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When You RSVP, It’s Written In Stone (or How To Train Your Kids To Be Social Pariahs)

My daughter (Lucy) is turning seven and we decided to throw a small party for some of her friends. We booked a local party centre, and sent out invitations to 11 children about two weeks in advance. The party centre requires a minimum of 10 children; if less than 10 attend you are still billed for 10, so we figured 12 (including Lucy) was a manageable amount plus it gave us some leeway if not everyone could make it. Lucy has friends of both genders, so she invited 5 girls and 6 boys.

The responses came trickling in, and 10 children responded ‘yes’ – including Lucy this gave us 11, 6 girls and 5 boys, a comfortable mix I thought.

Three days before the party, a boy in Lucy’s class (H) sent out invitations for a ‘boys-only’ superhero party to be held on the same day / time as Lucy’s. Not a big deal I thought, we don’t have the right to claim a particular day for a party. The following day, the mother of one of the boys who had said they were coming to Lucy’s party emailed me to say that her son would now not be coming as he’d prefer to attend H’s party – she was sure I’d understand.

I did understand of course, but I was a bit miffed; I was taught that a positive reply to an invitation meant you were coming providing there wasn’t an emergency – not providing something better didn’t come along! This also turned out to be just the beginning as over the next 24 hours 2 more boys dropped out, citing H’s party as the reason.

I was left with a dilemma. Firstly, I was bound to pay for a party of 10 which now only had 8 attending. With only two days until the party, it was too late to invite more guests without it being obvious they were on the ‘B’ list, so I decided to suck it up and pay for the 10. Slightly annoying but no big deal.

Secondly, this also meant that the two boys who had said yes and stuck to it were now going to be outnumbered by the girls. I didn’t think we needed an exactly equal number, but I did feel sorry at the thought of two boys (both heavily into football and traditional boys’ toys) stuck with 6 girls, all of whom are into pink, glitter and princesses… I just felt bad that the boys who were taught to fulfil their commitments probably wouldn’t have a particularly good time.

A bit of creative thinking and we invited a slightly older boy from another class (a friend of Lucy’s whose parents we know well, but one who would never expect to be invited) – he and his parents were so touched that we’d invited him, thankfully the idea of a B list didn’t rear its head. This has evened things up slightly. I’ve also bought some extra ‘boy-stuff’ to add to the party decorations to make it a bit less girl-centric.

The party is this weekend so we shall see how it goes. I’m sure I’m over-thinking things and everyone will play well together and just enjoy themselves (I have found in the past that us parents get much more caught up on this stuff than the kids who just get on with it). But for future reference, does anyone have any suggestions on how to deal with stuff like this? We could have a ‘girls only’ party but Lucy has male friends too and it seems mean to exclude them. Invite lots more children (and run the risk of everyone saying yes and having an unmanageable amount and lots of extra expense)? Also, is there a dignified way to handle the parents who contacted me to say their kids had changed their minds? I suppose I should be happy that at least they had the decency to contact me rather than just not turn up!  1002-15

This is a great way to train children to be social pariahs.  Why bother inviting someone to your party if you know, for a fact, that they will leave you for an better offer that happens to come up? I don’t extend further invitations to people who treat my hospitality with such obvious disdain.

{ 75 comments… add one }
  • Mal May 15, 2017, 10:16 am

    I’d like to disagree: the boys are Lucy’s friends and it’s their parents’ fault for not teaching them that RSVP’ing yes is a binding commitment. If you tell Lucy she can’t invite them again, she’ll only learn to hold a grudge. I’d ask her if she felt bad about them not coming to her party and – only if she did! – teach her to talk to them and tell them how she felt, in as calm a manner as she can manage. That way, next time they’re invited and something better comes along, they should think twice before they risk hurting Lucy’s feelings again.

    • Aleko May 16, 2017, 7:41 am

      That would be setting up poor Lucy for extreme hurt. At least one of those boys will – if only out of embarrassment – say ‘I didn’t really want to come to your stupid girly party and anyway I like X better than you, so nyah!’

