Backup Birthday Buddy Blues
October 18, 2018 11:19 AM   Subscribe

My child just received a birthday party "invite" with about five hours notice to what seems like a party that was set up some time ago. In theory this family are some of our closest friends. But this feel like our child is being used as a seat filler because more important people canceled. It feels less like he is someone they wanted along and more like they need headcount. Am I being paranoid?
posted by Comrade Doll to Society & Culture (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don’t think you are - but hey, a party is a party. If your kid wants to go, take him. If you have other plans, keep them.
posted by 41swans at 11:22 AM on October 18, 2018 [9 favorites]

Your instincts may be right, but -- so what? Would it be better that your child now be excluded on some point of principle? The issue is with the birthday kid's parents, and perhaps the children shouldn't be the ones to bear the burden of that.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:23 AM on October 18, 2018 [36 favorites]

There was one time when I was a child when I was invited to a birthday party by the birthday girl proper, with similarly-short notice, and it was only because the girl had happened to be playing with me that morning and asked if I could come to the party that afternoon. Her mother was equally as surprised as my mother that I had been invited; but the birthday girl had a much simpler and more innocent motivation ("Playing with EC today was fun - oh, hey, lemme see if she can come to my birthday party this afternoon!")

If it was the kid's idea (as it may have been) it may have been an innocent oversight.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:23 AM on October 18, 2018 [17 favorites]

It may very well be the case that your child was on the “wait list” and invited only after someone else cancelled. Perhaps space limitations meant they originally couldn’t invite everyone they wanted to. However, there’s no polite way to know this for sure. I don’t think you’re being paranoid, but I would keep your suspicions to yourself and not let them influence your child.
posted by mbrubeck at 11:24 AM on October 18, 2018 [7 favorites]

Sounds very likely this could be the case, but I can absolutely also see this as a "did Brayden ever say he was coming? OH SHIT SHIT FUCK SHIT WE DIDN'T INIVTE BRAYDEN OH GOD PANIC PANIC."

Not that I've been in a situation like that or anything cough it's just really plausible.
posted by phunniemee at 11:24 AM on October 18, 2018 [131 favorites]

Seconding phunniemee. I too, have never been in the process of checking goodie bags for a party that day and thought, 'OH SHIT DID I INVITE LOUISA AND EMILY?"
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 11:28 AM on October 18, 2018 [26 favorites]

Parties are so much more elaborate than they were when I was a kid. Maybe they only had room for [x] kids. Maybe they only wanted to spend [x]. Maybe they asked their kid who he wanted to invite and he rattled off a list of names that randomly left your kid out. Who knows?

But no one really "needs headcount" at a child's birthday party. Don't go down this path. If you start scrutinizing your child's social interactions for potential slights (in this case, not even an insult, just not being "ranked" as high as you would like), you may or may not hurt his popularity, but it won't take long for you to become the least popular parent.
posted by praemunire at 11:32 AM on October 18, 2018 [8 favorites]

In the way of askme, what will assuming the worst do for you and your kid? Why not assume good intentions (a totally innocent mistake seems really plausible) and move forward with that assumption? You can, of course, be on the look-out for signs that they're trying to draw away from y'all, but it only messes with your head in the meantime to speculate.
posted by ldthomps at 11:35 AM on October 18, 2018 [6 favorites]

Hopefully, Comrade Doll will forgive me for butting in. (I am her spouse). But she is not giving you all the details you would need here. This woman is ostensibly one of her very best friends. They used to do everything with us. Of late, they've been kinda crappy, including but not limited to, begging out of coming to CD's bday at the last minute. They constantly cancel, regularly blow off invites, and generally are only around if they have nothing better on tap.

It's a long fall from "best friends" to "I guess there is also room for you at my kid's bday if you can head right over."

