My 4-year-old has become a bit of a social butterfly, flitting from playdate to birthday party to after-school adventure in the cul-de-sac with the neighbors. Which is great, except now I'm faced with a birthday party dilemma: Invite the whole class or just a few kids?
In the past, we kept things pretty simple. Just the neighbors, a handful of family friends, and out-of-state family members who would travel to our place for the occasion. We kept the activities simple, too: decorating something or other with stickers (always a hit with the preschool set), playing dress up, running around in the yard.
After attending several gymnastic parties and a few others with princess themes, though, I'm not sure that a simple family gathering will do. And I'm not sure that I want it to.
When I was a kid, in the (gulp) '70s, my parents used to insist that I invite my entire class to my summertime birthday parties -- plus my classmates' parents and siblings. We had a pool and a huge yard and kids would swarm around like cake-fueled bees while the parents would sip beer and eat grilled chicken and much fun would be had by all.
Or so I assume. I never heard my parents complain. But I'll level with you: The idea of inviting all of my kids' classmates and their families to my house is enough to give me the vapors.
On the other hand: The idea of my 4-year-old knowing about a classmate's party but not being invited to it breaks my heart, and I don't want to make another child feel that way. In fact, that's how most parents seem to view the issue. "I know life's not fair," Momlogic's Julie wrote recently. ""But I don't know why my son has to learn that lesson in second grade. Isn't that a little young to adopt a 'life sucks, then you die' philosophy?"
Have birthday parties just become too PC? At Cafemom, one member points out: "Everybody has become so worried about hurting other's feelings in this regard that I've seen parents nearly go broke because they not only felt compelled to invite every kid in the class but they take it a step further and invite all the kids in the same grade!... If your child does not hang out with people at school, why would you want to invite them?"
So I'm throwing the question out to you. Do you invite your child's entire class to the birthday party? Why or why not?
Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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