DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Perplexed in Virginia," about the snubbing her first-grade son received from classmates throwing birthday parties, resonated with me, as I'm sure it did with many other parents.
My 7-year-old granddaughter has recently been hurt twice when girls in her class invited her for their parties, but did not invite her to stay for the sleep-over afterward. Boasting on the part of the girls who got to stay made it even sadder for the few who had to leave when the actual party was over.
Abby, perhaps you should open the door for letters about other birthday abuses -- like reacting negatively after opening a gift. Perhaps some young parents never learned to be sensitive, and you could launch a crusade to spare the feelings of youngsters. -- SADDENED GRANNY
DEAR GRANNY: I'm pleased to oblige. Children cannot learn what they haven't been taught -- and there's no better way to raise awareness than reading first-person accounts of painful experience. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I have children in a small private school. Some of the students always invite the entire class to their birthday parties. My children do not. I want my children to be empathetic and respectful, but I also want them to grow up learning appropriate limits and boundaries. We invite one child for every year of age -- at a fifth birthday party: five guests.
I offer my do's and don'ts for children's birthday parties:
(1) Don't hand out invitations at school unless you plan to invite the entire class. Mail them instead.
(2) Don't schedule the party immediately after school. The partygoers should not arrive at the party en masse off the school bus.
(3) Don't discuss the party on the playground or in the lunchroom or classroom. If one of your guests mentions the party, simply say you're glad he or she can come. School is not the place to go into party details.
(4) Do ask your child to consider the mix of his or her guests. Are there two children on the list who don't get along? Is there a guest from the neighborhood who will feel out of place not knowing the guests from the school? Does every guest know at least one other guest -- someone besides your child?
Etiquette isn't meant to entangle us, but to provide guidelines. I hope my children won't doggedly adhere to strict rules of etiquette, but embrace a hospitality that considers the needs of others. Forcing the unrealistic expectation that we will be friends with everyone diminishes the child's ability to make wise choices and create healthy boundaries.
Our children do not have to be friends with every child in their classroom. But our children do have to be respectful of all. -- MINNEAPOLIS MOM
DEAR MOM: I agree that the feelings of others must be respected, and you're never too young to learn that lesson. Limiting the size of birthday parties for your child makes sense. The problems arise when almost an entire class is invited to the party and just a few are excluded. Not every child is popular. However, that reality should not be magnified by his or her obvious exclusion. Make no mistake about it, those painful traumas last a lifetime.