Etiquette Breaches Galore

by admin on February 9, 2011

I am not sure which category this story fits into, but it was too bizarre not to share. Recently my daughter turned 8 and after much deliberation we decided to have a swimming party at the local wave pool.  The party package was 1 party leader for 10 kids plus the cost of food.  My daughter decided who she wanted to invite, and we settled on 9 invitations and sent them out.  The first breech of etiquette in this story is on my daughter’s part.

The Friday before her Saturday birthday, I tallied up my RSVP’s which totaled 7 + my daughter, and I went and got goody bag stuff for the 7 girls and 1 boy. I like to put out awesome goody bags and therefore spent a fair bit of money including fabric gift bags that were actual loot bags for the upcoming Halloween holiday and I did have a few leftovers which I thought I could just let my daughter have as treats in the future.  When I picked my daughter up at school that afternoon, she asked me if one more little girl could come…we will call her Sofia, I said that would not be a problem as long as my daughter understood she (being my daughter) might not get a complete goody bag as I had planned on a total of 8 kids not 9. She agreed and I called Sofia’s mom and explained that the party would start at 11 with swimming till 12 and then an hour for cake and presents (this is important later). My daughter also mentioned that another attendee, who we will call Katie had wanted to invite a few of her friends to come (same grade and school but not my daughter’s friends in particular).   I said no and explained that I doubted anyone would be able to come on short notice like that and it wouldn’t be fair, plus we had almost reached our limit of the 10 kids. My daughter got quiet and then changed gears into excited for her party the next morning.

After dinner that night around 6 I got the first of 4 phone calls from parents of children I had not invited RSVP’ing to my daughter’s party the next morning.  After the first call I spoke with my daughter and discovered that Katie had made invitations for several of her friends on plain paper, by copying a invitation from someone who couldn’t come.  Each RSVP drove me into a higher state of panic than the one before, I kept counting and recounting and checking my numbers and after the last RSVP at 8pm I figure I am at 12 kids plus the wonderful birthday girl.  So I am over the limit for the party leader to kids ratio and I will need another party leader and I do not have enough goody bags for everyone.

You might be asking yourself why I did not explain to these parents that their children were not invited and couldn’t come.  Well, my daughter is on the shy side and would like to be friends with these girls and if the girls were excited about coming I didn’t want a refusal to affect my child’s school year and at this age they seem to be way more cliquey then we were.   I did, you will be happy to know, on the last call of the night from Kate’s best friend’s mother laugh nervously when she explained that due to the time crunch they would just be giving my daughter a gift card.   That was fine as apparently Katie and my daughter had made up counterfeit invitations, she seemed quite shocked and almost immediately after I got a call from Katie’s mother apologizing for the issue and I explained that Katie might have been the ring leader but my daughter did not stop it so they were both to blame.

At this point I frantically call the local wave pool and request to see if I could have an additional party leader, which they told me they would do their best but it was almost 9 pm the night before and they could not guarantee anything but would call me back either way. I live in an extremely residential area and do not drive but we do have a drug store so I figure I can head there in the morning to pick up additional goody bag items and I will just hope for the best as far as the party leader goes.  My daughter is in tears as she can tell I am obviously very stressed and I explain to her the part that I spent $200.00 on was now going to cost at least $150.00 more as I want her to understand that what she did was unacceptable.   My daughter being the sweetheart she is most of the time, offers to pay for half as that is all the money she had saved up for her ipod she wanted. I accepted as she needed a consequence for her actions.  But I did have to ask myself…..as a parent would you RSVP 12 hours before a party when you have received a handwritten invitation penned by an 8 year old on a blank piece of paper?

Now the second and much more egregious breach of etiquette in my mind.  The party started and low and behold, I had the extra party leader, I had 12 goody bags and everyone is showing up except the previously mentioned Sofia!  The party leaders are fantastic and my stress level slowly sinking into a normal range.  The party goes well the kids have lots of fun swimming and we are going to start the pizza and presents portion, presents are opened and ohhed and ahhed over appropriately. Pizza is being consumed and it is approximately 11:30 and there is 30 mins in the party left, and I hear a knock on the door to the outside (fire exit). It is Sofia and her father.  I open the door and usher them in and get Sofia seated and offer her pizza and a drink to which she refuses and she looks quite upset.  Approximately 15 mins later her father is back at the fire door and picks her up, I hand her a goody bag and thank her for coming, my daughter thanks her and gives her a hug and she is off. There is now 15 mins left in the party (important fact).  At this point I am thinking maybe she doesn’t swim and that why she missed the swimming portion but who shows up for 15 mins, doesn’t eat, drink or make merry and just sits at a party for 15 mins looking upset? But I shake it off and we wrap up the party and as I am passing out gift bags, I discover I am one short (my etiquette breach).  I promise the intended recipient one Monday morning and everyone was happy.

