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The Wolvog’s Party Etiquette Question

So I put up that last post to get ideas, but what happened was that your comments stunned the twins.  They couldn’t believe how many kids didn’t have a birthday party at all.  They’ve had one every year since they turned one.  Their first one was a big one because we couldn’t do a baby naming (a Jewish ceremony) at birth due to their prematurity, so we held a big baby naming/introducing them to the community party as they turned one.

When they were very little, the other kids at the party were mostly our friend’s kids.  As they aged, they found their own friends, and now it is more of the other way around: I have become friends with their friend’s parents.  And the kids at the party are all mixed up: old friends/school friends/camp friends, etc.

Most of their friends have parties.  There are a few kids that we don’t know about: they don’t reciprocate the invitation, but we don’t know if that is because they are having a party and not inviting us, or if they only have a family party (or no party at all).  They twins usually invite them anyway despite the fact that the invitations are one-sided because they socialize with them in school or through another activity.  But that’s just us and how we construct our guest list.

Oh — and the twins could have separate parties and they’ve been encouraged to have separate parties, but they want to hold their party together.  We leave those types of decisions up to them.  They may not care about having their own party because they each separately get one special day that is their day (ChickieNob Day or Wolvog Day) each year since they have to share their birthday.  On that day, they get to pick the activity, the meals, and usually get a lot of sugar.  We also have two birthday celebrations with family where it’s just dinner and cake.  All in all, they’re well-celebrated.

So here’s the thing, we’re getting towards the end of the birthday party life span.  As they get older, the parties will become more and more casual; a few friends out to dinner, etc.  Slumber parties.  Grabbing your four closest friends and going to a baseball game.  It really feels like this is it: we maybe have two or three more years of this and then fade out into casual, intimate celebrations.  I think I’ll miss the big parties as it is one more marker that they are growing up.

But still, I posed the question to them about which they would want the most: a party, a trip, or a present.  They ranked it party, trip, present, with party being the most important to them.  They love a good trip, and they said they may want to do that in the future.  Take a small trip around their birthday and then just have dinner and cake with friends.  We’re not a big present family: we usually give them things as they need/want things rather than saving it for a holiday or birthday.  So present was a distant third priority.

But one of the biggest reasons they gave for wanting the party is that they don’t want to be left out of things socially, and having a party ensures they’ll be included in other people’s parties.  The Wolvog admitted that he would be very jealous if he knew parties were going on and he wasn’t invited because kids knew he’d never reciprocate with his own party.

He asked me to ask you this question: do you accept party invitations if you don’t throw parties?

He asked this because I’ve always told them that if they go to someone’s party, they should invite them back to their party.  If they don’t want that person at their party, they probably shouldn’t go to their party, even if their other friends are going.  You go for the birthday kid, not your other friends or the activity.  It’s not a perfect tit-for-tat system, but I would say that the vast majority of their guest list are people whose parties they also attended.

He wanted to know how that worked: did people feel awkward accepting invitations knowing they wouldn’t be extending one later?  Did the kids who never had a party get invited to a bunch of parties each year, or were they mostly left out of the party scene?  Was it common in your circle of friends to not have parties therefore it wasn’t really an issue?

So… uh… I guess my piggyback question is how people construct their guest lists.

33 comments

1 nicoleandmaggie { 03.13.14 at 10:49 am }

I can answer the piggy-back question. DC1 and DC2 schools require (and have required) that all kids in the class are invited if we are to hand out invitations at school. So we always invite all kids in the class. That can mean inviting 30 kids! But usually 12-15 show up.

Some of the kids who show up don’t reciprocate, some of them do. One of DC1’s friends is allowed a birthday party every other year, his mom told us. Another has parties in the classroom instead of outside of class, which we find out when DC1 comes home with a lot of candy and we ask why. (I don’t know if its normal to celebrate birthdays in class in addition to an out of class party– DC1 is a Christmas baby and DC2 is a summer baby so we haven’t thought about it.)