      • Anon May 16, 2017, 9:23 am

        Yeah sorry, but inviting them again only to possibly have them not come again is really a not good idea.

        If you want to avoid any of that hurt, just ask Lucy who she would like to invite, say that not everyone might come, and then don’t send the invites out to those boys.

  • lakey May 15, 2017, 10:30 am

    If a person let me know that after a yes RSVP, they or their child were not coming because a better offer came along, I would not be openly rude or confrontational. However, I also do not feel the need to help people feel better about their rude behavior. My response would be one word, “OK”. Then some silence. I feel that a little bit of silence goes a long way.

    By the way, seven year olds are old enough to be taught that another person’s feelings are more important than their own self-indulgence.

    • saucygirl May 15, 2017, 7:42 pm

      I had a friend change her rsvp for my daughters birthday party, but she didn’t tell me why. I knew it was because they had elected to go to another party. And this was 100% her decision, not her kids. I responded with an “okay! have fun at Julie’s party!”. Her fumblings after were very entertaining to me.

    • livvy17 May 16, 2017, 11:00 am

      You might also add, “I do hope I can get my deposit back, I sent in a count based on your previous reply.”

      I totally agree – while it’s considered rude to teach non-related people manners directly, there’s no reason to assuage the guilt they should feel for acting poorly.

  • staceyisme May 15, 2017, 10:34 am

    I wonder if it’s necessary to have been so very “understanding”? When these parents called you to say that their children preferred the newly scheduled party to the one that your daughter had organized, it would have been fair to observe that your own daughter did not deserve to be disappointed or deprived of the company of her friends on her birthday. Yes, it sounds a bit direct, but perhaps these parents need a wake-up call. Certainly, they shouldn’t be invited again. (And perhaps some future expense can be spared by hosting at home or at a park on some years? I don’t know what your daughter prefers, but grilling out,creative games and cake might be enough of a party, especially if you throw in a theme of your choosing and a few prizes.)

  • Anon May 15, 2017, 11:11 am

    To the OP, the dignified way I think is to not ever bring it up, but next time there is a party, just don’t invite them. I mean the parents may ask, but you can’t just go and say “no” when you’ve already said yes. Yeah, they may have had more fun at the other party, but they can’t be learning that they can did their friends when a more “fun” party/thing comes up. Eventually when they get older they’ll realize that the are losing their friends if they continue to do this.

    You can still invite them over and whatnot, but they have lost invitation privileges for now.

  • Dee May 15, 2017, 11:50 am

    There’s no reason why you can’t tell someone, like the parent who bailed out for the “better” party, that the change of plans will be a problem. Something along the lines of ” … oh! Well, that IS a dilemma! I’ve given the venue the guest numbers and don’t know if I can get a refund now for Joey’s spot! Oh dear!” and leave it at that. No “thank you for letting me know” or anything like that. There is no need to try to save the feelings of a person who is being quite rude.

    There is also nothing wrong with inviting “B” list people. I’ve done it before in similar situations. Just be honest and no one gets offended. These are people who we’re not really close to, more acquaintances, and I phrase the invitation honestly, that I’ve planned a party and had quite a few “no” replies and wondered if (the person I’m speaking to) could help me out. “We always love to see you/the kids get along great together and wonder if you’d like to join us. I know it’s last minute but if you can come then we’d be very pleased to see you”.

    As far as boy/girl mixes go, I think assuming so much based on gender is a mistake. Yes, generally boys and girls have very different likes/dislikes but within that are a large minority of kids who don’t fit the stereotype. Even my very “male” boys sometimes weren’t “boy” enough to fit in with other boys, and enjoyed girls’ company more in some respects. It’s unfortunate that, by a certain age, the boys and girls no longer feel as comfortable getting together simply because they become so conscious of being labelled for it. I know my younger son was quite sad when girls stopped wanting to come to his birthday parties (around age 8). Even before that they were hesitant if there wasn’t at least one other girl attending, even though they had a grand time playing with the boys once the party was well underway.