Upon my arrival home, I discovered a voicemail that had been left while we were in transit. It was a young girl yelling at me about how rude I am to invite her sister to a party and then being getting ready to leave when she arrived. She berated me for at least 5 minutes on how horrible a person I am and how rude and etc.  I noticed it came from Sofia’s house.  I called back and the same person answered,  I identified myself as so and so’s mother and asked to speak with her parents, she advised me I can’t.  I explained that I would be speaking to her parents even if it was through a letter sent home from the school as I had received a disturbing voicemail that was neither accurate or appropriate for a child to leave on an adult’s phone.  She proceeded to deny knowing of the voicemail in question and I explained that I wanted to talk to her mother about the fact there must have been some miscommunication as the party had started at 10 as I had told them and the swimming ended at 11 but her sister had arrived at 1130 and stayed for a scant 15 minutes prior to leaving before the party even ended, and if that was somehow my fault, I was sorry but in my eyes, behaving in such a fashion arriving late and leaving early without an explanation was rude. She told me that it wasn’t her and it didn’t matter if I told her mom as she wouldn’t care but since she wasn’t home I couldn’t talk to her.  I said fine I would send a letter home with the school and offer to let her mother listen to the voicemail to see if we could determine the source and I hung up.  She called me back yelling a few mins later saying,  “Please do not call my mother and I didn’t know they were late coming.”  I told her I had to speak with her mother as it was not appropriate for a teenager to speak to an adult that way, much less an adult she had never met and a parent of her sister’s classmate.

I finally spoke with her mom, who was very apologetic.

And that was our mixed bag of etiquette breaches that made up my daughter’s 8th birthday. 0127-11

I don’t know if you realize this, OP, but at the beginning of your story, you said you told Sofia’s mom that, “… the party would start at 11 with swimming till 12 and then an hour for cake and presents (this is important later).”   But later in the story you said to Sofia’s teenaged sister that, “…he party had started at 10 as I had told them and the swimming ended at 11.”    If you cannot communicate the accurate details within the relatively short time frame of writing a story, the possibility exists that you actually did make a huge communication error to Sofia’s mom.

Arguing about bad manners with a teenager was probably not particularly wise either.  Next time just end the conversation and attempt to call the parents at a later time.

{ 110 comments… read them below or add one }

Dannysgirl February 13, 2011 at 2:07 pm

@Ginger: The reason I am questioning the daughter’s role is because I don’t know what her crime was. I picture OP’s DD and Katie at recess the day before the party. Katie says she’s invited her friends. DD tells Katie OP said no more invites. After school, DD tells her mom about Katie’s invites. At this point, it’s OP’s job to call Katie’s mom and have the phony invites cancelled. If Katie invited them, she can do the uninviting. Where in this scenario is OP’s DD guilty? Now, if the daughter knew ahead of time about the extra kids, or helped forge the new invitations, then she’s guilty. I agree with Anonymous’ assessment: It isn’t black and white. I comment because nowhere in OP’s two posts did she say Katie was held responsible for her part in this.

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Ann The Mad February 13, 2011 at 9:13 pm

If I read the original story right, Sophia’s status was kind of iffy from the beginning.

The birthday girl was informed that Sophia would be a kind of “extra guest” who might not get a nice goody bag, right?

Any chance that the b-day girl communicated to Sophia that her invitation came with some kind of second-class status? I can see an 8 yo doing that with the best of intentions — preventing Sophia from being disappointed with the goodie bag.

If Sophia had any reason to suspect that she wasn’t being treated as a “real” guest, then any miscommunication about the time of the party would look an awful lot like like deliberate malice.

Under the circumstances, Sophia’s family could very well have thought that the other kids had been invited to swim and have cake, but that Sophia been invited to drop in only long enough to drop off a gift and pick up her not-as-goodie bag.

I don’t think that’s what the OP actually *did* or meant to do, but I can certainly see how Sophia’s family could get that impression.

If that’s what Sophia’s sister thought was going on, then I find it hard to blame her for making an angry phone call. (If you think the sister was angry, imagine the wrath of a *mom* who thought someone had deliberately hurt her little girl’s feelings that badly… You’re better off with the kid.)

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Ginger February 14, 2011 at 4:50 am

@dannysgirl
“My daughter also mentioned that another attendee, who we will call Katie had wanted to invite a few of her friends to come (same grade and school but not my daughter’s friends in particular). I said no and explained that I doubted anyone would be able to come on short notice like that and it wouldn’t be fair, plus we had almost reached our limit of the 10 kids. My daughter got quiet and then changed gears into excited for her party the next morning.”