2 Brid { 03.13.14 at 10:51 am }

We have big parties always… Jack’s birthday, as I told you before is a benefit, so the bigger the better for the orphanage. Our Christmas party – humongous, with lots of food and loud music. Summer bbq – same as! Those are the three biggies and we invite everyone. If Jack gets an invite, we will go regardless, unless another priority conflicts. If he doesn’t get invited, he still invites, and that person can make the decision to come or not come.

I do think there should be some obligatory, never-not-invites… In October Jack didn’t get invited to his so-called best friend’s party. It was a long story after the fact, but they’d not even had an argument or anything. In that case, I would have thought his parents would have said something because it was so weird.

3 Pepper { 03.13.14 at 11:34 am }

This is a question we have struggled with recently. For D’s 1st and 2nd birthdays, it was family only plus one family of close friends, so close we consider them family. This year she really wanted to invite her “best friend” (she’s going to be 3 so I used quotes…). This is where it gets tricky. We know her friend from a play group. We still get together with most of the people in the play group. Inviting all of them is out of the question because it would be too many people, we do not want to set a precedent within the group wherein we all have to be invited to all parties, and because there is one family we are not comfortable socializing with at all due to some very questionable parenting practices. However, I know some moms in the group would be uncomfortable being invited if they felt others were being left out. So I struggled and ultimately was straight with the mom of her friend. Luckily (and as I expected) she completely understood, is coming, and will not mention it within the group (or post pics to Facebook etc). I don’t know if this is underhanded or brilliant but it’s what we’re doing. Birthday parties are stressful for so many reasons!

4 Pepper { 03.13.14 at 11:36 am }

Oh, and we don’t expect reciprocal invites but sometimes if we have to “cut down” a list, the people who don’t invite us are the first to go.

We also don’t feel the need to reciprocate because we do so for good reason – for example, our daughter gets overwhelmed by big parties. I mostly feel like parties should be about who you want to invite and I’m not hurt when I don’t get invitations (I should note that I don’t love parties, though, so I’m never sad not to go.).

5 Kacey { 03.13.14 at 11:37 am }

We get invited to (and go to) birthday parties even though we don’t throw them. I feel like we fulfill our obligation to those who invite us by showing up and bringing a thoughtful gift. It has honestly never occurred to me that we owe them a party and they keep inviting us so I guess they don’t care, either.

6 Peg { 03.13.14 at 11:52 am }

You have posed these birthday quesitons exactly when I am constructing a 7 year old pokemon birthday pary for Saturday (I just got caught printing pokemon bingo cards on our color work printer by my boss…yikes!) Each year we throw a kid party and a family party for each of the kids. For the older kids the friend “party” is a lot more low key and has turned into a few friends over or for A a quick herping expedition at the local regional park. The family party is a big deal with our huge extended family (grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins). Many of the cousins are the same age as our guys, so we try to limit the number of friends at the party due to space and expense. I don’t think that you have to invite the entire class. L picked 5 friends from school, a soccer team friend and then his cousins. We have 12 kids coming to the kid party (the little cousins will all be at the family party–taco bar!!) Some kids who invited him to their party were not invited but that’s because these were parties in which the whole class was invited. We did invite a boy in the other 1st grade class because L is friends with his twin brother and he didn’t want him to feel bad (his mom actually asked me multiple times if I meant to invite the twin). Too many kids gets overwhelming for both the birthday kid and me so we have always kept the numbers below 15. I also LOVE to throw kid parties so our activities planned involve a lot of work and too many kids makes it harder and more expensive. My kids start planning their party the day after their last party, so they definitely rank parties over presents. They all really love the family parties too because it’s always fun to have both sides of the family together to celebrate the birthday kid and be together as a family. I love taking pictures during these parties because the love we all have for each other (especially the cousins) shines through.

Good luck with the party planning…can’t wait to hear about plan B.

7 Nicole { 03.13.14 at 12:05 pm }

We have our parties with the family which is too far for having parties with their school friends. I am sure once they are firmly in elementary school that will change but it is the way it is. We get invited and we go and I don’t think the other parents are offended. We bring a gift and us not having a party lets them off the hook for having to make a trip to toys r us.

