 2-year-old's birthday party?

July 2003

My almost 2 y.o. daughter is starting to have some serious stranger anxiety, but is particularly scared of one of her uncles. She cries in holy terror whenever he's around (which is not often--though I have tried to make it so) and burries her face in my shoulder as to not look at him. She wont let me go back into the room if he is there. He's just not a very ''warm and fuzzy'' guy and doesn't really know how to identify with children. His eyes bulge a little, as well, which I think contirbutes to the situation, but of course there is nothing I can do about this. I don't know what to do. Her 2nd birthday is coming up and I am afraid she will cry the whole time if he is there, but of course a cannot not invite him... I've tried showing her pictures of the two of them when she was younger to show her that she wasn't always afraid of him but that doesn't seem to help....the weird thing is she talks about him like she does anyone else when he's not around.... I am running out of time and can't think of anything else to make him seem less scary to her....any advice would be greatly appreciated. scared of no solution!


It makes sense to invite only families or adults who have children to a two year old's party. (except of course for grandma or other persons to who she is close to in her daily life) People who have not had children, or who feel uncomfortable with young children, tend to feel overwhelmed in parties where there are lots of kids running around. You may have to be crafty so as to not hurt his feelings but he might be relieved to not have to come. anon
hi, I think from the time a child is born he/she responds to things they sense and know things that even we don't. The fact that your child is afraid of this uncle I think shows that there is something that bothers your little one about him. So my suggestion is to be sensitive to your child and not invite him to a party that is for her. I think your first and only real obligation is to your child not to this relative. It's not going to make anyone happy if the birthday girl is in tears. Your little girl is telling you what to do so just listen to her heart. believer in child senses
This is not to address whether or not you should invite your uncle (it doesn't seem worth ruining the party for her) but I did want to stick up for the man. My nephew went through a phase at about the same age that he was utterly terrified of any man with blonde hair. I can say with 100% confidence that he had never been alone with a blonde man so nothing bad had ever happened to him. It passed with repeated exposure to blonde men. I have had friends with similar experiences with their kids. I am not saying that children's intuition should be ignored, just that sometimes they have fears that have absolutely nothing to do with the person they are afraid of. Elizabeth

Only friend invited to party going to music class instead

Jan 2002

My daughters (twins) are turning 3 next week. We had planned a small party, inviting only people they know and love well. The list is short: four adult friends, one toddler and that toddler's parents (seven in all). Since there are so few guests, we planned the party on a day when everyone could come, making many calls to co-ordinate the date. It's been set for over a week, and the girls are eagerly anticipating the event (we make an ex on the calendar at the end of each day so they can "watch" the day getting closer).

Today I received a call from the toddler pal's mom, saying they will be at a music class that day and will only be able to attend the party during the final 20 or 30 minutes. She knows she has cut the guest list in half by bowing out. I'm sure we'll have lots of fun anyway, but I'm disappointed by this, and even confused.

Friendship is tricky. I mean, if this were family, I'd tell them off and know we'd still be stuck with each other. But how much can you reasonably expect of your friends? I don't think I'm going to be able to just shine this on, but isn't "saying something" counterproductive? After all, if your friends don't treat you as if you matter to them, telling them they should probably won't help. It's a bind though: either way, the friendship seems doomed. Any advice?

