Childrearing

I’m Too Afraid Of Rejection To Let My Kids Have Friend Birthday Parties

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kids birthday funAs parents, I think it’s only natural to want to shield our children from some of the more unpleasant things in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about learning life lessons and by no means am I crafting a world of rainbows and puppy dogs for my kids, totally free of disappointment. However, I think there are certain lessons that a child does not need to learn until they are a bit older and the fact that some parents are assholes who RSVP and then no-show is one of them. I have gone to a number of kiddie birthday parties over the years and I have been to several where only a handful of kids showed up and I also once heard of a party we were unable to make where only one kid showed up. It makes my heart ache and I can’t even imagine if that were my child’s birthday party. The bottom line is that I am too afraid of rejection to let my kids have friend birthday parties.

I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous and you can all stone me for it but I just cannot with the friend parties yet. Claire turns seven next month and I am trying to psych myself up for it- I think it is probably time that I let her do this, despite my fears. The problem is, after seeing it happen so many times, I have myself convinced that we will invite the whole class and barely anyone will show up, effectively breaking my child’s heart (and mine). Up until now, neither of my kids has really seemed to mind that they haven’t had a friend birthday party. At this point, we have low-key parties that mostly involve family and a few close friends but I know it won’t last much longer and they are going to beg for friend parties. For Claire, I have a somewhat legit reason other than my own paranoia to not let her have a friend party yet- she has a mid-September birthday. The school year has barely started and I feel weird already sending invitations home with her entire class. She is still young enough that she doesn’t maintain friendships over the summer (we work and she is at summer camp all day so we don’t really do play dates) so it feels gift-grabby to invite a classroom full of kids we probably don’t even know.

I have been mulling over our options as it is late-August and the time is approaching. I am thinking of offering her the chance to have either a sleepover or a movie outing with a handful of friends. I feel like if we do that, I can personally speak to the parents and be sure everyone will come who says they will come. I think this is a good compromise between a big friend party and not having one at all. Hopefully, Claire agrees and maybe next year, I will be ballsy enough to go for the big party.

(Image: Pressmaster/Shutterstock)

51 Comments

  1. noelle 02

    August 23, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    My son had his first and only friend party at nine and daughter at 8. Both went perfectly but I can’t work up the nerve to try again. With you 1000%.

    • Valerie

      August 23, 2014 at 1:33 pm

      I’m glad to hear it’s not just me!! Glad those parties went well- phew!

    • noelle 02

      August 23, 2014 at 1:38 pm

      I was relieved to hear this is a normal mom fear, not just a home school mom fear. Bday parties are when I doubt homeschooling most, but now I get that I’d probably be just as worried if they were in “real” school. Seriously, thanks for the article.

    • Valerie

      August 23, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      Awww you are so welcome!! Glad it made you feel better. 🙂

  2. AnnH

    August 23, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Warning : sob story.
    When I was a kid, my mother had the idea to launch an Easter-themed party, complete with egg-painting… and chocolate, of course. See, we were not a very social family (my parents had no friends, and I was never allowed to have friends over NOR to go to anyone’s house). But that time, she told me I could have 3 friends over, so I invited exactly 3 friends. None of them showed up. Not a call, nothing. She spent the rest of the afternoon painting eggs with me and I cried the whole time.
    My takeaway was that people suck. Also that when you invite 3 people, your chances of having 0 showing up are bigger than if you invite 10 people. But it was always better than not having a party at all, which would happen the rest of the time. When you invite 0, you’re sure to have 0 showing up, afterall.
    (also, make sure your kid has friends all the time, not just when it’s time to launch a party)

    • Valerie

      August 23, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      That is so sad, I’m sorry. 🙁

    • noelle 02

      August 23, 2014 at 1:35 pm

      I worried such a thing would happen to me as a kid. My last party was for my eleventh birthday because I got so stressed that nobody would show, even though all my parties were a success.

    • bea

      August 23, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      Don’t fret! It happened to me too. People do suck. Let’s drink.

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    • Zettai

      August 24, 2014 at 11:14 am

      Same here.

    • Véronique the Attachment Shark

      August 23, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      I think it’s understandable to feel as though people suck. The way that you were treated wasn’t fair. But I like to think about it in another way. What you invest in your friends is what you get in return. When your parents don’t socialize or allow you to socialize as a kid, you can’t expect people to think of you when you need them.