“After dinner that night around 6 I got the first of 4 phone calls from parents of children I had not invited RSVP’ing to my daughter’s party the next morning. After the first call I spoke with my daughter and discovered that Katie had made invitations for several of her friends on plain paper, by copying a invitation from someone who couldn’t come.”

Clearly the daughter knew the other invitations had been issued and did not come clean with her mother straight away. She only came clean after her mother had received the first call, not when she’d first talked to her mother about extra guests and been told no. This is the behaviour that I would deal with. It is deceptive.

Part of teaching our kids is teaching them how to stand up to their friends and knowing when to speak up. This is what you deal with.

“That was fine as apparently Katie and my daughter had made up counterfeit invitations, she seemed quite shocked and almost immediately after I got a call from Katie’s mother apologizing for the issue and I explained that Katie might have been the ring leader but my daughter did not stop it so they were both to blame.”

OP made the right call when she spoke to Katie’s mother in recognising both girls played a part in it.

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Sarah February 14, 2011 at 8:49 am

@Ann The Mad – my understanding was that the birthday girl was told SHE might not get as nice a goodie bag anymore, since after inviting Sophia there wouldn’t be enough to go around, i.e. the birthday girl might have to give hers up so that Sophia could have one.

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Wink-n-Smile February 15, 2011 at 3:43 pm

This is why I don’t believe in expensive goody bags at parties. A token something for each child is fine, but make sure it’s something you can get easily, inexpensively, and in large quantities – like bubble juice or noise-makers. You get the party packs, and pick up one or two extra party packs, for later use, because the things are fun to play with, and they’re good treats on a rainy day or when the kid is home sick, so it doesn’t matter if you have extra, and you’re not likely to run out, if extra guests show up.

Also, explain to your daughter the reasoning behind the limit on guests BEFORE you issue any invitations. Alert her to the fact that that she needs to keep the party under wraps, so that those who are not invited are not hurt. Also, inform her that it’s rude to invite at the last minute, because it puts the invitee on the spot to change their plans, and their budget. Do all this in the planning stage, and she’s less likely to hit you with a surprise whammy. Not impossible. Some kids just don’t get it. But she’s less likely.

Good for you for making her pay for the extra goody bags, though. At least she knows about the consequences.

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carmijok February 18, 2011 at 11:08 am

I totally agree with you being stern with the sister who called and left a very rude message. Do not give her a pass because she misunderstood (maybe). She needed to be called on the carpet. And good for you to insist on speaking with the mother. Young people today are growing up with etiquette role models like Snookie from Jersey Shore or any number of crass, tasteless reality ‘stars’. It’s not OK to be yelling into a voice mail…especially not at adults! Rude, crude behavior needs to be addressed and parents need to be aware of it. Good for the OP!

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Blurgle February 27, 2011 at 7:51 pm

The only eight-year-old child who should ever get a TWO HUNDRED DOLLAR party is one who is not likely to make it to nine.

Meanwhile kids go hungry.

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Lalah March 14, 2011 at 5:08 pm

etiquette breaches from 8 year old children? seriously???

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JCS April 19, 2011 at 8:46 pm

@Blurgle – As someone who celebrated her child’s birthday with the fear there wouldn’t be another one, I have to say, lighten up! How much a party costs (assuming she isn’t charging “guests” for the privilege of attending) has nothing to do with etiquette, manners or even good parenting.

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Anonymous April 24, 2011 at 5:23 am

@Blurgle–$200 isn’t unreasonable for a birthday party, when all is said and done. If you want to throw your kid a party at, say, the YMCA, or the roller skating rink, then $200 would be about right, for the party package, plus decorations and party favours (and cake, if the venue doesn’t provide it). Even if you’re going the DIY route at home or in a park somewhere, it’s still going to cost SOMETHING–maybe not quite as much in money (depending on the entertainment planned), but what about all the hassle of baking the cake, putting up the balloons and streamers, writing clues for the scavenger hunt, building a princess castle or a spaceship out of cardboard boxes, and laboriously combing Bulk Barn for “safe” candy for the loot bags, because little Jimmy is allergic to peanuts, Susie is lactose intolerant, Jane is celiac, and Jayden’s mother has a weird beef with red food dye this month? A lot of parents go the “venue” route not because they’re spoiling their children, but because they’d rather hand all those dramas over to the staff at the YMCA, the Mouse-Based Pizza Playground, or, in this case, the wave pool.

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