< / butting in >
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:39 AM on October 18, 2018 [13 favorites]

Yes, I get why you're distressed by this. Thank god my kid is not in this fraught lord of the flies category called middle childhood anymore but man, I have been there and I know why you're upset. Assuming you're not going to let on to your kid that he might have been given an upgrade at the final moment due to another flyer's cancellation, all I can say is that you're probably upset because these are your really good friends and you wouldn't have expected the popularity leveraging and cultural capital crap to emerge here, where you probably felt safe and relaxed.
Yes, seeing DirtyOldTown;s post confirms what I was thinking. This is just what happens and it really does suck. I saw people I thought were my best friends get sucked into their kid's insane popularity ratings, and to my horror instead of teaching their kids kindness and rules of friendship, they anxiously supported what they saw as their popularity. I know they were trying to give their kids happiness but it was very weird to me. The best thing to do (from a parent who thank god is past it) is to TRY REALLY HARD NOT TO GIVE A SHIT about them, make your kid feel cool apart from the wall street of elementary school by focusing on his own interests, and encourage friendships in different groups so that when one gets ugly, there are others to play with. Sorry this is happening to you guys, but it passes!
posted by nantucket at 11:42 AM on October 18, 2018 [11 favorites]

That sounds like a huge bummer on a friendship level, but my concern here would be: does my child want to go? Then yes, I'd put aside my hurt feelings and bring him/her. The adult friendship stuff can be seen to a different time.
posted by JenMarie at 11:42 AM on October 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ugh. Yeah everything DOT said is basically true.

I do not think we are going to go. Our child has a mandolin lesson tonight and it's too late to cancel and non-refundable. Really though I am just tired of being treated as second tier by someone I once called "best friend."
posted by Comrade Doll at 11:44 AM on October 18, 2018 [26 favorites]

If the kids are friends and like each other, let him go to the party because it's not cool to bring him into a shitty adult situation. But if the kids aren't really friends anyway, then yeah, I'd pass.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 11:47 AM on October 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

Am I being paranoid?

I doubt that you are, but you'll probably never know unless you go.

If it turns out that the other guests are of a social rank your friends currently only aspire to, and you are merely your friends' peers, I think you can safely conclude that you are not being paranoid.
posted by jamjam at 11:49 AM on October 18, 2018

Ah, I can see why you'd be hurt/miffed, and if the kid has other plans, it seems like it's ok to skip it.

But I would say, if you can, try to keep your friendship issues with the mom separate from your kid's friendship with her kid. Like, if you think your kid would want to go, and really likes being friends with her kid, I would err on the side of swallowing your pride and going (or maybe DirtyOldTown goes instead, sparing you the awkwardness), and you have a separate conversation with your friend about your friendship and how you feel about this.

But if they're just kids who play together because their parents are friends, then no need to bother.
posted by lunasol at 12:10 PM on October 18, 2018 [9 favorites]

It's possible that Parents didn't want to invite your child because they're separating from you, but Child really wanted him to come and they gave in. I agree with lunasol that it's a good idea to keep the parent relationships and child relationships separate if you can.

But you also haven't said anything about how your child feels about this whole thing, and that's an important factor.
posted by FencingGal at 12:36 PM on October 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

I think another reason parents have a right to get upset in these situations is that when you build community, the children's friendship and the adult friendship are part of a comfortable package. It's a space where you feel you don't have to worry about vicissitudes of kids fickle friendships. We often live far from extended family (or don't get on with extended family) and it sucks when the families we choose turn out to be so anxious about their own kids status that they don't teach their kids loyalty and honor in friendship. These kinds of family friendships, where the adults trust each other to love each other's kids, often seem like they'll be a foundation and when they aren't it is really painful. So everyone saying that the kids friendship is separate: yes, now I guess it is, but it doesn't seem like that's how it was set up, and that can feel like a sucker punch.
posted by nantucket at 12:44 PM on October 18, 2018 [5 favorites]