8 queenjohnsonclan { 03.13.14 at 12:08 pm }

I have twins as well and for the most part they choose their on party list (if they have one). When they were younger (they are turning 13 this year) I invited the family and whomever else they socialized with. Never occured to me about reciprocal invites. Honestly I think as mothers we are looking for reciprocation from other families way to much. I never felt snubbed if someone could not come, I mean people have lives. Lord help me if I tried to remember if they invited our kids to their party while making out the party list for the twins current birthday. Isn’t there enough to remember without that? To the other, I stopped choosing party or no party at around 3. I’d give them options and they would choose one, I encouraged them to think of their own theme or what they would have the most fun doing then I basically worked “the mechanics”. Still works today, but if they get invited to a party when they are not throwing one that year…I only base them going on two factors 1. do they want to go (if the answer to this is no, doesn’t matter about 2) 2. Any conflicts with the date/time. That’s it. If I have issues with the family or how they are raising their kid…it doesn’t matter. I might have to deal with that issue on another subject but not a birthday party for a couple of hours (My kids are young enough still that I can go with them and pull them if there is anything against my bottom line happening at the party).

9 Ana { 03.13.14 at 12:59 pm }

I would NEVER say a kid shouldn’t go to a birthday party of he/she can’t reciprocate—there may well be family situations (financial, cultural, health, etc…) or beliefs that mean that the child will never have a big party of his own. This isn’t his fault, and so he shouldn’t be “punished” by missing out on all the fun parties he’s invited to. In fact, his friends shouldn’t be punished by missing out on his company (if they are good friends, they’d want him there). Also lots of kids get parties every other year, or whatever—would they only go to others’ parties on the years they are also having one?
If you ARE throwing a party, then, yes it seems fair to invite the kids’ whose parties you participated in.
I guess my kids are still much younger, but it truly never occurred to me to think of birthday parties as social capital. Growing up I always (like from age 9-16) had a slumber party for my birthday—I never even thought about it at the time, but thinking back, the majority of my friends never had parties at all. I’d have been devastated if my friends didn’t come because they felt they couldn’t reciprocate.

10 Tiara { 03.13.14 at 1:06 pm }

I have no answers or opinions on these last two posts since I have no experience (since my own childhod, & really don’t remember that far back, lol!) but have to say I’m now stressed out by all these possibilities!!!

11 Lori Lavender Luz { 03.13.14 at 2:10 pm }

“do you accept party invitations if you don’t throw parties?”

Yes. I don’t see it as quid pro quo for the invitation. I see it as if you invite me to your party, I will bring a present.

We don’t keep track of who invites us through the year. When it’s our party time, the birthday kid invites whomever they’re close to at that time, whomever they’ll enjoy being with. Often it includes a sleepover, so that means only a handful of kids.

Guilt? Keeping track? Ain’t nobody got time for dat.

12 Collette { 03.13.14 at 4:44 pm }

So, my son gets invited to lots of parties but we have not yet had a party. His birthday is usually the weekend school starts/Labor Day which makes it a little goofy to try and have a party so soon after school starts. Anyway, I figure they invite him because they want him to be there. We go, we’re good guests, bring a gift that he’s specially picked out for that child and have fun. If we do have a party (I think he’ll insist on one for turning 7), we’ll invite his whole class and will do so regardless of who has invited us previously.

I don’t feel bad about not reciprocating. It is what it is. So yes, we accept invitations even though we have not yet thrown a party.

13 nicoleandmaggie { 03.13.14 at 5:10 pm }

For those who go but don’t reciprocate, don’t tell, but I’d actually be happier if fewer kids had birthday parties, especially in the pre-school set. I’m hoping the new pre-school doesn’t have that culture (so far, so good). DH and I take turns going to the parties and we have a separate turn taking mechanism for Chucky Cheese parties because they’re so draining. We’re just as happy not going to the parties, but our kids like going and don’t want to be left out, so we go, but we’re just as happy when the parties don’t happen. (And if the culture is not to have parties, then we don’t have to throw one!) We are hitting the age about now where parents don’t have to go, but so far only the 8 and 9 year olds have been being dropped off without parents, so one of us still stays with our 7 year old.

