Now, my youngest daughter is 4. She's been in preschool for a while, and has started attending birthday parties and going on playdates. And I've got a dilemma to deal with: Do I invite her entire class to her birthday party this year, or not?
After attending several gymnastic parties and a few others with princess themes, though, I'm not sure that a simple family gathering will do. And I'm not sure that I want it to.
When I was a kid, in the (gulp) '70s, my parents used to insist that I invite my entire class to my summertime birthday parties -- plus my classmates' parents and siblings. We had a pool and a huge yard and kids would swarm around like cake-fueled bees while the parents would sip beer and eat grilled chicken and much fun would be had by all.
Or so I assume. I never heard my parents complain. But I'll level with you: The idea of inviting all of my kids' classmates and their families to my house is enough to give me the vapors.
On the other hand: The idea of my 4-year-old knowing about a classmate's party but not being invited to it breaks my heart, and I don't want to make another child feel that way. In fact, that's how most parents seem to view the issue. "I know life's not fair," Momlogic's Julie wrote recently. ""But I don't know why my son has to learn that lesson in second grade. Isn't that a little young to adopt a 'life sucks, then you die' philosophy?"
Have birthday parties just become too PC? At Cafemom, one member points out: "Everybody has become so worried about hurting other's feelings in this regard that I've seen parents nearly go broke because they not only felt compelled to invite every kid in the class but they take it a step further and invite all the kids in the same grade!... If your child does not hang out with people at school, why would you want to invite them?"
I threw the question out to my readers at Boston.com's Child Caring blog, and was surprised to find it touched a nerve with many of them:
- "I think we're all taking this birthday party question a little too seriously," one commenter wrote. "Why are we so darn afraid of letting our children experience the world? Isn't our job to help them become independent, successful adults? How can we do that when we shelter them from every hurt feeling?"
- "Children will get over it if they are not invited to every single classmate's party. They are much more resilient then we give them credit for," posted another.
- "I heard a great Birthday Party rule of thumb from a friend: Invite the same number of children that your child is years old," suggested another reader.
- "Depends on how big the class is. If it is 15 or 20 kids that she sees everyday, then yes, I would invite them all. (It is not like inviting a whole class of 300 to a graduation party.) Alternatively, you can invite just the girls (or boys if you have a boy). Maybe just have the party at a playground and make it informal with cake and ice-cream. It doesn't have to cost alot if that is even a concern of yours," one commenter pointed out.
- "I would invite the whole class, but at a minimum you should invite all the kids whose birthdays / after school adventures your "butterfly" was invited to," was another suggestion.