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When Your Kid Is the Only One Not Invited to a Party

Photograph by Twenty20

My daughter's pre-school has one birthday party rule: Unless you're hosting a gender-specific birthday party, you have to invite your child's entire class to avoid hurt feelings or any children feeling left out. I've personally grappled with that rule. My husband and I have always included all the kids in our preschooler's class at her parties and figured everyone else did too. Who needs their kid's school to tell a bunch of grown-ups not to act like children?

Apparently mine does.

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See just the other day, I was sitting with a dozen moms from my daughter's pre-school when the subject came up of an upcoming birthday party for Max, one of the boys in her class. One of the moms was chatting about juggling her kid's schedules so she could bring her pre-schooler to the party. We live close by so she turned to me and said, "Hey, would you be able to take Molly? I could drop her at your house." My face went flush, not sure what to say. Because it was clear to me from the conversation that not only had my daughter not been invited to the boy's party, but everyone else in her class was. Embarrassed I quietly responded, "I'd love to, but Margaux wasn't invited."

I was fine with her not liking me. ... I just never thought she'd take it out on a 4-year-old child.

Everyone at the table was as shocked as I was. The kids in my daughter's pre-school class have been together since they were 3 and they're all close, the boys and the girls. And my daughter adores Max. A few of the other moms overhearing the conversation assumed it was a mistake, which in other circumstances I'd assume as well.

But I know it wasn't a mistake. Max's mom had made it very clear over the past year that she doesn't like me. I avoided her passive-aggressive dealings with me. I was fine with her not liking me, figuring we're all grown ups and not all of us will like each other. I just never thought she'd take it out on a 4-year-old child.

The thing about kids and birthdays is that their birthdays mean everything to them. And so kids, especially little ones, talk about their birthdays all the time. Sometimes they'll talk about their birthdays for months on end. In fact, two days later my daughter heard about the party from Max himself. "Mommy," she asked, "When do we get to go to Max's birthday?" I didn't have the heart to tell her that we don't. So I changed the subject while figuring out what to say instead.

A part of me that wanted to say to my daughter, "We don't get to go to Max's party because his mom excluded you," but I knew that would make me just as much a mean girl as Max's mom. And since pre-school isn't the new high-school, I refused to throw Max's mom under a bus despite her doing that to me and my child. Then, a part of me that wanted to confront Max's mom and say, "How could you?"

Instead I decided that if the subject came up again, I would tell my daughter we are busy that day and buy tickets for the "Frozen" sing-a-long playing the day of the party, which she had been dying to attend.

A few days later, I received an email invitation from Max's mom including my daughter in the party. Two other moms had heard of my daughter's exclusion and expressed their outrage to her. Another family declined the invitation saying, "If Margaux's not invited, we're not attending." I feel grateful for the support but am still horrified that one parent would be so mean to another person's kid, especially when it seems the only person really hurt by it is Max, since now not everyone will attend because of how my daughter was treated.

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So since we already got tickets to sing-a-long with Elsa and Anna, I politely declined the invitation. And I made a mental note to make sure to include Margaux's entire class for her upcoming party, especially Max. I know what it's like to have my child excluded. And I'd hate for Max's mom to know what that's like, too.

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