You're not invited: navigating kids' parties and Facebook

February 17 |
indigo's smashing birthday shindig!
IT'S A BIRTHDAY PARTY! Photo by morgwnmakespeace.

Offbeat Bride ran a piece last month that touched on an interesting phenomenon: with social media usage so prevalent, we now have to deal with how our friends will discuss our parties online. More specifically, how people who were invited to an event or party will talk about it after it happens, and how people who weren't invited will react. This can either be awesome, and people don't really think it's a big deal that they weren't invited, or… it can suck.

Don't invite people through Facebook

Or if you do, put that shit on LOCKDOWN.

It's easy to make an event "private" on Facebook, but it's NOT easy to ask people not to post photos of the event on their own walls (or yours) after it's happened. Kids' parties are tricky if you're trying to keep the guest list small — for every one kid invited, you may need to account for possible siblings, parents (especially if the kids are young), partners of parents (if they're not together), or friends that the kid might bring. In short: your guest list can multiply rapidly. If you really only want ten of your kid's friends to come over, it's better to send out paper invites and ask guests to not post photos. You might feel like an ass ("Hey, I'm going to tell you what to do with your photos and your Facebook profile!") but if you want to avoid drama ("Why weren't we invited?" or "That looks like fun. Wish we had been there. :(") then it might be worth it.

Have an excuse handy

Because someone who wasn't invited will inevitably ask, it's good to have a few polite reasons why you didn't include them handy. A great and totally understandable go-to is "We kept the celebration limited to family and close friends." This gets a little hazier when you don't invite a kid who DID invite your kid to his or her party… (and I'm not talking about at-school parties that require that everyone gets to participate, because that seems totally fair to me) but sometimes, that's life.

…but don't apologize if you don't want to

One of my favorite things that's said in the piece on Bride is:

So, how am I dealing with the posts by other people on Facebook et al? I'm not, really. I'm not explaining, statusing, worrying, excusing, or wringing my hands. I'm certainly not apologizing. If anyone wants to bring it up with me, they're welcome to, and I'm happy to explain our choices. But I'm not going to lie to anyone about why we made those choices, least of all myself.

Or, as my husband said when I expressed similar concerns to him: "If you don't give a fuck, then don't give a fuck." While this may not have been his most eloquent moment, I think the point is clear. Ultimately, who does and doesn't come to your kid's birthday party is up to you and your kid — and not really anyone else. If you think the feelings of those who you didn't invite will be hurt, you can attempt to limit publication of the photos — but only to a degree.

Have you guys had to deal with this? How did you handle hurt feelings in a constructive/positive way?

  1. This might be something I don't understand because I'm not yet a parent, but why do you have to account for so many other people when you invite a kid? As I recall, my parents just used to drop me off into a pile of other kids and then pick me up a few hours later, exhausted and full of cake. Is it because it would be taboo to exclude the parents, or because they would be unlikely to want to leave their child?

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    • You know.. it was just totally based on the experience we've had with our son's parties — parents, siblings, and sometimes friends of friends all stay. To a degree, I guess this is more relevant to younger kids (the 2-5 set), so I'll add something about that to the post.

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    • I think that parents start dropping off their kids for parties around kindergarten or 1st grade, depending. For mine, I list on the invite 'drop off time' and 'pick up time' so their is less confusion. I also put clearly whether lunch/dinner is being served or if it is just snacks. So many parties that you have at a 'kids' place' like BounceU or ChuckECheese all include some kind of meal. I think it's pointless cause all the kids want to do it play, so I make sure I put all that info on the invite.

  2. I wish I had read this a couple months ago. We had grandparents and aunts and uncles at our sons first birthday (casual lunch)and my mom blabbed it to all of my FB friends like she was SO elite. Well The day before I had told someone that we were NOT having a party (it was just a small family gathering really!) and now we are not friends any more. (pulls out hair and shakes fist at obnoxious mother)

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  3. I put on my events private, I don't care if people get upset … They are not very good friends if they don't understand.
    Also you could add to the invite, parents can stay or drop off kids. That way you included them and they don't feel strange dropping off the kids.

  4. I agree with "not giving a fuck". We live in a major city amongst the better part of my husband's very large, very Greek extended family. I've made a point to keep our daughter's two birthday parties small for many reasons. First cousins and very close friends only. My brother and sister in law do the opposite for their children. When we didn't get invited to a 3rd cousin's 5th birthday party, and they did, I simply told my mother in law, "Well, we didn't invite her to (our daughter)'s party, so no biggie " And, to me, it wasn't.

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  5. I would love to see a companion post about how you can explain to your kid why they weren't invited to a party. I was never popular and still remember the sting of being left-out. The parents of the kids who didn't invite me would probably just have said "well, they're not friends" and that's true – I wouldn't have wanted to be invited because the parents forced the other kids to be inclusive either. Still, hearing about parties were a constant reminder that I didn't fit in. How do you comfort your young kids when they hear about parties they weren't included in at school, and how do you deal with teenagers hearing about things like this over facebook?

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  6. There's usually an honest reason when we don't invite extended groups of friends and even extended family for birthday parties, and I pretty much always let people know who are asking about the kids' birthdays if we're going to keep it small. People who don't know when their birthdays are usually aren't "close" enough that they should assume they would be there in the first place. Between those two things, I don't ever feel like I've had to be uncomfortable about posting "Hooray, Look at the birthday party pictures!" on Facebook or talking about it in real life.

  7. This is a different way of looking at things, but I pretty much don't plan parties that exclude people. I have even had frenemies at my house. I'd rather regulate my effort by having other people help me throw the party (set up, supplies, clean up). I somewhat regulate attendance by not talking too much about the party, telling people about it close to the event, and not asking people if they're coming (other than the initial invite). It feels so awful to be excluded, that it doesn't feel worth it to me, to do that to people.

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  8. My daughter is only 2 1/2, so we've been fortunate in that she's not in school yet to have this be potentially such an issue, but my feeling is that saying something like "unfortunately, we had to keep the party smaller than we would've liked to" and finding time to invite the kid to do something else with yours, maybe 1 on 1, is more than sufficient. I've been fortunate in that our Facebook friends tend to be pretty sensitive to such issues so far and that helps. A lot. :)

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  9. It's great to see a post about this – I just facebooked last week that there needed to be more dialog about the social pressures about who we invite to our kids' parties….planning one for this weekend, my five-year-old's first "big kid", no parents, party…limited her to just 5 kids, who would be comfortable at our place for a couple of hours, and I found myself stressing about the invite list, especially when my daughter is content to invite the last 5 kids she happened to see! We ended up making a separate party for school friends, a low-key meeting at a public pool, and a handfful of playdaes to lessen the sting for those moms and kids that weren't invited. It's a bit more work, but my daughter is satisfied her bday becomes a weeks-long celebration, I still feel shy about posting updates on party prep, tho…and I am alreading wondering about the invite list for the baby's first bday party!
    The first and possibly second party is more about the parents, and somewhere along the way I gathered many friends but not a big enough home nor enough money to host a party for them all…

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