Sign me: Birthday Bummer


While the friendship may or may not be doomed, I think you owe it to yourself and your friend to tell her how her decision to skip the party makes you feel. This does not mean telling her off; it means telling her that it makes you feel as though your friendship doesn't matter, that makes you sad because you thought that you had more of a friendship there, or whatever. If I were you, I would try not to be accusational because you have an opportunity to find out how you also might have contributed to the strain in the friendship. If nothing else, your future friendships will be stronger. Good luck!
If you truly feel that you can not condone what your friend has done and that your friendship is doomed if you don't tell her so, then you lose nothing by trying to talk to her about it. Perhaps she just doesn't realize how important this is to you. If she really doesn't care, then there isn't much you can do, but I think you should at least give it a chance. If you give her the benefit of the doubt, and gently explain how important this is to you, she may change her mind. In any case, try to have fun at the party and look forward to it anyway, because your daughters will be excited in any case and 4 guests is still plenty. It's their big day, and whether they celebrate with 4 or 7, they'll enjoy it if you do! Ziz
A couple of years ago, a friend offered me comp. tickets to a show, and I admit it, I was lazy, late, and not very thoughtful when it came to the effort she put forth. But my friend turned out to be very direct: she told me that she had gone to a lot trouble for me, and my that thoughtlessness was a problem. She was right. And while it hurt to hear it, I was glad to hear it. In fact, I think it drew us closer. Certainly made me want to be more reliable in the future. So I say tell your friend about the problem she has created with the music class. tell her how important it is to you and your child that she and her child come to the party for the whole time. Don't let it be a stumbling block in the friendship. Rather, try to let it be a way for both of you to be better friends. --anon.
I'm a bit confused that you would consider a person with whom you can't be honest "a friend". I guess its tricky because her child might be your kids' friend, but I would urge you to be honest with her. Otherwise you will find things become more and more strained.

It should have been possible when she called to mention that her child is THE honored guest, and that you could have had the party a different time if she told you it was inconvenient for her. Now I'd just wait till she arrives at the party and tell her the same thing. You may find that you are better friends for clearing the air.

I've been on both sides of something like this... and ended up disappointed with myself both times, for not doing the right thing... Heather


We had this kind of adult party when my kid was 1 year old. I am surprised that at the age of 3, you are still making it an adult dominated event. (Maybe there could be a family gathering separate from a kid party?). Cancellations happen. People do get sick or have accidents, although I would not be very accepting of simply being dropped for a music class, if the other person was aware of your scheduling efforts. But your friend doesn't deserve to feel pressure because her kid was the only other kid invited and therefore they should definitely be there. That was your idea, not hers, and the consequences are on you. While I would not take it out on the friendship, (you don't own anyone's commitment just because this party is so special to you), I would definitely invite one or two more kids than you plan to have at future parties. It's a good rule of thumb and has always worked for me. And I try to keep birthday parties very smalI - as many kids as your child turns of age. If they all come anyway, you can probably accommodate one or two extra. Just make sure you have party favors for all. Anonymous
You have every right to be upset. Perhaps the best thing to do is find another toddler for your girls to play with at the party. I would want to know if this friend arranged the music class before or after she accepted the party invitation. If she did arrange after she accepted the invitation, then I would not invite her to any future events as she doesn't seem to have her priorities straight. The kind of party you described with all the planning you did is not something easily forgotten.

Forget about chastising your friend. Your priority should be to ensure your daughters have a great time. If this friend shows up at all, I would not change your schedule. If some activity is already in progress when she arrives, she'll just have to wait (as will her child) until the activity is completed. It isn't fair to the other children to make them start over again.

I say this only because at one of my child's parties, a guest didn't show up until five minutes before the party was to end. This guest wanted tokens for games and cake and pizza and I could not believe how rude they were about it. I had to explain to the child (and the parent) that we already finished eating and everything had already been cleaned up. We were in the process of cleaning up after opening presents when they arrived. Everyone else was getting ready to go home. I had no intention of babysitting this child for a couple of hours when the party was already over. My husband had to insist that the parent not leave their child with us. Another reason I don't invite the entire class anymore, only children whose parents I have met and know.

Children's parties should be fun and stress-free. Enjoy your daughter's party and forget about the friend for now. There are more important things for you to concentrate on.

