EXCLUDED: barred from participation, consideration, or inclusion
I received a sad call from a friend this afternoon. Her little one has a case of the birthday party blues. And, Son’s party is the cause.
You see, Son’s birthday is coming. While we stuck with family only parties for the first four years, when he turned five we let him have his first friend party. Well, he liked it and wants to do it again this year. So, we told him he could select a theme and a list of friends to invite.
The theme was easy: Wild Kratts!
The list was harder. Son’s first brainstorm included roughly thirty kids. With some effort, we reduced the list to fifteen. But, reducing it to my sanity limit of nine children proved challenging. Several of his friends were eliminated to comply with my limit. My friend’s little girl was one of those eliminated.
We did everything we could to reduce the chance of hurt feelings for those not invited. We mailed the invitations instead of distributing them at school. We gave Son strict instructions not to discuss his party at school. But, word got out and tender hearts have been bruised.
Following the phone call from my friend, I talked with Son about how his friend’s feelings are hurt. His heart-in-the-right-place solution was to have a second party to invite the friends he had to eliminate from the list. Again, I found myself imposing sanity limits. I explained that we can’t always avoid hurting friends’ feelings when it comes to invite lists but that we can be sensitive and make sure to communicate that we like them and are their friend but simply had to make tough choices due to number limits. Son listened attentively and then said he would tell her that he liked her but his mom made him pick the people he liked best. At that point I realized that this might not be a reasonable social minefield to expect a kindergartener to navigate. Feelings would only be hurt more by poor word choice, his total lack of diplomacy, and his cut-to-the-chase attempt to communicate the harsh realities involved in reducing a guest list.
So, I changed course and reiterated my gag order. I told him that in addition to avoiding talking about his birthday at school, if he heard others talking about it he should remind them that talking about his party might hurt the feelings of friends who weren’t invited.
We also talked about how hard it was for him to select just a few of his friends to attend his party. I pointed out that he might be disappointed to discover that he is not invited to someone’s party but that he should remember that it doesn’t mean they aren’t friends.
I’m not sure I could have done anything to avoid this situation. I think this may just be an inevitable part of navigating elementary school. This isn’t the last time this will happen. Son is on the offending side this time, but he will be on the offended side his share as well. Both my friend and I know that this is part of growing up – there will be parties our kids aren’t invited to and they will feel disappointed and sad about being excluded.
It happens. And, it sucks.