Our Birthday Blog Series

200296650-001Happy Birthday Baby

By Candy Schulman

This year felt empty, her absence just another reminder that she was no longer our baby, hadn’t been for a long time.

 

 

 

theirbirthdayCelebrating Their Birthday

By Kelly Burch

My father was my sadness, and my daughter was my light. 

 

 

 

 

The Cakes That Bind Us Im1The Cakes That Bind Us

By Susan Currie

I remember the first birthday I put on for my step-daughter. It started with a cake.

 

 

 

fewcupcakesDo You Invite The Whole Class To Your Kids’ Birthday Parties?

By Rudri Patel and Stacey Gill

Since the age of four, I’ve invited all of her classmates to her birthday parties, instead of handpicking just a few, because I am sensitive to the need for young girls and boys to feel included. 

Your party, your terms. No one has the right to dictate whom you can or can’t invite to your own kid’s birthday party.

 

izztbdaylistThe First Disappointment

By Stephanie Sprenger

I’m not sure if she actually said it, or if it was just what I was thinking: It was the worst birthday party ever.

Do You Invite The Whole Class To Your Kids’ Birthday Parties?

Do You Invite The Whole Class To Your Kids’ Birthday Parties?

Children’s birthday parties aren’t always easy to plan, especially the guest list. Do you invite the whole class or not? Rudri Patel thinks that you should, because promoting a philosophy of inclusion is the most important thing for young kids. Stacey Gill believes every family should be able to throw the party it wants, even if that means handpicking only a few friends from school.

 

I Invite the Whole Class to My Kid’s Birthday Party

By Rudri Patel

manycupcakesMy car slides easily into the designated school lane. I watch a set of girls and boys interact, laughing, swinging their arms, the boundary between innocence and knowledge still a blur. Third in the carpool line, I turn around and glance at the back seat as my ten-year-old daughter climbs in, maneuvering her backpack as she lands in her favorite spot.

My daughter’s words start to spill. “Momma, I didn’t get invited.”

The air is contaminated by her sadness.

“Invited to what, honey?” My voice is calm, though I cringe at the thought of her being excluded from anything.

“Jenny invited all the girls in the class to her birthday party except for Heather and me. I’m so sad. I thought I was her friend too.” She crinkles her nose, a sign—one I know well—­­­­­that tears will soon overpower her.

“It’s fine, sweetie,” I say. “I understand you are upset, but don’t let it get you down. It’s only a party.” I hope to distract her by turning on the radio, as Taylor Swift’s anthem of positivity, Shake it Off, blares from the speakers.

But she is immune to Taylor’s battle cry, and I feel powerless as tears run down my little girl’s face.  

*   *   *

As an introvert, I often breathe a sigh of relief when I am not invited to a large social gathering. I prefer connecting with a few friends who get me, rather than bulldozing through a crowd of people who may not remember my name.

However, what works for me does not always gel for my daughter and that’s the reason I don’t extend my preferences to her social life. Since the age of four, I’ve invited all of her classmates to her birthday parties, instead of handpicking just a few, because I am sensitive to the need for young girls and boys to feel included. To keep parties from being cost-prohibitive, I may choose to have them at home or I may select a venue where fun doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. I also might budget in other areas—having a less costly cake, for example, foregoing on goodie bags or incorporating simpler decorations. Teaching my daughter the philosophy of inclusion matters more to me than accessorizing a party.

Parties where everybody is invited allow girls and boys to play, talk and learn from one another. This act of inclusion might get a more introverted girl to stop hiding behind her mother and take a shot at the birthday piñata or it may give the boy who moved to a new school mid-year a chance to get to know his classmates. Inviting everyone to the party offers girls and boys the possibility of making new connections, of meeting a special friend they wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Our children spend the bulk of their time at school, interacting with their classmates for at least eight hours a day. When one of them chooses to exclude a few children from a birthday celebration, the message being conveyed is “you are not good enough to come to my party.” This does nothing to further an atmosphere of kindness in the class and only creates unnecessary negative feelings among students who will most likely be exposed to each other for years through the same school system.

When only a few kids are singled out from a birthday party, it is also likely the chatter about the upcoming event will infiltrate the classroom. This kind of exclusion may cause a climate of bullying, one that has the potential to intensify as children grow older. I want my daughter to understand there is room for all of us in her schoolmate’s lives, at least for now. Of course I know it won’t stay this way forever. As children mature, they will naturally gravitate toward certain friends. But at this young age, they are still forming their personalities, opinions, likes and dislikes—so why not include all the kids so they can have the freedom to get to know one another better outside the school?

