Mandatory Birthdays

I'm going to go on a small rant today over something I read.  If you're not in the mood for a rant, then I'll see you tomorrow!  If you're sticking with me, here goes....

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??

6 comments

  1. Wow! I have never heard of it being mandatory to invite everyone! I don't see how a school could enforce that-- it seems crazy! I completely agree with you that not every child should be treated in the same way, as in everyone is different and not everyone is good at the same thing. So many of the parents I deal with think that their child is better than all the other kids and fail to see that it's ok if they're not the star athlete and are better at drawing or that sort of thing. Too many of my students expect things. We have a no cut policy for our sports teams which as a coach I hate! It means that people are lazy because they know they still get to play whether or not they try. Kids really do expect everything to be handed to them these days which is so weird to me. I had to work hard even to get my allowance money which is foreign to most of my students! Ugh... I could rant here for a while too.... :)

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  2. I have to think that the person was confused with the school's policy. At the school that I taught at, and at my daughter's school, the policy is that IF you are going to hand out the invitations at school, THEN every student has to be invited (or all the girls/boys). If you wanted to invite certain kids you had to do it on your own. That is just to make sure there are not hurt feelings in the classroom.

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  3. Are you KIDDING me? Mandatory invites? It's so weird to think about how much childhood has changed already. I'm 25, which means it's only been 15 years since I was in elementary school. This kind of thing NEVER happened. Ever. People invited who they wanted to invite and that was it. I got my feelings hurt a few times, but it made me realize who my real friends were--which is more important than being included in everything anyway.

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  4. The preschool I worked at -kinda- had 'mandatory invites' for parties. I think the rule was, that if you were going to pass out invitations at school or leave them in their cubbies for parents to pick up, then you had to invite the whole class. If you were going to mail them personally to homes then I don't think there was any rule about it. This is also preschool age, there weren't really any hate induced relationships so for the most part the kids -could- get along. I do think this is ridiculous though, and schools are getting way too involved in personal matters these days. And people are spending way too much money on parties for a 4 year old!

    -rachel w k
    rwkrafts.blogspot.com

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  5. I must agree with you on every single point you make. Although there are no mandates at my children's school about parties, they are so overboard sometimes that I intentionally rebelled by having homemade parties only. My son went to a party that was a boat ride in the harbor, then bowling, then go-kart racing. My son was completely wiped out. We had a slumber party with basketball and foot races in the cul-de-sac, then pizza and cake. The boys had a blast--and I think part of it is having unstructured playtime, rather than having to entertain them every single minute. And as for the trophy thing, I agree with that as well. Sometimes you lose. My 8-year-old was playing a board game with a neighbor and the neighbor started crying and asking for $5000 because he was losing. "Can you just give me some money because I don't have as much as you." Are you flippin kidding me? Sorry--guess I'm in a rant mood too!!!!

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  6. Mandatory invites, that is too wierd and funny in a wierd kind of way:):) Parties are personal and you invite who you want to invite...at least that is how it was when I was a kid:)

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