While helping one of my friends get ready to throw a birthday party for her 6-year-old daughter, she glanced down at her phone and let out a huge sigh. I was balancing myself on her kitchen stool trying to hang a “Happy Birthday” banner above the doorway.
She was already stressed out, as every other parent has experienced before throwing a kid’s party. It seems to be a general rule that something huge will go wrong — your other child will come down with a stomach bug, you will forget paper cups or juice boxes, and the balloons will fly away in the parking lot.
Turns out, she got a message from a mother of one of the other girls who she’d invited asking if she could bring her other two kids to the party — 20 minutes before the party was about to start.
She looked at me, then the cake, then me again.
“I only have 8 gift bags, not 10.”
She was trying to bite her tongue and put on her best, “I can deal with this” pair of pants and not get any more annoyed than she already was as her toddler was slapping her ass with a rogue balloon.
We scrambled and took goodies from all the other gift bags, put them in extra baggies so all the kids would have something to take home. And the cake would probably serve 10 people — I mean, they were little kids after all.
As the party was underway, however, another friend showed up with her brother who stayed the whole time. My friend handled it well and just ended up telling the parents she didn’t have enough goody bags to go around. But I must say, she was a master at cutting very thin slices of cake so everyone could get some. Except for her, of course. I mean, who needs a slice of cake to celebrate the day they met their child? Or as a reward for carrying all of this out when it’s stressful as hell?
Because my kids had always invited just one friend to their birthday and the rest of the guests were family — they have oodles of cousins — I didn’t realize this kind of thing actually happened.
“Is this a thing, people always bring extra kids to a party?” I asked her as we were cleaning up.
She shrugged, stacking colorful paper plates into the garbage can, “It seems to be happening more and more lately.” I was pretty taken aback.
Folks. Listen, do we all need to write “Please only bring the invited child to the party” on invitations to clarify? When did it become acceptable to do this? Are we trying to raise mini-party crashers?
Because not everyone can invite entire families to birthday parties. And yes, we do understand there are last minute emergencies that do arise, and in some cases, there’s absolutely no choice but to have to bring your other child at the last minute, but it shouldn’t be a habit. And you certainly should never bring extra people without asking.
And here’s why:
1. It’s just freaking rude, period.
For one, it’s incredibly rude to come to a party uninvited. I’d never go to a party I wasn’t invited to unless my friend or family member who was invited was told they were allowed to invite a friend. It’s expensive and inconvenient.
2. There’s a valid reason the other siblings weren’t invited.
And it’s not to be mean or make anyone feel left out. Many times it’s because the child having the birthday party doesn’t really know the other siblings at all, or is much closer to other friends and would rather have them come instead of asking best friend and their two siblings to come on their special day. Lots of families simply can’t afford to take a “the more the merrier” approach to parties because they have a limited budget or space restrictions. Besides, kids (and adults) want to spend their special day with their special people, not their special people and all of their extended family.
3. It’s expensive to throw a party.
Throwing a birthday party isn’t cheap. And when you show up with extra kids, it puts the person throwing the party in a tough spot. Is the cake big enough? Are there enough party favors? Do we have enough places to sit? Are there extra charges for extra guests? They might have to dash out at the last minute and get more treats or favors after learning there will be more kids than expected at the party because that’s what most parents do out of the goodness of their soul for the extra child. No parent wants to turn a child away or make them feel left out during a party because there’s no more room or food. It’s not the kids’ fault that the parents seem to have a lack of basic etiquette here.
4. It puts the host in a strange spot.
If you show up with an extra child, or call or text and ask if another one can come, even if you assure them the extra child doesn’t need cake or anything, that puts the host in a tough position. They certainly don’t want a child there who is not able to participate, but they also can’t always accommodate for guests they didn’t invite. It’s hard to say “no,” especially when you are put on the spot. You wouldn’t like it, neither do they.
It becomes more complicated because you know your child wants their friends to be able to come, so you feel the pressure to say ‘yes” so that you do not compromise their big day.
5. There’s a reason only a certain amount of kids have been invited.
Maybe one extra kid at a party isn’t a big deal, and sure some parents are cool with it. But before you ask if your other child (or children) can come to a party, whether it’s a drop off, or you are staying with them, consider how it will make the host feel.
They’ve worked hard to pull this party off for their child. This day is about the kid who is celebrating the actual birthday and there’s no need to put extra, undo stress on the parent. They’ve invited people based on how much room they have, what they can afford, and how they want their child’s day to go — maybe their kid gets overwhelmed while spending time with a larger group and they’ve invited the appropriate number of children to accommodate that.
Besides, it’s a lot easier for you to come up with a plan to either have one parent stay with your other children, or to try to enlist childcare help than it is for you to give the parent little notice that there will more kids attending their party than they planned on. Even if it isn’t a drop-off party, it’s an option to ask if your child can come without you, so that you can provide care for your other kids.
Parents count on those RSVPs to give them an exact number of how many favors to buy and how many cupcakes to make. So remember: party invites are only for those whose names are on the invitations — not for the whole damn family.