I understand the view that at some point all of us are excluded from something and that this is a lesson children will eventually learn. But why does it have to happen when they are so young? Why not preserve some of their innocence and build our children’s self-esteem? A stronger foundation in their youth might teach them to be more inclusive in day-to-day interactions in the future, whether this means refraining from gossip, protecting another classmate from bullying or saying a kind word to a friend.

*   *   *

As soon as we get home, I hug my still distraught daughter and wipe away her tears. As I embrace her, I envision her own upcoming birthday party in my mind.

The invitation will go out to all of her classmates.

One of the best gifts a kid can get, whether it’s her birthday or not, is feeling wanted by her peers. This is why there is much value in learning how to make room at the party for everyone.

Rudri Bhatt Patel is an attorney turned writer. Her essays have appeared in The Washington Post, Brain, Child, Role Reboot, The Review Review and elsewhere. She writes her personal musings on her blog, Being Rudri. She is working on a memoir which explores Hindu culture, grief and appreciating life’s ordinary graces. Connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

 

I Do Not Invite the Whole Class to My Kid’s Birthday Party

By Stacey Gill

fewcupcakesWhen my kids were in elementary school I had a conversation with a friend who was planning her daughter’s birthday party. She wanted a simple party at home but lamented that she couldn’t fit all the kids in class in her house. She’d have to come up with something else. When I asked her why she was inviting the entire class to the party she said, “Well, you have to invite everybody.”

I looked at her pointedly and said, “No, you don’t.”

An entire class of first graders is a lot of amped-up six-year-olds to corral, keep track of and contend with, to say nothing of the cost. I understood the impulse to be inclusive and while inviting everyone is perhaps “nice,” throwing an enormous, extravagant party, especially for a six-year-old, was something I had no intention of doing.

This birthday party conundrum continues to be the source of much parental angst, but I’ve never particularly felt conflicted by it. To me the answer is pretty clear. Your party, your terms. No one has the right to dictate whom you can or can’t invite to your own kid’s birthday party.

Although recently some have tried. Schools are now stepping into the fray in an attempt to placate parents and avoid hurt feelings on the part of the students. Some are issuing policies that require everyone in the class to be invited to a student’s birthday party. I find this intrusion into family life not only rather unbelievable but completely out of line.

Of course I understand the desire to protect children from getting hurt, but a child’s birthday celebration is a personal, family matter, one no school (or any other entity) has any business insinuating itself into. The school is certainly well within its rights to set rules about distributing invitations on school grounds during school hours, but to tell parents how to run their personal affairs is overstepping its authority.

That’s not to say these matters shouldn’t be handled delicately or responsibly with consideration for others. But including everybody isn’t the priority above all else. The fact of the matter is children should be free to invite whomever they’d like to attend their celebration and not everyone is a friend. Not everyone is a pleasant child (or person). And, not everyone gets invited to everything. Pretending otherwise doesn’t protect or in any way serve our kids.

Back in preschool, my children’s school policy was that every classmate was referred to as a friend. At that young age the policy was understandable. It enforced the notion that everyone should be kind and treat others as you would a friend, even if not all children abided. But as my kids grew I didn’t feel the need to maintain the charade. I knew better and so did they. Kids are pretty perceptive creatures. They may not articulate it, but they are keenly aware of the social situations around them. The insistence that everyone is a friend despite actions demonstrating otherwise doesn’t fool them, and I’d rather speak honestly with my kids and help them work through any difficulties with classmates than gloss over problems or pretend they don’t exist. I’ve always taught my children they don’t need to be friends with everybody—not everyone has the same interests or shares the same views—but they do need to be polite and try to get along with the people in their class. That’s just solid life advice.

So when it came time to throw parties for my own kids in grade school, we planned the parties that made sense to us. Typically, they were small affairs. Both my children have winter birthdays so I’ve never had the luxury of throwing a backyard party or one at the town pool, where space and cost wasn’t much of an issue. We planned what I thought were appropriate, manageable and affordable parties, and my children invited the kids they were truly friends with, some kids from the block, some from school and some relatives. I made it clear that they were not to discuss the party at school. We never distributed invitations there: I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

It’s possible word might have gotten out about the party at school, but I did everything in my power to minimize that risk. My goal was to be realistic and practical and do what was best for my family, which I believe is every parent’s aim. If some of the children’s feelings were hurt in the process, that’s unfortunate, but it’s also a part of life. I don’t believe in shielding kids indefinitely from reality. Disappointments and frustrations are a part of that reality. We need to help our children learn how to deal with it.

Stacey Gill is an award-winning journalist, the mastermind behind the humor blog, One FunnyMotha, and co-author of I Still Just Want to Pee Alone, the third book in The New York Times best-selling series. Her work has appeared on such sites as The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping, BlogHer, Babble, and Scary Mommy. For a good time, find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Do You Invite the Whole Class to Your Kids' Birthday Parties?