      You need to be able to put in the time as parents for your children to have friends. You need to accept that they might ring the doorbell at an ungodly hour, and allow your child to get out of the house for the entire day. You need to be friendly to the parents, and think of them.

    • Shelly Lloyd

      August 24, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      (((HUGS))))

  3. Hibbie

    August 23, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Birthday parties are a source of great anxiety for me. My daughter is young enough that family parties are still the norm, but when she starts school I don’t know what to do. Do I invite everyone in her class? Do parents stay or not? What do I do if another kid loses it and his/her parent isn’t there? What to do for entertainment? It’s stressful (I’m an introvert so parties in general are too much for me).

    • Emil

      August 23, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      Depending what your budget is you can get a location to do a party for you. Here we have the Little Gym and I am thrilled when my daughter gets an invitation to one of these parties because they are drop off (even with toddlers) and I can leave and get shopping done. The entertainment/childcare is provided for you and there is no guesswork. I don’t mind hosting at my house and I am a little to cheap to do it for my own kids but I know parents that wouldn’t do it any other way.

  4. Alanna Jorgensen

    August 23, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Mine is about to start school so this does have me a little nervous myself. Plus her birthday is August 31st so that would mean I would have to send invites at the end of the previous school year. That makes 3 months for people to forget or make other plans. I think the few friend sleepover is perfect. That’s what I always did as a kid because we moved a lot and I was never very popular.

  5. Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

    August 23, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    We only invite the neighbors. Mostly it’s an excuse for the adults to sit around and have a beer or two while the kids play pin the something on something. Five extra kids, tops.

    • Hibbie

      August 23, 2014 at 1:38 pm

      That sounds ideal. Low-key seems most enjoyable for all involved. That’s pretty much how it was for me growing up on military bases-built in party guests!

    • Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

      August 23, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      We are the epitome of laidback ’round here. 😉

  6. Tisa Berry

    August 23, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    One of my friend had her birthday party at Chuck e cheese when we were six or so. Her birthday’s mid december. Long story short, there was only 5 of us (including her), all of which her mom had driven to Chuck e cheese. Her mom had bought 400 or so tokens (she was expecting 20+, we had a big class and she invited friends and family) and a bunch of pizzas and it was really sad.

    On the contrary, although roughly 90% of my parties have been huge successes, I hate b day parties, and for my ‘Sweet Sixteen’ I plan on taking a few friends with me on a small trip. With all costs added up, it’ll cost significantly less than my sister’s sweet sixteen.

  7. Véronique the Attachment Shark

    August 23, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Why not just invite her good friends that she already has? She probably doesn’t care about 90% of her classmates – and she probably has some friends outside of school. I would keep it realistic. The closer she is to her friends, the higher the likelihood that they will show up.

    When I was a kid, my bday was in the summer time. I had 5 neighbourhood friends that I was always with (the neighbours that it was totally okay to ring the doorbell at 8am to see if they could play, the ones you played with until it was getting dark and the parents had to come track us down at the corner of the street).

    My parties were always with these kids. And they were the best.

    I don’t understand this whole “invite the whole class” concept. It never was like this when I was a kid. If I was invited to a party, I knew that it was because I meant something to the kid, and I really wanted to be there.

    • Ddaisy

      August 23, 2014 at 11:23 pm

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. If I invited just the same few kids I always played with, they were no less likely to show up for my birthday party than for any other time we spent together.

  8. CynicalMomof3

    August 23, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    I struggle with this, too.

    And every year, parents say “oh yes, we will hang out this Summer”, and even if you call them, it’s not a good time, and they never call back…

    My kids have done OK with parties, because we only invite family or 1 or 2 good friends we can rely on, but I have seen it happen when a kid invited like 12 church kids and only my 2 showed up, or a friend had a huge baby shower planned for like 20 people should show (more invites than that sent) and 3 of us were there.

    I want to rescue ALL the kids from rejection. I know I can’t, but it is so very painful. I’ll always be there with my kids, if I say I will (or don’t say I can’t), but I can’t control others who just don’t care enough to be honest.

    The worst is that we don’t have class lists in our school. NO list. Not even email. And we can’t send invites home. So kids ask each other by word of mouth, expect their friends for a playdate or a party, and nothing happens. AUGH!!!

