Your Kid Skipped My Kid's Birthday Party. Pay Up.

by Jennifer Li Shotz
Originally Published: 

No, silly, it’s not your wedding. It’s your kid’s birthday party!

Gone are the days when my parents paid a drunk in a clown suit $50 to twist a few balloons into “animals” while the grown-ups chugged Bloody Marys in the other room. No, these days, kids’ birthday parties are the real deal. They’re the new bar mitzvah. Even for those of us who aren’t chartering luxury yachts, they’re still expensive ($500 for 15 kids—not including cake, pizza or goodie bags—is considered cheap in New York City). Today’s parties are snazzy and planned with the precision of a jewel heist. (I have a friend who co-hosted a party with another parent. The second parent hired “real” unicorns. Dressed up ponies with freakishly authentic-looking horns. Swear.) Ever been late to a kid’s birthday party? I have. It’s a one-way ticket to Parental-Stink-Eye-Ville.

Considering all this pressure, I laughed out loud when I read yesterday’s headlines about a British mom who sent an invoice to the parents of a 5-year-old boy who missed her son’s birthday party. The invoicees’ biggest crime was that they initially RSVP’d yes, and then, once they realized that their son had to see his grandparents that day instead, they failed to inform the invoicer that their plans had changed.

I’ve been on both sides of that equation, and it kind of stinks. I get it. You’re honing that guest list like a college application. You’ve left important people off because of space limitations. Personally, I’d never get beyond a sotto voce grumble to my husband about the offending family, but this mom went all Olivia Pope on the no-show parents: She printed up a very official-looking invoice for the equivalent of $24 and put it in their son’s backpack. That is low. The ensuing spat has played out on Facebook and in the international media and raises the question: Isn’t the invoicer just bringing many parents’ darkest thoughts to life? Maybe it’s only 20 bucks, but it’s the satisfaction that makes you rich.

Lest you think the invoicer is the only jerk in this equation, bear in mind that the invoicees have spoken extensively to news outlets and even allowed photographs of their son—with his full name—to run. They’ve also named the invoicer and provided an image of the invoice itself to the media. (Side note: They’ve also refused to pay, which has caused the invoicer to threaten small claims court.)

So now the kid who just wanted to have a birthday party and the kid who didn’t realize that going to see grandma and grandpa instead of tobogganing with his classmates was a problem are huddling together in the Shame Corner. And how are they supposed to be friends after this? Will their parents even let them?

Honestly, everyone should just pipe down and take a moment to get their priorities straight. Instead of sniping over who owes whom, we should all focus on more important uses for our money. Like hiring a DJ.

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