 

Join us today, Thursday, February 24, 2016 at 1:00 EST on Twitter to discuss the issues. Please remember to use the hashtag #braindebate. We look forward to hearing your views.

On Suitable Punishments for Your Child Other Than Murder

On Suitable Punishments for Your Child Other Than Murder

By Stacey Gill

humorseries

 

Don’t hassle me. I already have kids for that.

 

I’m writing this in desperation, in the hopes that I may glean some advice from the veteran mothers out there who have struggled and come through similar hardships, possibly even find an answer to a very troublesome question, one that has plagued me for years. This question has come into particularly sharp focus again recently, and I thought others in the wake of a lengthy and trying spring break may be grappling with the very same issue. My hope is that upon open discussion we will share our experiences and, ultimately, learn from other another, finally solving how best to handle this most difficult of situations. One in which you might want to murder one of your offspring.

I’m confiding in you (and Facebook) because I’m at a complete loss. I have no words for the rage-fueled frustration I feel at the hands of my children. I did, however, have many, many words on Facebook the other day, and since I have no intentions of writing them all over again in a clear, concise, coherent post, I’m just going to transcribe my Facebook exchange here. Don’t hassle me. I already have kids for that.

“What do you do when your kid swears all spring break long he doesn’t have homework then on the first day back to school you get a note from the teacher saying he didn’t do his homework?”

It was a cry for help, I’ll admit. I really didn’t want to have to kill my son. I was hoping for other feasible solutions to this vexing and chronic problem. And the people of Facebook had some mighty fine suggestions.

“First,” my friend, Erica, wrote, “the Xbox controllers go in the trunk of my car.” Wait. What? Trunk of the car? Like a mob hit? She continued, “The cell phone gets a new lock number that he doesn’t know, and I hide the remotes for the TV/cable box.” That ought to do it.

“We got the same call today,” she added. Oh, thank God.

I had considered the X-box. It’s my go-to toy, and I explained I was going to take it away, but, really, I blame my husband. He should know better than to take my son’s word for it.

I should probably note my husband posed the homework question to our son around 11:00 a.m. on Easter Sunday, an hour before guests were due to arrive. As I stood at the kitchen counter chopping vegetables, I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply and continued on with the prep work. I figured I’d check his assignment book later that evening, but it was a long day at the end of a long week at the end of a long life of kids bouncing off the walls for exactly 11 years straight, and I forgot.

Erica wasn’t done though. She had much more to say. “I never check grades online. I never even registered to have access.” Never even registered? I pondered in wide-eye wonder. I didn’t know you could do such a thing. Erica, did you ever know that you are my hero? You are everything I wish I could be.

Erica continued. “My stance is simple. He gets the grade he earned. I won’t intercede on his behalf. If he fails, it’s on him, and then he’s REALLY in trouble.” Oh, man, I wouldn’t want to be in that house when that goes down.

But, Erica, was onto something. Because, really, I like nothing better than swiping that Xbox control right out of my son’s unsuspecting hands when he’s incurred an infraction. Still, I’m telling you when I picked him up from school that day and saw the sad look on his little face from the hour-long test prep session he just endured following a long day of school, and I was driving him straight home to meet with the math tutor for an hour, I just couldn’t do it. I thought the Xbox penalty might push him over the edge. It could crush him because nothing, NOTHING, is more devastating to that kid than losing his Xbox. It’s pretty much the only thing he has to live for, and, I thought, 11 might be a little too young to break a person.

While my son certainly can be maddening, he’s genuinely a good kid. When he makes mistakes, they’re relatively honest ones. I know it may not seem like it in this case, but it’s true. When you ask him something like, “Do you have homework?” he checks with his brain and gives the first response that pops up. He’s not lying, per se, it’s just that his brain immediately thought “no,” and that’s what he went with. And being a kid, he doesn’t feel the need to check his backpack or assignment book or anything that might actually provide him with the correct answer.

Even on this account Erica weighed in with some solid advice. The whole problem, she noted, might stem from an innocent mistake on my part, one with an easy solution. Perhaps I was posing the wrong question. Perhaps asking when they will be doing their homework as opposed to if they have homework would be more productive. With just a slight alteration I could sidestep the whole tantalizing opportunity for deception and lies.

Good thinking, Erica.

So for now he gets to keep Xbox, but he’s sure to mess up again, and then I’ll be ready.

What would you do? Take away the Xbox? Confiscate all the Easter candy? Kill your kids? What?

Stacey Gill is the mastermind behind the humor blog, One Funny Motha, and co-author of the upcoming parenting humor anthology, I Still Just Want to Pee Alone.  Her work has appeared on such sites as The Huffington Post, BlogHer, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Mom365 and Mommyish. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Illustration by Christine Juneau