    OP, you did the right thing by buying extras for the boys to make them feel comfortable, and inviting another boy to attend to help out in that regard. All I can say is to either not invite “those” kids again or plan a party where they can be invited but where their absence won’t affect the festivities. And certainly don’t hide the truth from the parents, if/when the conversation ever heads that way again.

    • koolchicken May 15, 2017, 5:31 pm

      Yeah, I have a son that’s into girly things. He has lots and lots of cars, but plenty of dolls too. And we don’t have a girl in the house (besides me!). He and I went to see Beauty and the Beast dressed up- he went as Belle, yellow tutu and all. He’s also happy in the company of girls like yours are. So I personally wouldn’t want someone going all out for my kid. It’s a super nice thought and I’d of course appreciate it. But if you agree to attend a girls party, you’re going with the knowledge there’s likely to be a lot of pink and sparkles. So don’t go changing themes or activities on our account!

      And I 100% agree with adults being the problem with regards to gender division. Kids just don’t think that way. If a boy is wearing a dress other kids might ask why, but once the boy answers it’s cause they want to they all move on. It’s the adults who will continue to make a fuss all day long. Mine’s not usually into dresses, but I will occasionally buy him a girls top if he requests it. Never once have I heard a kid question his clothing choices. It’s only adults. I personally think I’m doing a disservice to all the kids if I make a big deal out of gender. So I keep my mouth shut and let them get on with it!

  • kingsrings May 15, 2017, 12:06 pm

    At first I thought that this was going to be about a birthday party being thrown and none of the confirmed guests showing up. I thought this because this situation seems to so frequently pop up in the news, and it’s so shocking and heartbreaking.
    Yes, it’s extremely rude for ANYONE to cancel set plans for something better that has come along after the fact. And it’s even more appalling to actually tell the hosts that! It’s quite dismaying that their are parents out there that think this behavior is perfectly okay.
    The only criticism I would give the host is that I feel she should have had more of an even mix of boy and girl activities given that both boys and girls were attending. More girl-centric activities would understandably be a turn-off for most boys, although of course that doesn’t excuse their bailing out on the party.

    • Tan May 16, 2017, 7:54 am

      My nephew and I once joined a fast food place birthday party because at the last minute 5 boys went to a theme park instead for one of their birthdays (I think if memory served the other party was supposed to be the week before it rained so they moved it 1 week). So the poor lad we met went from I think 9 friends to 4 (and obviously all paid for). Nephew and 1 other kid who was near /in the place joined in and had fun but it must have been galling for the parents that midweek they were told half the kids weren’t coming. Personally RSVPs should have a deadline and once you go past it you are commited

    • Anonymous May 16, 2017, 2:29 pm

      Actually, Kingsrings, we don’t even know what kind of party it is–the OP just said “local party venue.” For all we know, it could be a swimming party, or a roller skating party, or a traditional “play classic party games and then eat cake” kind of party, that would indeed be fun for both boys and girls, and the only thing that makes the party “girly” is the fact that more girls than boys will be in attendance. That’s not the OP’s fault, because she and Lucy invited almost even numbers of boys and girls, but several of the boys reneged on their RSVP’s for a “better offer.” It sounds as if OP and Lucy planned a perfectly nice co-ed birthday party, but in the reneging boys’ minds, a “perfectly nice co-ed birthday party” was simply not as appealing as an “all-boys superhero party.” Although, seven-year-olds don’t drive themselves to birthday parties, so this is on their parents for allowing and enabling them to change their minds after RSVP’ing.

  • Pat May 15, 2017, 12:52 pm

    OP, I think you handled the situation very well and in a very classy manner. I don’t think there’s much else you could have done and fortunately the “damage done” was probably minimal. It’s too bad that the reneging parents didn’t take the opportunity to teach their children a lesson about good manners and following through on their commitments.