Marianne


You can not expect your friends to have the same standards as yours. Every family has their agenda and family events to juggle everyday. We do need to respect our friends's decisions on how they prioritize their life. Your friends are doing their best to come to join the later part of the party. Please enjoy the short time they can share with your family. What I have learned from doing over 10 birthday parties for my two girls is to invite the maximum friends you want to host, prepare enough goodie bags for each kids, no need to R.S.V.P., and a big cake. The leftover cake will be divided for the kids can't come to the party, we actually deliever the cake and that kid's goodie bag after the party. Please don't let this event interfere with your kids' friendships, the toddler's pal's mom as you called can still stay as your kids's pal's mom, and not your best friend. Have a great party! Sherry

Not invited to birthday parties

April 2002

When my 6-year-old daughter had her birthday, we invited everyone in her class, so that no one would feel left out. However, it seems that not all the other parents try to be fair like this. My daughter has only been invited to about 60% of the other childrens' birthday parties. These children are handing out invitations at school, and talking about thier parties, even though there are children who have not been invited. This really hurts my daughter's feelings. I know that she is well-liked by all the children, so it is not a question of them not liking her. I don't know what to say to her when she comes home crying about a party she didn't get invited to. Help!


I think you just have to explain that some people just can't or don't want to invite a whole class to birthday parties, and that being invited to more than half is pretty good. About this age girls group up and almost everyone gets excluded sometimes from some things. I think you just have to be matter of fact about it, and help her to come to terms with it, because we just can't protect them from this sort of stuff from here on out (bummer!). They are going to have to separate ''self-esteem'' from this sort of thing, and learn to derive it from their own accomplishments instead. In fact, if someone wants a smaller birthday party, or only invites even one person, that is ok, and we can't expect to be invited to everything. She really won't want to invite everybody to everything for the rest of her life either. I think it is important to remind kids also that popularity is not life's main goal. I know it is painful, but that's growing up. anonymous
some parents go with the advice ''one child guest per year of age of the birthday girl/boy''. it might help if you explain this to your daughter.
I know it can hurt a child's feelings when they are not invited to birthday parties that others are invited to. Some parents' feelings can be hurt, too. I feel it is important to remember that for many reasons, not everyone wants to or can have a large birthday party. Perhaps a way to help her deal with it is to explain why others may not invite the whole class to their children's parties. Birthday parties can be very expensive, and many families cannot afford large parties, especially if they also pay for private school. Many families do not have the space nor the ability to have a whole class full of kids in their home, or to keep track of all of them at a non-home location (even if other parents are around to help). Many families have a large local extended family that must be invited to a birthday party; which leaves little room left over for friends. Some children feel more comforatble with smaller parties cuz they may be more introverted.

At my daughter's preschool, the rule is that no one talks about birthday parties at school, 'cuz someone may feel sad about being left out.

Perhaps you and your daughter would feel less consternation if you made your own parties smaller and focus on enjoying the company of a few close friends. anonymous


I firmly believe that birthday parties do not require reciprocal invitations (''my child should be invited to child X's birthday party, since my child invited X to her party'') I've seen that belief force some families, who would like to have a small party, for reasons of finance or personal preference, to invite many more children than they really wanted. If a family or child would like to have a party with 6 kids instead of 16, that should be their choice!

However, since you state that the problem isn't just that your child isn't being invited by everyone that you invited to her party, but that most of the other kids are invited, and she is left out, perhaps this issue is something you could bring up with your child's school, to see if they have a policy about birthday parties. The guidelines at my daughters' school (Windrush) is that birthday parties invitations should go to:
- The whole class, OR
- all the girls, OR
- all the boys, OR
- no more than half the class

In a class of 16 kids, you could then invite all 16, or all 8 boys, or all 8 girls, or 8 assorted kids, but not 12 kids invited and 4 left out. Furthermore, birthday parties are not considered an appropriate topic of conversation in the classroom. My daughters' preschool had the same guidelines and the kids had no problem adhering to them.

Meanwhile, you say that most of the kids like her, and she's been invited to about 60% of the parties. Those are pretty good numbers - I personally wouldn't expend too much energy on worrying on the few parties she'd missed, unless your child is genuinely upset.