14 It Is What It Is { 03.13.14 at 5:15 pm }

Well, this is right up my alley since we just threw my older son a party for his 7th birthday over the weekend. Because he was an only child for 6 years, I never considered not throwing him a party every year (until he was at least 10). I can’t say I thought this through or consulted anyone, but he, too, has had a party every year. Now, once Baby G came along and I saw the mounting costs of two annual birthday parties, it gave me pause. But, since my older son switched schools this year and we are still very much in the getting to know you phase, we decided to throw him a party for his 7th birthday, too, to do just that, get to know some of his new friends (and perhaps some parents as we do car line drop off and pick up which give zero opportunity to meet other parents).

Let me also say that I am all about giving choices so I left it up to my son as to whether he wanted to invite all of the kids from his class (boys and girls, 19 of them) or just the boys from both 1st grade classes (18 of them) in addition to three other male friends who he has had for a long time. He chose the latter.

Also, to control costs (and because we have a big backyard and bonus room (converted garage) I wanted to have his party here. We decided to host a Legopalooza through the company that provides his after school Lego enrichment, Bricks 4 Kidz (they are national, perhaps one in your neck o the woods).

We intended it to be a drop off party and I would say that 1/2 of the parents dropped their child and the other half stayed (and half of them brought a sibling).

We’ve explained to our older son the reasons for hosting this ‘off-year’ party and that his next party will be when he is 10, but that we will, of course find great ways to celebrate his 8th and 9th birthdays in between. We have other friends who also ascribe to the milestone birthdays for parties and I wish that had dawned on me sooner.

Also, because his bday is in March, it has rained 4/7 of his birthdays, so that is always a consideration for us.

When he was little we did used to accept birthday invitations so that others will reciprocate, and no, I don’t feel awkward accepting an invitation even if I know we won’t be hosting a party or, in some cases, even including that particular child.

We have noticed that at his age and maybe at this school, the birthday party thing goes one of 4 ways: he gets invited because his whole class is invited; he gets invited because the boys are invited; he gets invited because he is a friend of a particular child; he doesn’t get invited (either they don’t have a party or he doesn’t make the list). I know this because we do not get invited to 18 birthday parties (just his class) or 37 birthday parties (the two first grade classes combined) a year. This doesn’t include the ‘other’ friends he’s made and kept over the years inviting him or not to their parties.

One thing I know for sure is that the one-upmanship here on the west coast for children’s birthday parties is completely out of hand and nothing I subscribe to. All of my early childhood birthday parties involved family members and neighborhood kids and were thrown in at my parents house, if I had a party at all.

And, can we PLEASE all agree to stop with the favors already. In all of the 75 or so parties my older son has attended in his young life, we keep ZERO of the party favors. They are either something he is not interested in, something that breaks or something that has a very limited life span. Oh, can we rise above our need to ‘gift’ the guests we invite to our party!

15 a { 03.13.14 at 6:00 pm }

I don’t really feel any obligation regarding birthday parties – we usually go because my daughter enjoys them and I like buying gifts for kids. She likes to invite everyone and their brother to her parties, but we didn’t even let her have a party last year. Mostly, I was having them in the past because her dad was usually away at work on her birthday, and I didn’t want her to feel sad about that. I’m not sure what’s going to happen this year. I think I’ll try to get her to gather some friends for an afternoon at the movies or something.

16 Rachel { 03.13.14 at 6:34 pm }

I can only speak from the adult parties (wait, not THOSE kind of parties) since I don’t have kids yet…but I definitely don’t consider an invite requiring another invite. I think if you’re invited, you thank them by showing up and bringing a present (or if it’s a dinner party then some kind of food or flowers or something) and being present there – mentally and physically (no cell phones!). I don’t think just because they invited you, that you need to throw a party to invite them. Having said that, if you happen to be throwing a party, I definitely think inviting those who have invited you before is something to consider.

This whole post is exhausting….so many decisions/options just for a birthday party!