  9. Personal

    August 23, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Do you know her friends? I think it’s a good idea to have friends over at other times. Swap taking care of each others’ kids with another family. Try to encourage friendships with the kids’ parents. If y’all get along, they might want to come and ‘help out’ at parties. (PS ‘Help ou’t can mean eat, drink, chat….)

  10. Elissa

    August 23, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Yeah, this year I got brave enough to have a birthday party for my 5 year old, because she wanted one so badly. We invited her entire preschool class and a few other friends. Only about half even bothered to RSVP and only 2 of her classmates and her cousin showed up. Luckily she was thrilled anyhow, but I was angry and heartbroken on her behalf. I know that someday I’ll have to do this again (I have 3 kids under 6), but I really really don’t want to. It’s expensive, a pain in the ass and people are assholes.

  11. Blueathena623

    August 23, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I got a little sick to my stomach reading this, because people not showing up is a serious fear of mine. I have a June birthday, so I would invite my friends and classmates before school ended, but then summer vacation started and people went away, forgot, etc. So my mom would make an effort because it’s my party, and if only a few kids showed up I felt so bad for my mom, that she spent so much time, and I felt like I let her down (how? By not being so utterly fabulously popular so that no one would dream missing my party I suppose. But as years of therapy has shown, my fear of letting people down isn’t always realistic). And then once my parents had a holiday party for my dad’s coworkers, but my dad didn’t do a great job of getting the word out and his coworkers were kinda shitty, so no one showed. So much prep and cleaning and food. This was high school so finally my mom told me to call my friends over to eat the food. While you would think that the fact that all MY friends showed up would make me feel better, I can only remember how bad I felt for my dad and my mom.
    I am thankful we live near family and my kid has a bunch of cousins so all his birthdays will have some kids. I seriously am not sure how I will handle it when he wants to invite friends to parties. One of the moms in our baby music class invited us to her kid’s party, and even though we don’t know them very well, we are going.

  12. Cc

    August 23, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Have a sleepover. I guarantee that plenty of parents would be THRILLED to ensure the kids show up.

  13. Stacy Shain

    August 23, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Omg this is a big deal to me! My son’s fourth bday party everyone rsvped, and I spent hours making each goodybag to suit each kid’s likes.I felt like an ahole when ten kids just didn’t show up or call. I got texts the next day with horrible excuses. My kid did not even care thank god, because he is a happy guy, so I didn’t say anything, but inside I was hurt. Thank god my friends came, and his cousins and stuff, but I learned my lesson. For my daughters first bday, we bought the chocolate cake from wallgreens, and it was me, my son, hubby, and daughter with presents and a dvd.BEST NIGHT EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I didn’t have to see the evil mother in law, win for me!

  14. Tea

    August 23, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    First thing that came to mind reading this was ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ by Neil Gaiman. It opens with the narrator saying nobody came to his birthday party.

    • JAN

      August 23, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      I love that book, well I love anything by Neil Gaiman

  15. Elizabeth Wakefield

    August 23, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    We’ve been having bigger birthday parties for my daughter’s 1st through 3rd birthdays just because we have a lot of friends with kids and we invited her whole day-care crew (5 kids plus their siblings). I’m looking forward to this year when she’ll be in pre-school because that means I can use the “we can’t invite everyone” excuse and keep it to just a few close family friends and their kids.

  16. AP

    August 23, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    I like your idea of doing a small friend party instead of inviting the whole class. I know schools like to teach inclusion “we’re all friends!” but I’m sorry, it’s impossible to be friends with 20 randomly assigned people. I think it’s important to teach kids to cultivate relationships by quality, not quantity. Plus it saves you the gift-grabbiness of the whole thing, because you’re not asking 20 people to buy 20 half-hearted gifts.

    As an aside, my husband was homeschooled for elementary school, so he usually got to choose who he wanted to associate with socially:
    Me: If you go to school, you have to invite the whole class to your party. That’s the rule.
    Him: *completely horrified tone* Even the bullies?
    Me: Yes, even the bullies.
    Him: Well then, if we have kids they are NOT having an all-class birthday. No one should spend their birthday with their bully!!!

    • former 7-year-old

      August 24, 2014 at 10:25 am

      Freelz. Most 7-year-olds would have more fun at a party with 4-6 friends, rather than 25 classmates who may or may not be their friends. And if your child doesn’t really have personal friends yet, then you’ve got a free pass to stick with the family-and-close-friends party this year.

