I was amazed at the number of parents who apparently have never received an invitation to a child’s party before. I say “apparently” because based on their behavior, they’ve been living under a rock or with the Unibomber and never had the chance to learn proper birthday party etiquette.
So though I don’t claim to be Miss Manners… and though I don’t claim to be the queen of etiquette myself (I’m pretty relaxed about most things!), there are some MUSTS when it comes to parties. I’ll focus on attending kids’ birthday parties here, but these guidelines could easily apply to, say, Aunt Gertrude’s 79th birthday party or Lindsay Lohan’s “Hey, I’m Out of Rehab, Let’s Go Celebrate at the Viper Bar!” celebration. Tune in, read up, and ignore at your own peril:
1. “RSVP” means Respondez, s’il-vous-plait. That’s French for, “let me know if your kid is coming, dammit!” It is often confused with “Ignore this invitation and let it get lost under a pile of junk mail, forcing the hostess to call you the day before to figure out if you’re coming.” SERIOUSLY.
RSVP is not a suggestion. It’s critical to let the host know who to expect. If you DO NOT RSVP, don’t be surprised if you show up with your little darling in tow and she breaks down in tears because the host doesn’t have enough goody bags with $5 worth of SillyBandz and plastic tchotchkes from the dollar store.
2. Be very restrained about inviting additional siblings. Just like with a wedding, the invitation is intended for the addressee. Unless all five of your children are named on the invitation, don’t assume they’re all invited. In fact, assume they are NOT invited.
Sure, sometimes you are stuck. You would love for your kid to attend, but you’ve got another one at home you can’t pawn off on the neighbor or leave unattended for extended periods of time. If this is the case, you can call the hosting parent and ask. Now here’s the biggie: IF THE PARTY IS AT A PAY-PER-CHILD VENUE, like a movie theater, Build-A-Bear, or Gymboree, MAKE IT CLEAR YOU WILL PAY FOR THE EXTRA CHILD. Many of today’s kids’ party places charge upwards of $15 or $20 per child. It is absolutely NOT polite to invite another kid (or three) along and then expect the host to assume that cost. (If they wanted your three-year-old at LazerQuest, they would have invited him. Seriously).
3. If you say your kid is coming, your kid better be there. Of course, if vomiting is involved, keep him or her home. Seriously. (My favorite story from Callie’s party this week was the mom who violated #2 by asking if a sibling could come along. In a moment where good manners outweighed common sense and monetary concerns, I said “Yes.” Imagine my surprise when I get an email 30 minutes before the party saying, “We can’t make it.” I should have known better — if someone is rude enough to ignore Rule #2, they’re rude enough to cancel after the final numbers were given to the gym-play place, and after the food had been ordered).
4. If your kid cannot make it after you RSVP’d yes, you still owe a present. Period. If you decline the invitation, you don’t “owe” a present. But if you said your child was going to show up and he broke his arm the morning of the party, you had jolly well better deliver the gift you were planning to bring (yes, you can wait until the plaster on the cast dries).
5. If your kid can’t handle being on his or her own, don’t leave them with a host parent who has 12 other kids to keep track of. If you know your kid starts bouncing off the walls and throwing chairs when jacked up on Mountain Dew, don’t leave her unattended. By the same token, if your son cries when he’s more than five feet from you, plan to stay at the party. The mom and dad planning the party have a lot on their hands and don’t need to be worried about whether your child is going to crack someone upside the head with the SpongeBob pinata.
6. If the invitation says the party ends at 4:45, be there at 4:40. By the end of a kids’ party, most parents are ready to stick a burning candle in their eye. Don’t add to their distress by showing up 40 minutes late because you had to wait for your polish to dry on your pedicure. Get there, have your child thank the parents and the birthday boy or girl, and get on your merry way.
Whew. I feel better already! Every once in a while I have to take those gloves off and tell it like it is.
Now if I can just get up enough guts to send the URL to this post with the invites for my next birthday party.
P.S. Got a great birthday horror story? Do tell! I might just send the winner a little somethin’ somethin’.Tweet