17 Melanie { 03.13.14 at 6:53 pm }

I always had a party growing up and I’m in my 30’s. It was always at my house though, not any activity or theme really other than a character on my grocery store cake and maybe some noise makers or something. Other than that it was just kids playing and cake. Shorter and more kids when I was little and less kids and sleepovers as I got older. As a teenager I think I would go to the movies or out to eat with my best friends and my immediate family. I do know that I’ve talked to older generations though that got maybe a party when they turned 18 and then 30 and that’s it their whole life. The parents would make something special for dinner that night or something when they were kids but no one else came over to celebrate.

My son is 4 and in his second year of preschool. Last year there were 12 in the class and we were invited to 5 “class” “parties for other kids. Where the whole class is invited to a bounce house/little gym type party. I am amazed at all the hoopla. We still had just the traditional family party for his 3rd birthday. (I assume these kids are getting these parties and also a small or large family party because I never see family at them.) I certainly didn’t think because we attended those parties that we should have to invite those kids to his or risk not being invited to theirs next year? That would not have been on my radar. But we’re dealing with younger kids here. Now this year, I think most of the parents followed suit. Now there are 18 kids in the class and we have already been invited to 11 class parties for 4th birthdays and the year isn’t over. (So maybe the other parents did feel guilty and that they needed to invite everyone this year.) We have attended most with no intention of reciprocating. As long as there is not a scheduling conflict I take him. It’s only an hour or two and adds to his friendships with these kids. I like to watch him play and interact with his friends and talk to the other parents. I think reciprocation when it comes to a kids birthday party is like what a previous commenter said, if you are invited they want you there and you bring a thoughtful gift and help the birthday kid celebrate their day. I don’t really want to go to ALL of them but I always feel like it’s the nice thing to do to bring my kid to the party. The birthday kid wants a lot of his/her friends there. Now for my son’s party, I did the traditional family party at our house and we couldn’t afford to do 2 parties but I knew he wanted some of his friends there. So I let him invite 5 of his choosing. 3 showed up. Which along with his brother and cousins was plenty of kids in my house! I thought it was perfect. However, his was one of the first parties of the school year and I didn’t realize EVERYone was going to be doing the whole class party and now I feel kind of weird that we only invited a few and did it at our house. But that’s just my own social anxiety. That we didn’t do the social standard thing. I don’t think the other parents or kids care that they are not invited to all of the other kids that were invited to their kids. I think it’s more of an ego boost to them when a lot of kids show up. Not that they are wanting to be invited back to all of those parties.

I’m looking forward to when it’s pared down a little. Where it’s at least all-girl or all-boy or just close friends like we did. But my niece is 9 in the same school environment and they are still doing things that way. I actually had no idea that they were throwing separate parties for my niece and nephew than the family ones we were attending until this all came up this year. and our family parties are usually a pretty big thing. 2 parties for each kid, every year, just seems like too much. I don’t know what we’ll do next year.

18 Esperanza { 03.13.14 at 6:57 pm }

I’ve never heard it even suggested that someone might not invite a kid to a party because that kid doesn’t have parties him or herself. How sad! It’s one thing not to be invited if you yourself had a party and didn’t invite someone, but to not be invited because you don’t have a party yourself–that is really sad! And it makes me sad that your kids think they need to have a party so they’ll be invited to other people’s parties. I hope my daughter never feels that way. And I hope that isn’t actually the case for your children (that they actually wouldn’t be invited to parties if their friends expected they wouldn’t have parties themselves).

Maybe I feel strongly about this because we haven’t had parties for our daughter, and probably will never have the kind of party where we can invite her whole class–for financial and space reasons–and I would hate to think she’d be left out of other people’s celebrations because of that. I never thought of parties as being reciprocal before, not even here where most people request you NOT bring a present, or to make a donation to a cause instead of bring a present.

I also feel pretty strongly that kids should invite the entire class, at least during the younger grades, maybe pre-school through 2nd or 3rd grade? Definitely until kids can be expected not to tell all the other kids that they are going to a party–basically rubbing it in the faces of the kids who aren’t invited–and not before those who are not invited can understand why they aren’t invited.

