Yesterday I was looking around at different news sites online, and I came across a link talking about extravagant kids' birthday parties and how to manage going overboard. Birthday overkill? What kinds of birthdays are people throwing these days? I remember back to when I would go to a school friend's party and it was usually just something at home with some games, maybe a pool party, if you were really lucky it was a sleepover with a movie or maybe you went bowling (which I think back on now and that must have been expensive!). Regardless, generally, fun was had by all.
(How fun would that party be?)
Anyway, I started reading this article and was fine until I got to this part: "if your school mandates that the entire class be invited to every party (and you have more than one kid), odds are you've been touched by the beast that is the modern birthday party." Um, excuse me? The school is going to tell me who I can and cannot have to a party in my own home? How can a school mandate what you do on your private time in your private home? This just blows my mind.
Now, I come from the world that is elementary school. I taught fifth grade for 6 years before my self-imposed break, so I have a handle on popularity and social dynamics of pre-teens and pre- pre-teens. I know that there is generally an odd man out and there is usually a kid who drives everyone crazy for no apparent reason other than that's who he is. I know that there are kids who will be friends one day and not friends the next. Those kinds of things happen. But here's the thing: no matter what you do, you can't make kids like kids they don't, and you can't make kids be friends. Yes, you can make them be nice. I always told my class that they didn't have to like each other per se, but they always had to be nice and polite and respectful or there'd be trouble, and for the most part, it worked out fine.
This idea of mandatory all-class birthday parties (which has to violate your civil rights somehow, doesn't it??) seems like it would just make things worse. If there is a child that wasn't going to be invited to a party, chances are that child might not have the best time at the party anyway. If you aren't friends with someone before, being invited to a birthday probably isn't going to change that. I'm kind of tired of this idea that every child needs to be accepted into everything. There is this sense of entitlement that a lot of parents have that every kid should have everything. How does that do anyone any good? If everyone makes the team and everyone gets a trophy and everyone is told how great they are, then how does anyone ever improve and challenge themselves to get better? If you want to make the team, you practice. If you want the trophy, you work to get it.
So that's a little off-topic from birthdays, but I think it's the same idea: kids are expecting to be given everything. And sadly, people are giving it to them. Yes, it's sad that there's that one kid who never gets invited to the birthday party, it's heartbreaking to be the one who doesn't make the team. But shouldn't we help them channel that into finding other, better friends who want to spend time with them, or pursuing a different interest? It's ok to be told "no" sometimes.
Maybe I'm way off base here, but I'd love to hear from you. I don't yet have a child who is of birthday-party age where any of that social stuff matters. What do you think of the mandatory invite? Have you ever encountered it? Did your child have a bad party experience, or is this just an isolated thing? Is there party pressure out there??