Parents, Can We Set Some Ground Rules About Birthday Parties?

birthday party

My son turned double digits this month and that is a BIG deal. So big of a deal that I told him he could have a friend birthday party. The last time he had a friend birthday party he turned five and was still in preschool. Back then inviting his friends was simple; I gave the parents the invites, they RSVP’d, everyone came to the party, life was grand. This year was not so simple. At. All.

Honestly it turned into something that seemed like it was more hassle than what it was worth and I hate saying something like that because I love my kid more than anything and will do anything for him. Except plan another birthday party with friends…

Here’s what happened. My son passed out his invites at school and as the deadline drew nearer for the RSVPs, I was beginning to think no one was going to come to his party. It was pure agony for me but I played it off for him, telling him we still had plenty of time. Eventually we received one RSVP and at that point I actually considered cancelling the whole thing.

This was not a party at our house. This was a pool party at a local rec center where I reserved a party room for pizza cake etc which would be followed by swimming for all the attendees. Eventually we got a few more RSVPs before the deadline for the food order and although it wasn’t the amount of people I had hoped for, it was enough to make it a party. After the RSVP deadline passed I started to get a bunch more RSVPs and I ended up having to be that person who calls the rec center begging them to order more pizzas for the party last-minute.

During the party planning debacle I came across this video on Facebook, I urge you to watch it. I also had a Mom reach out to me regarding her son’s birthday party (that my son was invited to) and expressed the same exact issues as I had with my son’s party. She said: “There has to be a better way.” I was inspired by that Mom, the Facebook video and my experience with my son’s 10th birthday party to put together some ground rules for kid birthday parties.

1 – Go To Every Party Your Kid Is Invited To

If your kid gets invited to a party you should make every effort to go to the party. I don’t care how much your kid likes the other kid or if you would rather be doing something else because it is very possible that you and your kid will be the only people at the party. I know how it felt when I thought that no one was coming to my son’s party and it was absolutely heartbreaking. I certainly wouldn’t want to put another parent or child through that and I am sure you don’t either.

2 – RSVP – Whether You Are Coming Or Not

Yes I know that I just said you should go to every party but if you absolutely can not go and you have done everything to try to re-arrange your schedule so that you or your kid can go to the party, then the polite thing to do is to reach out and acknowledge the invite and express your disappointment that you and your child are unable to attend.

Like the Facebook video recommends, you should offer to get your child and the birthday child together another time. On the flip side, for those RSVPing yes, make sure you do so BEFORE the cut off date. It’s just polite and makes you look like a good human.

3 – RSVP on time

Respond quickly to invitations. It makes party planning much easier for the hosts. If there is an RSVP deadline, make sure you RSVP by that time. Unless you are especially close with this child’s family, it is preferable to convey polite regrets rather than expecting them to reschedule arrangements at the last minute. If you don’t remember to RSVP and then remember the party on the day of the event, don’t show up in the party. You can just send a gift at another time if you prefer.

4 – Avoid bringing Siblings

Don’t impose the little brother or sister when your child is invited to a friend’s party! Yes, the younger child will want to be at the party too, but most birthdays are planned around a specific age group. Not only will he or she be bored or feel rejected, but his or her presence will add to the host’s already long list of responsibilities. Why not take the opportunity to spend some quality one-on-one time with him instead? That way, he won’t feel like he’s missed out on anything – quite the opposite!

5 – Meet The Parent

Even if the party is a kids only event or a parent optional event, you should still go inside and meet the parent of the birthday kid. Introduce yourself. Confirm pick up time. At the end of the party you should check in with the birthday party parent while picking up your kid. At my son’s party we had a kid that was dropped off at the beginning of the party and at the end of the party she just disappeared. Fortunately she had been picked up by her parents but do you know how stressful it was to think I had lost someone else’s kid?! It’s one thing to lose your own kid but someone’s else?!

6 – Invite As May Kids As You Are Able

When you plan your kid’s birthday party, invite as many kids as you possibly can. I honestly lost sleep over how to invite my son’s whole class. I didn’t want anyone to feel excluded. Understandably you may not be able to invite the whole class so if that is the case, invitations should be given out discreetly so that no one feels left out.

Yes, I realize that kids will eventually need to learn that they won’t be invited to everything but I just don’t think elementary school is the time to learn that. They will have plenty of time to learn that the world can be a cruel place, no need to rush that.

These are ground rules that we can all agree with right? They are reasonable and simple. And it keeps all of us parents on the same page. We are all in this together.

What has your experience been with planning / attending kid birthday parties?

Have you experienced the same issues that I did?


I'm Elena, mom of two kids. My vague aim for this blog is to bring my take on medical parent life or just normal life with the odd survival tip thrown in and useful stuff for parents. And also add a hint of humor, if I'm in the right mood.

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