  • Ketchup May 15, 2017, 12:59 pm

    If you commit, you commit. How rude to then change plans like that. I hope the other boys show up.

  • AppleEye May 15, 2017, 1:06 pm

    I hate, hate, hate, HATE that people have come to see this as acceptable. Also, the idea of responding with a ‘maybe.’ Just wrong.

  • Redblues May 15, 2017, 1:07 pm

    Even as an adult I find it rude, insulting, and hurtful when anyone who has accepted an invitation to do something with me changes his/her mind at the last minute because something “better” comes along. I never invite them again. I would certainly have no qualms about telling those parents that no, I do not “understand”, that they are rude, raising their children to be rude, and their children will not be receiving any more invitations from my child.

  • Dominic May 15, 2017, 1:36 pm

    I don’t think OP could have done anything differently here in advance to avoid the three “defectors,” especially with the rather last-minute staging of the other boy’s party. As the admin notes, these three could be left off of future invitation lists, though I suspect that won’t actually happen if they are the daughter’s friends, and she would really like them to attend future events. It seems to be a fact of life that some people will behave badly by not RSVPing, RSVPing and reneging or not showing up, bringing extra guests, and a host of other bad guest behaviors that may occur.

    One possible solution would be to have a more open structure to a future birthday party that mitigates the cost issue with guests dropping out. Rather than having a party at a paid venue, scale it back to a party at home or at a public park/playground that is free to use, where the number of guests and direct costs aren’t so strictly controlled.

  • SamiHami May 15, 2017, 1:54 pm

    I wouldn’t have blamed the OP if, the moment she was told little Mortimer wouldn’t be able to attend said: “I must be misunderstanding you. You couldn’t possibly be saying your are taking Mortimer to a different party. You’ve already committed him to coming to Lucy’s. After all, we’ve already made and paid for plans that include him based on your acceptance of our invitation.”

  • DGS May 15, 2017, 1:54 pm

    Ugh, how frustrating. It would have been a great opportunity for the parents to teach their children that even though boy H is having a party they prefer to go to because superheroes, they already RSVP’ed that they are going to Lucy’s party, so they are going to go to Lucy’s party. I would have been quite miffed, and I would not invite the offending parties again.

    We had something similar happen with our oldest’s birthday party last year. He is a late-summer birthday, so we had held him for a second year in pre-k rather than push him up to kindergarten. We had booked a party at a children’s party center and invited children from his previous year’s pre-k class (incoming kindergarteners) and his friends from his new pre-k class (incoming pre-k students) to a party, for a total of about 20 children. About 15 children RSVP’ed that they were coming…until the week before the party, when some people began emailing asking if they could bring siblings (you have to pay per child, and the cost of food, favors, etc. gets adjusted based on the number of children), or began dropping out in favor of someone else’s party, grandparents’ visiting, etc. that weekend. Because of the amount of children dropping out, we were able to make siblings work and ended up with about 18 children at the party (we swallowed the overage cost). However, we have resolved that this year, we are not going to do a big children’s party but instead will have family, a few close friends with their children and a handful of our son’s closest friends over for pizza, cake, a piñata and some party games at our house and forego the circus of a children’s party center altogether. The unpleasantness of flaky RSVP’s was just too much.

    • Amanda H. May 15, 2017, 11:26 pm

      I will say, this is one of the reasons why we limit our children to 5 guests for their birthday parties. We may make an exception for certain milestone birthdays, but we haven’t hit any that we consider worthy of it yet (and our oldest is 10). Keeping the guest list to 5 guests plus our 3 who are old enough to participate makes for more manageable parties that I can host at home on whichever theme each child picks.