      In terms of getting people to show up to events…I think this has gotten more difficult over the years. I don’t know whether people are busier or just less organized. In any case, I have found that follow-up reminders are key. When you send paper invitations home with kids from school, many of those invitations won’t even make it into the other parents’ hands. Send an initial email or Evite, call each person who doesn’t respond, and send a reminder message the day before the event.

  17. Marisa

    August 23, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    I really hate this stupid new trend of inviting the whole class because god forbid a kid feels left out. I’m not doing it when my daughter is older. It will be either just her friends or no party at all. It is sad when kids don’t turn up to a party, but well that’s life. Kids have to learn to deal with rejection. If we bubble wrap them up until adulthood how are they going to handle being in the adult world?

    • Korine

      August 23, 2014 at 8:58 pm

      Seriously. I wasn’t invited to some parties that my close friends were and it didn’t scar me for life. Probably because I learned young that you can’t be included in everything. I think it would have been more damaging to find that out when I was older.

    • momma425

      August 24, 2014 at 6:49 pm

      I’m not inviting my daughter’s entire class to her party this year. She can choose who she would like to come (it’s kids she likes and actually plays with- some of whom are in different classes!!!). We don’t pass out invitations at school- doing that and not inviting everyone isn’t the kindest move ever. We either drive to her friends’ houses to hand them invitations, or mail them.

  18. Emil

    August 23, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    I never thought to worry about this. I do however feel bad for the kids that never get invited to parties. In my line of work I see some kids with social skills difficulty and there has been a handful over the years that have never once been invited to a birthday party. They always hear about the parties at school but never get an invitation. I will probably be the sap that invites the whole class.

  19. Celia

    August 23, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    This always happened to me. Im not the most popular champ out there, so I literally try to invite everyone I have a slightly more then acquaintance friendship with to my birthday party’s. Last year when I was graduating high school, i couldn’t even have a party because my birthday was during exams, and my so called friends simply could not spare two hours of not studying to come to my house and make sure I dont feel like a friendless pile of dirt.
    I should be over this now, but it always crushes me when people dont show up to my birthday party’s. Its plain rude, I mean maybe you have better things to do, but If you have the opportunity to make someone feel really good and its as easy as getting dinner with them, and you just dont because ~youre not feeling social 2day~ you aren’t a good friend.

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  22. Buffy

    August 24, 2014 at 9:46 am

    I never heard of this problem. My kid is 7 years old and had had birthday partys since she was 3 and got friends.
    There are always some who won’t or just can’t come– this is absolutely normal. Just like grown up parties. But parents will either tell in advance that they don’t have time or call before the day (sickness etc). And if by some miracle nobody showed up, I ‘ll grab her and go with her somewhere special ( water park, zoo, anywhere she wants to) so she’ll have great memories.
    So, I think it could happpen but I don’t dread it.

  23. Obladi Oblada

    August 24, 2014 at 9:46 am

    That’s the same reason my kids have never had a ‘friends party’. We have a circle of close friends with kids of varying ages. We have them over along with family. It’s enough for now but the big one is a middle schooler now and coming into his own. The movie outing is a good idea though. I think I might try that. 🙂

  24. stephaniejmota

    August 24, 2014 at 3:10 pm

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  25. Shelly Lloyd

    August 24, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    I would so totally go to your party. And I’ll bring a car load of kids too. I do not mean for this to sound like a humble brag, but we always had the opposite problem–having too many kids show up. We’ll invite 5 or 6 and 10 will show up and then there will be those who were upset that we did not invite them. My daughter’s 16th B-day is coming up and I’m dreading the cost of it already; not to mention that my son’s 18th B-day is next month and both are milestone birthdays….

  26. joanne

    August 25, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    I guess it was because of the way I was raised (my parents are super anti-social and limited financially), but I don’t understand about having a big birthday party every year. I had one when I turned either 12 or 13 (I can’t recall – probably 13). All other birthdays were trips to the zoo or a museum with me and one or two friends (usually just one). We had a picnic lunch and my mom baked a cake. It was all fine. Nobody I knew was having yearly big birthday bashes.

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  28. persnicketythecat

    October 17, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    I get your point, maybe when she has more solid friendships then give it a go. If she asks for one, then I’d give it to her. She needs to be able to take some risks in life and deal with disappointments. I myself stopped wanting kid parties around age 10 because I felt that I had to please my peers and that I couldn’t be myself. Family parties were much more relaxing for me as a kid!

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