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Birthday Parties Matter — Why You Shouldn’t Skip Out

A response to the plea of Rachel Hollis of The Chic Site

Published on: August 23, 2018

Sad birthday girl

This week, the popular online personality Rachel Hollis of The Chic Site appealed to parents about attending children’s birthday parties. Or, as she put it: “Show up for anybody.” That means either RSVP your regrets or attend any birthday party that your child is invited to.

Sound like a tall order? It is, but, as Hollis reminds us, a child’s birthday party matters — a lot. And as much as we parents might tire of the endless parties, attending sends a message of inclusion to both the child invited and the child hosting. 

I’ve lived in Seattle my entire life so I’m well-aware of the infamous “Seattle freeze.” As a parent, that freeze means that I’m often chasing down RSVPs for any invitation, let alone one for my kids' birthdays.

And while I’ve never had a story as heart-wrenching as Hollis’ — not a single invitee attended or even RSVP’d for the birthday party of a friend’s son — I know how devastating fair-weather guests can be.

So, Seattle parents, we need to take a hard look at ourselves. How do we handle our kids' invitations? Does “We should do a playdate” ever turn into a playdate? Does “I’ll RSVP for that birthday soon” ever actually happen? 

If the answer is “no,” I get it. I’m guilty of neglecting to send thank you cards, or pushing my son to do so for his own birthday. What Hollis reminds us is that this isn’t just about us.

“What kind of message does your action send your own child?” Hollis says. “You are showing your kid that that’s your standard: You don’t attend the parties of the kids who are different.” And that such kids aren’t even worth a polite decline.

We can do better than this. And, thankfully, Hollis gives us a few ideas. One I particularly liked: Offer something for the birthday kid if your own child can’t attend (a.k.a. finally set up that playdate).

This kind of inclusive behavior doesn’t stop at birthday invites, either. We can use it toward neighbors, teachers, other parents and anyone else your child knows.

The result is the same: By accepting (or declining) invitations, you demonstrate thoughtfulness and show your child that kindness matters, no matter what.

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