Read this before you blow off that birthday party

Tips to consider when the next birthday party invitation comes your way…

Mamas, when my three kids were little, I sometimes had conflicting feelings when a birthday party invitation arrived in the mail or came home from school. Part of me knew my little one would LOVE to go to the party and run around, have cake, and play with friends.

The other part of me was like “Oh, no. There goes Saturday morning. I have a million things to do, and now I’m going to spend it standing around Chuck E. Cheese with a horde of pre-schoolers hyped up on frosting.” Can anyone else relate to this feeling?

The truth is that kids’ birthday parties aren’t always fun for the grown-ups, and — especially when they’re little — a parent typically needs to stay at the party to help supervise her own kid. Settings like this can be particularly unpleasant for introverted parents. And even for outgoing types, multiple birthday parties are hard to squeeze in to a busy schedule.

But before you think of blowing off the next birthday party invitation that comes your kid’s way… we hope you’ll think through the possible impacts.

A few weeks ago, a local mama, Jenafer Neal, who also works as a preschool teacher told us about a trend she has noticed lately that’s having a negative effect on kids. She said she has seen multiple examples of kids’ birthday parties that were so poorly attended that it caused significant emotional pain for the birthday boy or girl. “There was one child in our care who invited all the kids in his class to his birthday party. He was SO excited about it, and he had been looking forward to it for months,” Jenafer said.  “Then on the day of the party, only two of the 13 kids who were invited actually showed up. He was so hurt.”

At another party Jenafer mentioned, she said that none of the invited kids showed up and the only people who did were two of the child’s preschool teachers.

“I don’t know what’s causing this to happen, but I don’t think parents realize how this will feel for the child having a birthday. In a 4-year-old’s world, a birthday party is a huge event and all they really want is to have their friends there and have fun. Maybe the parents are overscheduled, but I think some of the problem is that the parents are so deeply involved in their own lives that they don’t think about the feelings of the child having the party,” she said. “It creates a lack of community, which isn’t good for kids.”

Speaking of community, keep in mind that many moms in Northwest Arkansas do not have their extended family living nearby. So neighbors, co-workers, classmates and fellow parents often become a stand-in family since grandparents, uncles and aunts might be living hundreds of miles away. That means your presence at a kid’s birthday party is an even bigger deal.

Jenafer’s concern is shared by a number of other moms, who shared similar stories online. Given that NONE of us want to do anything that breaks a child’s heart, here are some rules to live by when your child receives a birthday party invitation:

  1. If you can make it to the party, GO! Your child’s presence there is such a gift to the birthday boy or girl and their family. 
  2. If you’re stressed about the cost of a gift, take something small and inexpensive or help your kid make something. The real gift is being there to help the birthday child celebrate. 
  3. RSVP to the party!! Let us repeat that: YOU NEED TO RSVP! Put yourself in the other mom’s shoes. You’d want to know how many (or how few) kids were coming to your kid’s party, so don’t leave your fellow mama hanging on in suspense. 
  4. If you RSVP with a “No, we can’t attend,” be sure to thank the other parents for thinking of your child and including him or her on the invitation list. Wish the birthday child a very happy birthday and/or offer to set up a playdate on a different date that would work for you.
  5. If you RSVP with a “Yes,” then you really need to show up. You REALLY do, no matter how “not in the mood” you are on the day of the party. The only things that should keep you from that party are sickness or a true emergency. The birthday kid is counting on you.
  6. If sickness or a family emergency keeps you from attending a party that you said you’d attend, reach out to the parents on the day of the party to let them know what happened and that you can’t make it. Give your sincere apologies and offer to set up a playdate after your kid feels well again.

If you’re the mama who’s organizing a birthday party and you’re concerned about attendance, here are some tips:

  1. Plan the party at least 4 to 6 weeks in advance. If possible, reach out to fellow parents via text or email to see if the party date would work for their child to attend. If you get too many “no’s” at this stage, consider rescheduling the party. (And don’t schedule a birthday party during a home Razorback game! It’ll decrease party attendance.)
  2. Include a request for RSVP’s and give your cell phone number to indicate that other parents can text you or email you with their RSVP. Make it super simple to RSVP. 
  3. Specify on the invitation whether or not siblings are welcome at the party. 
  4. Once you start to get RSVP notices, reach out to the people who said “yes” with a note that says something like this: “Thank you for the RSVP. Jacob is SO excited that Samuel can come to the party. He’s looking forward to seeing him there.” 
  5. If you’re not getting RSVP notices (either yes or no’s), start hunting down cell phone numbers and reach out to the other parents via text message or via Facebook direct messages to try to get a firm answer. 
  6. If the day of the party is close and there are few or zero RSVP’s, have a Plan B ready to go, just in case. Make it a “family party” or schedule a fun outing instead. 

We hope these tips are helpful as you navigate the world of birthday party invitations and RSVPs. If you have other tips or concerns to share with fellow mamas, please post a comment below!