For the record, there are some
truly awful parents in this world who have, I’m sure, done some truly awful
things at children’s birthday parties. This isn’t about them. Heinous
criminal activity aside, what we’re talking about here is more along the lines
of bad birthday party etiquette. And have I heard some
crazy stories from friends over the last year.
We’re reaching the
point in our children’s lives where birthday parties are no longer attended by
only close family and friends. Our kids want to invite daycare buddies or
their entire preschool class. And just like that, adults are left with the job
of entertaining total strangers, all for the benefit of their children. As a full-on introvert, I feel
the pain of that, but even I wouldn’t do some of
the things I’ve either witnessed parents doing recently or have heard about from
So, consider this your list of things
to avoid the next time you either throw or attend a child’s birthday party. A
set of birthday party commandments we should ALL follow. (That is, unless you want
everyone talking about you after the fact.)
1. Thou Shall Not Simply Drop-Off and Run
I’ve had a lot of
friends with kindergartners tell me that parents are already treating birthday
parties like free babysitting. Kids are walking through the door without a
parent in sight. Their folks have already driven off, eager to enjoy two hours of
freedom. We all get the appeal. A chance to go to Target by yourself is pretty
alluring. But at 5 and 6 years old, it might be worth at least introducing
yourself to the hosts before jetting off.
Keep in mind, everyone taking off
could leave a lot of young children for just one set of parents to watch. I
personally wouldn’t want to abandon my little girl to chaos without at
least first laying eyes on the scene. I have heard of some parents specifying
on invitations that they prefer parents just drop-off—simply because they
don’t have the room to entertain both parents and children—but even
then, check in.
2. Thou Shall Feed Everyone in Attendance
A birthday party
horror story I recently heard involved an entire class being invited to a party
on a weekend at lunchtime. The party-throwers provided just enough food for the
kids—which left approximately 20 sets of parents standing around, hungry and
staring at each other, after the announcement was made that the
provided food was not for them.
Let’s be honest: Buying food for that many
people could get real expensive, real fast. But if you’re going to invite that
many young children (we’re talking 3- and 4-year-olds), you should probably be
expecting their parents to stick around. And if you can’t feed everyone, it
might be smart to reduce your party invite list. Or plan your party for between mealtimes and have enough cupcakes to go around.
Don’t be that parent with no regard for anyone else.
3. Thou Shall Not Assume Siblings Are Invited
I’m a single mom.
If I had more kids, attending birthday parties would necessitate bringing them
along. I totally get that this is a thing that happens, and any time an invitee
has asked about bringing siblings to any of my daughter’s birthday parties,
I’ve always been cool with it. But I recently heard a story about a family with
seven kids showing up to a birthday party only one of their children had been
invited to, with both parents and all the kids in tow. And no, they hadn’t
warned the hosts ahead of time. This is stressful enough at parties
where there are simply more mouths to figure out how to feed, but at parties
where the hosts are paying by the head, it could wind up being
insanely expensive. Don’t be that parent with no regard for anyone else.
4. Thou Shall Regulate
A friend recently
attended a 4-year-old’s birthday party where the mom and dad were drinking so
heavily, it fell on other partygoers to keep things moving. When to open
presents, when to play games, even cutting the cake and lighting the
candles: the child’s parents simply weren’t there for it. They were technically there, of course, convinced they were the life of the party and offering
up cocktails to anyone else who might be interested, but they seemed far more
invested in throwing their own party than in facilitating their child’s party.
Booze at a child’s birthday party = totally legit and fun (in moderation, of
course). But over-imbibing to the point that you can’t even break up the fight
your little one started in the middle of the living room? Probably not a good
idea. (Also, heads up: This is another reason you probably shouldn’t just drop
your kid off and run.)
5. Thou Shall Not Bring a Sick Child
Look, I get it—when my kid has a birthday party coming up, it’s all she can talk about.
Telling a child she can’t go because she has a fever would not go over well.
But, come on, that’s called parenting. A friend was recently at a party where
one parent started complaining to everyone else that her child had been up half
the night puking—the same child she had then brought along to the party.
your kid has thrown up recently, do not bring them to a birthday party. If your
child’s sibling has been running a 102-degree temp for three days, maybe consider the fact
that your partygoer could be contagious too. Stay home! Coughing and runny
noses are up to a parent’s discretion, because this time of year they're kind
of inevitable, but don’t play Russian roulette with fevers, vomiting or
contagious rashes. Those are gifts no one wants to receive.