We’re getting Frozen on DVD next week (we pre-ordered it and it comes out on Tuesday) and I feel bad just inviting a few girls over to watch it with my daughter. I’m asking the moms to not tell the girls until that day, or not at all and surprise them with it that afternoon, because I’d hate for other kids to feel left out. (I’m also hoping that over the weekend they’ll forget about it and not mention it at school on Monday.) At three years old they don’t understand why some kids get to have play dates and some kids don’t. I know they need to learn these things, but it’s hard at 3 and 4 years old for them to understand. I guess we’ll see how it goes…

19 Melanie { 03.13.14 at 6:58 pm }

I will say as an adult though, I think there is some of that. If I am invited to someone’s baby shower, I will probably feel some obligation to invite them to mine. Or at least it will be a consideration when making the list. For formal things like that. weddings, showers, etc. for a fun party, a casual adult birthday celebration, I’d just invite who I wanted, regardless of past invites to their get-togethers.

20 Melanie { 03.13.14 at 7:38 pm }

Also as a kid, teenager I don’t remember there being a culture of inviting kids because I had been invited to theirs . I always just invited whomever was my group of friends that year or that month. It was always changing. I also don’t remember ever being hurt by not being inviting to one. I wasn’t that popular either. But if I was close to a kid at the time of their part then I was invited and those would have been the only ones that would have hurt my feelings. I suppose that’s the type of thing I’m imagining for my own children and these all class 30 kid parties aren’t what I know how to do or what we can afford but we are happy to attend.

21 Pam/wordgirl { 03.13.14 at 8:12 pm }

Long ago when planning parties for our son a friend suggested we invite as many children as the child’s birthday year– that worked fairly well and by the time he was 10 he just had a few friends go to a hockey game and home for pizza/cake.

It is funny to think about but as a child I don’t think I paid terribley much attention to birthday parties–my own, of course, I would invite the kids I was closest to… My mother always made a big deal of some elaborate cake. My birthday is in the summer so we always had outdoor barbecueBeach party things. Homemade food occasional games and just running around. I remember the birthdays of my good friends but we did not have extended social obligations to acquaintances or people other than just our very good friends. I will second the commenter who mentioned that the only obligation I really felt and still hold is that if invited to a party you choose a thoughtful gift unless otherwise asked not to. I truly have never felt particular obligation to reciprocate invitations. I tend to think of celebrations and get-togethers, dinner parties as organic –arising out of a affinity for other people’s company. And I don’t really think twice if I’m not invited to something with the exception of a get together once that was held with my very best friend and another person exclusive of me. And that was in adulthood 🙂

We do live in tricky times for all of the birthday/celebration parties. It makes poor old Martha Stewart seem quaint.

Xo

Pam

22 Karen Sanders { 03.13.14 at 9:55 pm }

I am just entering this party world again. My boy turned 1 last week. I did not extend invitations to all who had invited us before. I simply don’t have room in my house. For me, it’s very practical. Who knows how it will go when he’s more involved in the planning, though.

23 Northern Star { 03.13.14 at 11:24 pm }

Your kids are so awesome Mel! I love reading all about them as they are growing up.

We are pretty new to the kid party scene and now that I think about it, I realize that I haven’t been accepting party invitations BEFORE Moonbeam’s birthday (she just celebrated #1) knowing that I wouldn’t be reciprocating the invite. That said, now that her party is over and others have invited us to their kids’ parties, we are accepting … I feel less awkward because we obviously didn’t invite them to our party, yet they still want us at theirs. So we will attend, bringing along with us a nice birthday gift.

But this raises question for birthday #2 already … now that we’ve gone to another child’s party, does this mean they should be invited to our child’s next party? Probably, yes.

We kept our party friend-free this year (limited to family), so we got off easy … but I think your policy of not attending a party if you don’t plan on extending the invite back is a solid one. Without realizing it, I think our family subscribes to the same rule of thumb.

24 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 03.14.14 at 5:58 am }

We don’t parties roughly each second year, starting officially from about four years old (although big brother did insist little sister got one at two, because he likes cake). I don’t feel too awkward accepting invitations to parties for two reasons.

