My 4-1/2-year-old has a birthday party or a playdate every weekend for the next five weeks. She’s become quite the social butterfly — sometimes with her 2-1/2-year-old brother in tow. Which is great, except now I’m faced with a birthday party dilemma: Invite the whole class or just a few kids?
I have a few months in which to stress about this — she’s a late-fall baby, and my youngest’s birthday is just 10 days after hers — but, in the past, we kept things very low-key, and I’ll admit that’s where my heart lies. Last year, we skipped the proper party entirely, driving down to my parents’ house and eating cake with them and my nieces instead. I’d planned to invite a couple of friends to an outing at a local museum, but you know what it’s like trying to juggle work and family: Somehow, that trip is still in the planning stages.
Previously, birthday parties were a very simple affair. A stack of cupcakes. Pizza for the kids, “grownup food” for the parents, and maybe a grand total of about 20 people in the house, family and neighbors and adults included. The adults chatted, the kids decorated things with stickers, and then we’d all hang out outside if the weather was nice enough. Boring? Maybe. Stress-free? OH, YES.
After attending gymnastic parties, indoor playspace parties, princess parties, rented-bounce-house-in-the-driveway parties, and a few others so far this year, though, I’m not sure that a simple family gathering will do.
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. My younger brothers would each be allowed to invite a couple of friends — plus their 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. That’s the way I remember it, and I never heard my parents complain. But I’ll level with you: Just the idea of inviting all of my two youngest kids’ classmates and their families to my house at once gives me agita.
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?”
On yet another hand: 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?”
So I’m throwing the question out to you. Do you invite your child’s entire class to the birthday party? Why or why not? And what do you do if you have more than one child whose birthdays are close together?