This September, my youngest son turned six. We don’t usually do expensive parties, but for the past year, my son had been begging us for a party at the one of those inflatable gym/bouncy houses. Having parties at places like this cost an arm and a leg, so we only do them every handful of years, and this was that year for us.
After I sent the invites out, the responses were slow-ish to come in. School had just started and I think everyone was overwhelmed by that. About a week before the party date, I realized that a few of my friends with multiple young children hadn’t responded yet, so I did something I don’t usually do.
I sent an email to the invitees saying that if bringing along your child’s sibling(s) makes it easier to come, then by all means, bring them along. Just let me know, so I had an accurate headcount.
And just like that, I got two immediate YES responses. Both parents said that they probably wouldn’t have been able to make it if I hadn’t opened the party up to siblings. One had a spouse who was working and had no other childcare; the other was a single mom with no other options.
The party was fantastic. My son didn’t care that a few kids he didn’t know well were there. The parents who brought their kid’s siblings were thankful and relieved, and it was a good time had by all.
After this experience, I have decided that in the future, whenever possible, I’m going to make it known that siblings are invited to my kids’ parties – at least when they are still young enough to have parties where parents are expected to accompany their kids.
And I think this is a policy everyone should try to adopt. After discussing things further with various friends of mine, I began to see that, actually, many kids miss birthday parties because of childcare issues.
I have several friends who tell me that their children routinely miss birthday parties because they don’t have alternative care for their other kids. One friend says her kids pretty much never attend parties because she has a spouse who works every weekend.
I was particularly struck by a Facebook post by a single mom friend who actually expressed hurt and disappointment that her children pretty much never can go to birthday parties because of this, and how her daughter has been getting routinely upset about having to miss out.
When I heard this, my heart broke in two, and that’s when I vowed to open my kid’s birthday parties to siblings from now on.
I’ve heard the arguments from the other side too, and I get it … to some extent. Some of my friends brought up the the fact that when you are having a birthday party where you are paying a fee for each guest, it can get really steep if you allow a seemingly unlimited number of guests. Not to mention the fact that sometimes if your guest list exceeds a certain number, you end up having to pay for additional staff members to help.
Look, I’m not rolling in dough either. Far from it. But honestly, if you are in a position to drop some serious cash on a birthday party, having to shell out an extra twenty bucks and another goodie bag is probably manageable.
And it’s worth it to me if it makes a fellow mom and her family feel that much more included and cared for.
Let’s be real, if you extend the invitation to siblings, I don’t think people are going to take advantage of the situation. Most families will try their best to get alternative care for their kids before accepting your offer to bring them along. They understand that in some cases in might cost the host more money. Some families might even offer to chip in with the cost if needed.
Obviously, if you don’t have a party that requires parents to accompany their kids, this is less of an issue. One of my friends says that instead of inviting siblings, she tells all parents they can drop off their kids and don’t need to stay at the party if they have other kids to tend to.
The thing is, though, this only works if the child is old enough and comfortable enough to be dropped off. It’s important to understand that not all parents feel okay about dropping their kids off with parents they don’t know well.
Another option, too, is to do this on a case by case basis, only offering it to folks you think might have an issue, like parents whose spouses work weekends or single parents.
Look, I understand why some people feel that it’s not really their problem whether or not their kids’ friends can make it to a party. You might feel it’s not your job to bend over backwards – or shell out more cash – just because that kid’s parent can’t find childcare.
But in a world that’s already sorely lacking in kindness, why not extend a small gesture like this to make the life of a fellow parent and their kid that much warmer and more manageable? It takes a village to raise a child and a little consideration and generosity goes a long, long way.
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