The Birthday Party Dilemma

If you are a parent of young children you just might find that this post is applicable to you. But even if you are not a parent or your kids are older I encourage you to join me on my walk through the mental morass I call my mind.

But please be careful. Beware the clutter and please I beg of you do not stray off of the path or feed the animals.

The birthday party dilemma sounds simple. How many children can we invite to my son’s party. Here is the rub, the party must include family, friends and of course the kids from school.

There are two kindergarten classes. That works out to a total of 45 children. If you add the family (read cousins) you can figure that there is another 10 or 12 children. And then if you factor in the close family friends you can easily increase it by another 20. Yes, I said 20.

For those of you who are keeping score this works out to be almost 80 children. It doesn’t cover their parents and at age six you can guarantee that there will be at least one adult with each child and in some cases two.

Oh, did I mention that my son has friends who no longer go to the same school but they are people we still see socially. WTF. How did I end up with a number that is more suited to Bar-Mitzvah reception.

Some of you are chuckling. You are thinking that old Jack has lost his marbles and that all that needs to be done is a simple chop job on the invitation list. Here is the challenge.

Here are two potential compromises.

  1. Have a small party in which my son and a few friends do something bigger like a trip to an amusement park. Of course if you go this route you are still out a solid chunk of change.
  2. Have a party that is exclusive to boys. This reduces the number of children who will be invited but it still leaves an incredible number of people to invite, albeit smaller. It also requires a theme that is boy oriented.

I am not a sheep. I have no problem being independent, but I don’t want to do it at the expense of my son. He has already been invited to a half dozen birthday parties and it appears that the basic deal is that each family is going to invite all of the students in both classes.

See, part of the fun of kindergarten is that we try to protect the feelings of the children and that means that we push to invite all of the kids to every party. In a short time this will change, but we are not quite there yet.

I don’t want to impact his social position by being the parent that didn’t invite the kids that invited him to their parties. At the same time it is important to me that he understands that we don’t care about keeping up with the Goldbergs, Smiths, Jones or Berkowitzs.

Another potential option is to have a joint party with a couple of other children. It makes for a massive party, but the financial burden is split and from a selfish perspective it does reduce the number of weekends in which I get to attend said parties.

One of my concerns with this ridiculous nonsense is that he really doesn’t need 50 gifts. He has plenty of toys, more than he can play with at one time. His mother and I are very seriously considering making it a gift free party.

And here is my confession/dream. If we ask that everyone who attends pay a $25 cover charge I could make this one hell of a party. Maybe what I should do is invite everyone and then ply the adults with copious amounts of alcohol.

In all sincerity, I am troubled by all of this. I am going to be careful with this. I am simply not going to go bankrupt on a birthday party. It won’t happen. I also won’t put a six year-old in a position in which he is trying to defend principles. I will teach him about said principles and I will use this occasion to do so, but again he is six. He doesn’t need to sit on the playground and try to explain why he only invited half the class.

There is a lot of room for learning here and that includes his old man. Look, the upside of this is that if this remains the worst problem that I have to deal with it means that my life is pretty damn good.

I am off to ruminate on other thoughts.

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  1. Janice Wald April 23, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    I met you at Rebecca’s site. If you’d like to guest post about what you’ve learned after 12 years of blogging, you’d be welcome. You and I sound like-minded. I like to test out my ideas a lot too. Come check out my site and you will see.

  2. Jack's Shack September 19, 2006 at 5:22 am


    I figure a case of beer, some crack and a coma should get me through it. 😉


    It is out of control. Certainly different than when I was a kid.


    Yes, it is.

  3. anonym00kie September 19, 2006 at 2:57 am

    thats insane

  4. Another meshugannah mommy September 18, 2006 at 9:59 pm

    I’ll tell you what we do. Our community has developed several “customs” as a way of getting around these ridiculous birthday parties while keeping everyone’s feelings intact. While it is the custom that the whole class receive invitations, by the kindergarten year, you can limit it to the boys. I usually invite my sister’s kids – CLOSE COUSINS. And that’s it. While I love my friends, I don’t invite their kids unless our kids are actually friends. As you aptly demonstrate , these parties can get WAY out of control.

  5. Elie September 18, 2006 at 1:21 pm

    If you go through with a party for several dozen six-year-olds, you will need something a lot stronger than booze!

    I always like Ann Landers rule of thumb for small children’s birthday parties: the number of guests should be <= the age of the child + 1.

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