This seems to have sorted itself with the music lesson conflict. I'd stick with the music lesson. Maybe add an ice cream cone after the lesson. Kids aren't dumb and they know that birthday parties are planned in advance and there is discussion of invites, etc. KidCD is likely well-aware that this invite is either D-List or that they were forgotten (and, honestly, if they were forgotten, the invite would have come with a cascade of genuine apologies and hand-wringing.) Don't make your kid go to a party where they're aware that they're an afterthought. And, OP, I'm sorry that your former best friend is acting this way. It's really juvenile and inconsiderate. Better friends are out there.
posted by quince at 12:57 PM on October 18, 2018 [8 favorites]

On the other hand, if there is this party and everyone's talking about it afterwards, KidCD may feel excluded? Probably the parents can best predict this.

Kids' friendships, even more than adults', can change for shoddy reasons, but also because feelings change. My parents literally started out in a commune with their church friends. The friendships between my parents' kids and theirs went through the normal reshufflings of childhood, but there was no thought of interfering because a kid changing their mind about another kid implicated loyalty and honor. Once they get old enough to have preferences, the relationships between the adults and those between the kids--these should be kept separate if at all possible. They're not a package. (The idea that you would force a kid to keep hanging with an ex-friend despite the vicissitudes, etc. because the friend's parent is a friend of yours is frankly a little alarming.)
posted by praemunire at 1:17 PM on October 18, 2018

You don't "force" a kid. But there are people who you invite to your birthday parties if you don't want to hurt them. The individualism of kids who are still little and dependent on their parents to help them navigate sociability and full of "I hate Kevin today" is completely overrated. After raising a few, I am very proud that my kids consider others' feelings, not just their own, and it does not harm a kid to include someone who would be shocked not to be invited in a party. Family groups have many ups and downs but it's cruel to just decide to not invite someone when clearly there was an expectation. These family groups do not "force" kids to do anything, but they take friendship seriously.
It is certainly not "alarming" to teach ways of disengaging that won't hurt people.
And at the least, the party-throwing mother has a conversation with her friend to help explain things in a thoughtful way.
posted by nantucket at 1:22 PM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

(and if parents are still going to the birthday party, these are little kids.)
posted by nantucket at 1:29 PM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Based on the follow ups, I don't think you guys should go. I also think you should move on from these friends.
posted by vivzan at 1:29 PM on October 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

My first instinct was that the invitation is surely late because they screwed up and forgot to send it earlier. But then -- no, come on now. If you realized at the last minute you'd failed to invite someone you meant to invite, you'd call them and be like "shit, Mildred, I can't believe this, but in the tumult of scheduling the mariachi band and the unicorn ride I someone didn't get little Philbert's invitation out. I meant to send it two weeks ago. I'm so sorry. Can he still come?" You wouldn't be blase' about it.

I suspect your reading of the situation is correct and I'm sorry. I'm glad the music lesson lets you make the decision easily. Being friend dumped as an individual is awful; as a family it's geometrically worse.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:07 PM on October 18, 2018 [9 favorites]

Not sure how you received the invite, but if it was via email or text, I would simply ignore and not respond in any way as if you never received it. If they really want your child there, they will call you a few hours before the party.

Go to the music lesson and then do something fun with your child afterwards.

Flag it and move on.
posted by AugustWest at 6:45 PM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry your erstwhile close friends are now being crappy to you. That sucks.

That being said, I would look at this about who you want to be and how you want to feel and act yourselves, even while you maybe draw some lines / healthy boundaries between you and said friends.

Personally, I'd want to assume the best of my friends, that they did forget to invite us until the last minute, instead of assuming a more negative narrative about them that supports my conclusions drawn on other data. Not that the other data isn't relevant, but that it doesn't matter here. This was an instance of them just forgetting. Like we all do sometimes.

You get to walk away feeling better about them and better about yourself even when you send your kid to the mandolin lesson. Imagine being able to teach your kid about how to hack their own emotions and be the empathetic person in the scenario. Next level shit.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:15 PM on October 23, 2018

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