1. It’s a privilege to have guests at your party. That sounds a bit like me saying my presence is so cool you should be grateful I went to your thing at all, but it’s not exactly what I’m trying to say, it’s just there’s obviously a balance here, and of course different people will view the balance differently depending on whether they find hosting a chore or a thrill (and whether they like turning up to parties) but most people throw parties in the hope of having guests so turning up is putting something in as you get something out.

I’ve been invited to a number of parties where I turned up and then the host was always “too busy” to turn up to my events and I felt like I was just being invited to theirs in order to make up the numbers. So it works both ways.

2. “Events” is the key word here. It doesn’t have to always be a birthday party. We throw less parties than other people we know but we extend more invitations to movies or playgrounds. So I think as long as everyone feels there’s enough social give and take it works out overall.

25 Ellen { 03.14.14 at 6:40 am }

Touchy subject. While I agree with the notion on the surface that inviting “all the kids” when children are younger is somehow ‘fair,’ my children never wanted their own parties to have that many children.

They were invited to a lot of parties, attended most of them, brought nice presents, and then only invited the children they genuinely wanted to celebrate their birthday with to their own parties.

I have always made it VERY clear that there will be parties they will be excluded from because they didn’t invite those children to their parties. Both kids were totally cool with it, and neither of them has any problem when it happens (which, of course, it does).

So, I think the kid should lead. If the child wants “everyone,” figure out how to do it. If the child has a small group, they want to celebrate with, invite a small group, BUT, be clear that there might be longer term repercussions.

26 loribeth { 03.14.14 at 9:17 am }

I obviously can’t comment in terms of kids’ birthday parties, but in short, yes, we do accept party invitations, even though we rarely entertain. I get nervous just having a couple of people over for coffee, let alone a full-scale party, and we haven’t had anyone over for dinner in eons. Part of it is I do get stressed; part of it is our house is small & not well set up for entertaining. (Plus it’s small & semi-shabby compared to some of the professionally decorated palaces some of our friends & relatives live in. :p ) We had 40 of dh’s relatives in our backyard last summer — it was our turn to host the annual cousins’ get-together — & to say I was stressed is an understatement. I wound up taking three days off work to get clearn house & ready (after months of planning & fretting & making lists & calls) & the Monday afterward to recuperate. 😉 I may attempt to be a little more social & have more people over for lunch or dinner once I am retired and have more time to plan & fuss and do things “right.”

We have certainly accepted many more invitations to kids’ parties than we will ever be able to reciprocate. On the other hand, we have also spent much more money on gifts for other people’s kids’ birthday parties, baby showers, christenings, first communions & confirmations, wedding showers, stags, weddings, etc. etc., than we will ever have reciprocated. Of course, I used to think that someday, people would come to OUR kids’ birthdays, christenings, weddings, etc…. but that didn’t work out. On balance, I think it’s even-Steven. :p 😉

27 Ellen K. { 03.14.14 at 11:10 am }

For I & N’s 5th bday party, we invited pretty much all of the older girls in the preschool class (there are 43 kids total, but they are split among different days/mornings/afternoons). It worked out to about 20 or 22 girls at the Little Gym, and since I didn’t have to clean up or have a bunch of people in my house, it worked out well. I think they’ve only been invited to two or three bday parties this school year. They go to an urban parochial school. Everyone is paying tuition, houses tend to be smaller, and it’s cool to say, “we just can’t afford it.” The school culture is very decidedly NO entire-class parties. We were invited to one last year, and parents with older school kids told me it was very unusual. Even by age 8, parties seem to be small groups of friends — going to the movies or a baseball game, getting nails done, slumber parties, etc. I’m not sure how this will work out when the girls are older.

I don’t believe in “backsies” for birthday parties. It’s nice if you can reciprocate, but parents have the right to set the size and budget for a party.

28 KeAnne { 03.14.14 at 11:16 am }

Last year was the first year we had a “friends/classmate” bday party for D and our daycare’s rule (and current school’s rule) was that if you pass out invitations there, you have to invite the entire class. Otherwise you have to do it on your own. I like that rule when they are little like that. If someone invites us to their party, we do reciprocate if we have a party. However, some years we didn’t have a party and I felt like putting up a big sign that said, “we aren’t having a party this year; don’t feel offended or slighted!” Of course, I felt the same way when we didn’t send out Christmas cards last year. It’s like I want them to know it’s us, not them.

