Child Caring

Oh, those sleepover birthday parties

Dear Barbara

My daughter is turning nine and having a sleepover party. My question is in regards to does she need to invite a particular child.

She goes to a private school and in her class is a girl whose mom I have been friends with since high school (20+ years ago). The girls have gone to each others' parties since birth, automatically, but at what point do I let her just invite the friends she would like without adding this other child onto the list anyways? I asked her who she wanted and she immediately named off six friends and that list did not include my friend's daughter.
I don't know how to honestly handle this and my friend (the mom) is ultra sensitive and I am not sure how this will pan out if I don't invite her, but on the other hand I feel bad making my daughter do something that maybe she doesn't want to do.

Thank you for your consideration in my dilemma.


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Hi Stacy,

On the one hand, these kinds of family obligations have an expiration date to them. At 9, your daughter's reached it and it's up to you to have the uncomfortable but honest conversation with your friend: "Just because we were/are best friends, doesn't mean our daughters will be. It would be nice, but... "

Of course, there's a bigger issue: If this girl has been to every one of your daughter's bday parties, why, this year, does your daughter not want her? What's behind this decision to exclude her?

This is an age when girls can be incredibly mean to each other. Is that possibly what's going on? None of want to think our daughter is the mean one! But something's going on.

Another thing to consider. How many girls are in the class? Is she the only girl not being invited? Does the school have a policy on birthday parties? I know many independent schools do, exactly because classes tend to be small (that's what you pay for!), feelings are easily bruised, and being inclusive is a highly-placed value.

My advice is to sort out your own feelings and values, and then find out what's behind your daughter's decision not to invite this girl. This doesn't need to be one conversation. Spread it out, talk about loyalty and friendship and family values. Be sure to take the other girl's feelings into consideration, too, not just how she would feel being not invited, but would she have a good time if she were to attend? If not, why not? Would the other friends be nice to her? Would she even accept the invitation? If the answer is, no, she would hate being there and that's why I don't want to invite her, maybe there's another way to celebrate the birthday. Lunch with the two moms and two daughters? Try role-playing some of this with your daughter so she can see the different perspectives. The goal is to open your daughter up to see the various points of view, to brainstorm the issues and emotions on all sides. It can be -- should be -- her decision. But the input you have now can have implications far into the future.