As to what to say to your child, you could simply say that the other families decided to have smaller parties and couldn't invite everyone. Since you don't think she's being excluded for a reason, that's really all you can say to her. But meanwhile, consider a talk with the school or teacher, as long as you are sure of your facts, and it's not just that you might be subconsciously expecting everyone to have a 16 child party.

I personally look forward to the day when kids have smaller birthday parties and there are fewer piles of presents for kids who already have so much stuff! But then, I'm the Grinch!

Best wishes,

Natasha B


Is 5-year-old obligated to invite those who invited him?

Nov 1999

Our son's fifth birthday is fast approaching. Each year, we've been invited to the birthday party of another child who we see occasionally but who our son is not all that interested in. And we've always invited that child to our parties. This year, howver, our son insists he doesn't want to invite that child to his party. It seems rather like a social obligation already, that we're kind of expected to invite each other (and attend) the respective parties. Should we go ahead and issue the invitation and hope our son will be polite about it? (I know I can't count on that.) Or just not invite him and hope I don't have to explain? Or be more straightforward with the mother, whom I like, and explain something about it being a small party this year, etc. etc.? Any suggestions will be gratefully received. Thanks in advance.


I come from a culture where social obligations and the good of the community comes before individual satisfaction. I always felt that some of the sacrifices I had to make growing up were unfair and somewhat disrespectful of my personal needs. When I came to this country I realized that the other end of the spectrum is also not good for anyone. This country is giving children too much power to satisfy what they need, with no regards to what others might think. It was refreshing to find that you are struggling with your decision, rather than just let your son decide for himself. This is no simple matter. There are many people involved.

First you need to think about the messages that your son would get if you do not invite this long term friend, whom he is not so found of, but it seems like the families like each other. I think you need to give him the message that the way to create a community is not to cast aside the individuals you don't get along with. He has known this other boy for many years and he has come to every birthday party, this should count for something. Your son's individual rights will respected if he is involved in this decision as much as possible, but that he should be given clear guidelines for what might be your decision and what might be his.

When children are given a choice to invite, say, only three children for their birthday, I think they should have full control. But if it is a big celebration, being choosy and disregarding family connections is actually very selfish.

I hope you make the right choice, and I hope you can openly talk to your son about the feelings of sadness that exclusion might incur in others.


My daughter gets invited to the birthday parties of many more pre-school friends than we want to accommodate at hers and you have to draw the line somewhere. It just amazes me the size and types of parties that are given for three- and four-year olds. Whatever can you do to top it the next year? Anyway, how did your son feel about going to the other's party? What is your relationship with the other mother? If your relationship is casual and your son didn't really want to go to the other's party, perhaps it's time to severe the ties and invite only the friends your son wants.
At some point (and age 5 is probably about the start), your child is entitled to pick his own friends (but not relations!). So if your son doesn't want the other child to come, the other child should not come. There's no shame in explaniing to the other kid's mother -- she can be your friend even if your kids aren't.
My daughter gets invited to the birthday parties of many more pre-school friends than we want to accommodate at hers and you have to draw the line somewhere. It just amazes me the size and types of parties that are given for three- and four-year olds. Whatever can you do to top it the next year? Anyway, how did your son feel about going to the other's party? What is your relationship with the other mother? If your relationship is casual and your son didn't really want to go to the other's party, perhaps it's time to severe the ties and invite only the friends your son wants.
It seems reasonable for children to fall into and out of relationships with their peers. The parents of the "uninvited" would surely understand this aspect of social life at this (or any) age. In the past, we have limited the number of children (10 or less) at our son's parties (also now 5) and he has had to pick those he REALLY wants to come. This year, due to the observation that our son was always very stressed by birthday parties (others, as well as his own), we did not have a party. Nevetheless, his close friends made occasions to "gift" him and help him celebrate-- over the entire week in which his birthday fell. He did not miss the party. We had a special dinner with one friend (and her family) over, as well.
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