As far as guest lists, until last year, D’s parties were made up of family and a few close friends & their children. Last year was his daycare classmates. This year? I don’t know. He says he doesn’t want to invite anyone and some days I think we’ll invite the entire class as usual (because we did go to a few bday parties) or shrug and celebrate his birthday the way he wants. The big parties are stressful, especially when they are at a bounce house or whatever, and if he wants to do something else, that’s fine. I suspect that we’ll have much smaller, low-key parties as he gets older. I did. My best bday memories are slumber parties with a few friends.

29 KeAnne { 03.14.14 at 11:18 am }

And let me just say that DH took D to Chuck E Cheese for a classmate’s bday party last weekend, said it was awful and had to carry a sugared-up, melting down D from the party and threw out his back. That, my friends, is the definition of hell.

30 Isa { 03.14.14 at 2:07 pm }

This is funny to think about, because I always feel like it’s more of an imposition to be invited to a party than to throw one–but then I want guests! Presents are expensive, and now that most of my social circle is working on having their second kid, it’s going to be constant birthday parties from here on out! My daughter is having a fairly large 2nd birthday party at a children’s museum (note–I also hate gift bags full of plastic toys, so we’re giving away her favorite things: bubbles, band-aids, raisins, and lollipops, all for about $1/bag. I figure people might potentially use those, at least!), and we’re more or less inviting everyone we think of as friends. Several didn’t have parties (or had family-only parties) and I wasn’t offended that there wasn’t an invite. I’ll have a big 1st birthday party for my impending twins, too, but I would like to start having smaller numbers of kids with more in-depth activities once we hit school age. Maybe next year we’ll do a bounce house or something, but once it’s either invite the whole class or no one, I’d rather take them and a few friends to a ‘fancy’ restaurant or have a sleep-over or generally do less party planning. Mostly because I remember being mortified that my whole class was invited (and mostly came) to one of my birthdays in elementary school, and I hated having all of them in my space, even if the cake and ice cream were good…

31 Kathy { 03.17.14 at 4:47 pm }

My son is turning 4 so we are only getting started in this birthday party stuff. At the moment, we don’t go to birthday parties if we would not otherwise go over to that person’s house for dinner or visiting. Going “just” for a party seems a little false to me. The parties we have thrown have been very very small (close family and very close friends) but we don’t do the junk food, store bought cupcakes and cheap goodie bags either. We rent a cabin, everyone stays all weekend, real lunch/dinnner is served and usually do a visit to zoo or aquarium as a group.

I just can’t bring myself to spend my efforts, time and money on 15-20 screaming kids that I couldn’t pick out of a line up. True for throwing parties and for hosting parties.

32 Justine { 03.17.14 at 9:32 pm }

We don’t go to every party, and when we have parties, we don’t invite the entire class, unlike most people in my kids’ schools (my kids just seem to prefer smaller parties, so we make sure that the present is nice if we’re going to attend-the “tit for tat” for us is present-for-party, not party-for-party). We invite the people they talk about most, the people who are important enough to them to share with us. But there isn’t a perfect correlation between the people whose parties they attend and the people who come to their parties, for lots of reasons. Sometimes I feel guilty about this, and sometimes I think it’s a good thing that I’ve given them the opportunity to choose. And while it’s true that they may miss out sometimes, I don’t want them to choose the party that everyone is at; I’d rather they choose the party for the person who thinks highly enough of them to invite them, whether they’re reciprocating with their own party or not. I hope that doesn’t sound as convoluted as it reads to me…

33 Amber { 03.25.14 at 7:14 am }

I’m impressed by the Wolvog’s questions! It says a lot that he is concerned about how an invite (or not) effects those other kids. We just celebrated the babies’ 3 month birthday, so we aren’t at the birthday party planning stage yet, but these posts have made me realize we’re going to need to decide how we want to do the whole birthday party thing!

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