From pretty much the age of two, birthday parties quickly become the social life your child needs and you as a suddenly shut-in parent crave. They provide an instant play date and social interaction for parent AND child. So it is understandable that your first reaction is to take offense when the time comes that your child is NOT invited to a party. I mean, how dare someone not invite my precious little muffin, right? There must be some mistake. I could see if they don’t like me. But don’t take it out on my child. What will she think? How will I explain it to her? How will we go on? Oh, the humanity.
My daughter and I were in Murph’s Sport Shop one day earlier this month picking out her first baseball glove. A big moment for a dad, even if his daughter has a marginal interest in the sport at best. (She’s already very good at humoring me.) We ran into a boy and his mom that we know from day care. Three short weeks of Kindergarten has already made day care seem like a distant memory. After some small talk about the first week of Kindergarten, how both kids are adjusting to their new schools, and other typical catching-up chit-chat, it was time for her and her son to leave.
“So we’ll see you at so-and-so’s party on Saturday?” She asked.
“Uh…I don’t think so.” I said, puzzled. (Only because I, like most men in the relationship, am not in charge of the social calendar.)
I stuck with my gut, knowing I definitely didn’t remember my wife mentioning a party for so-and-so. Maybe. As you might have guessed, things immediately turned awkward.
But they didn’t have to. Right away, this poor woman felt the need to justify her son’s invitation and my daughter’s lack of one. I think we’ve all done this at one point. “Well, he/she is in dance class/swim class/karate/went to camp with him or her. So they’ve become close.”
It’s fine. Really, it is. And if it’s not, we all need to get over it.
That’s what I said as I tried to diffuse the situation. “Please don’t even worry about it.” (I really didn’t care.) More important, neither did my daughter. She was running around the store with her friend and had no idea what was happening. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. If she did know, she didn’t seem too concerned.
Still, the damage was done. Awkwardness hung in the air like the echo of a loud sneeze in church. It’s happened before and will happen again. We’ve done it to other kids ourselves. My daughter’s fourth birthday was a girls-only princess party. The boys in her class were not happy. Sorry, fellas. Them’s the breaks.
Our children are a lot more resilient than we sometimes give them credit for. So let’s all agree that it’s ok for them not to invite everyone, and not to be invited to everything. I know some schools have certain rules about such things. But how about we as parents agree that our kids are going to get their feelings hurt eventually. And then again, once in a while. The sooner we – and they – realize that, the better.
Justin is a husband, dad, and writer who also blogs at Daddy Knows Less.