    • NostalgicGal May 16, 2017, 12:37 am

      Back decades ago, I had my only birthday party with friends/school. (first grade, I was turning seven). Six invitees, and. One had a cousin visiting who was a year younger, very bossy and dominated playtime after the cake and such. And four of the mothers showing up with the siblings in tow, from diapers to five. Eleven OTHERS, plus the moms. Who at least didn’t run away and just drop kids but. I had six plus one guests to entertain, there were eleven smallers to deal with, and four mothers. It took us three days to clean up after all that too, and I had to help, my party. I didn’t have another birthday party with friends until some years ago, I threw my own 50th (I paid for food, had door prizes, etc). So.

  • Wild Irish Rose May 15, 2017, 2:10 pm

    I’m with Admin on this one. For this one party, you’re kind of stuck. But I wouldn’t invite any of those boys in the future. And if their mommies want to know why, tell them. They need to know what their behavior is doing for their sons.

  • JD May 15, 2017, 3:07 pm

    I was sitting here trying to think of a polite response to a parent who baldly informs you that his/her kid has something better to do at the last minute, than to attend your kid’s party he promised to attend. That’s so not nice.
    The best I could come up with at the moment is to respond, “Oh, what a shame that he’s not coming, especially since I’ve already paid for him to attend. Lucy will be disappointed when I tell her, I’m sure. Thanks for letting me know. ” And then never invite him again.
    I’m sure the E-Hellions have much better ideas than I do, though.
    I am in charge of putting together work pot-lucks, and we used to have an employee who would not tell us if he was coming, and therefore what he might bring, until the last minute, as he waited to see what else might turn up (like a vendor arriving the day of, and inviting him out to lunch). I finally told him I was going to give him a deadline on potlucks. If he didn’t respond by day X, he was not coming. I felt rude, but I’d had it with him.

    • Mustard May 15, 2017, 4:56 pm

      JD almost has it: ‘I have already paid for your son’s place at the play centre’, then….. silence.

      • at work May 16, 2017, 4:42 pm

        I like this. That silence thing can be loud!

    • Lerah99 May 15, 2017, 6:29 pm

      When it comes to potlucks, I will often wait until the day before to indicate what dish I’m bringing because I’m waiting to see what’s still needed.

      But I am always clear from the beginning that I’m attending, just waiting to see if I should bring fried chicken, or potato salad, or cookies depending on which area (mains, sides, deserts) is looking a little sparse on the sign up sheet.

  • Marie May 15, 2017, 5:03 pm

    I’d probably be blunt and say: “Oh dear, do you have any thoughts on how to tell Lucy that her friend is no longer coming to her party because he got an invitation he liked better so he cancelled his commitment? I’d like to tell her in a way that will not hurt her feelings on her birthday, do you have experience with this?

    Yes, extremely brutal. But also very clear. Admins advise is better, but oh, how I’d love to hear the silence on the phone when their ears turn red of shame.

    • Noemie May 16, 2017, 6:49 am

      I agree and adults need to remember that children really do get their feelings hurt when this happens. A birthday is a huge deal for a child and knowing kids didn’t come to your birthday party because they went to a ‘better’ party is very hurtful.

  • Frustrated May 15, 2017, 5:24 pm

    I’m not going to lie, I’m rather snarky. I’d have had no problem saying,

    “Oh, little Bobby can’t make it because he’d rather go to Peter’s party? I completely understand! Let me just jot down his name because the kids have birthdays so close together overlapping parties is likely to be a problem in the future and the last thing I’d want is to put you in SUCH an awkward position again! I’ll be sure to keep Bobby off the guest list for future parties. Gotta run, bye!”

    Sometimes this is what people need to hear because nothing else is going to get through their thick skulls. If you’re the sort to call and revoke your RSVP because something “better” came along, then you’re getting blacklisted in the future. Sound friendly, don’t yell or name call, or refuse to speak to the person. But make it clear, if they’re comfortable putting you out, you’re comfortable limiting the time you spend with them.

  • SJ May 15, 2017, 7:31 pm

    I mean, it’s not good to lie, but I’m surprised that the parents are so oblivious of their rudeness that they didn’t even try to hide the reason they were backing out of the RSVP.

  • Mike May 15, 2017, 8:02 pm

    After the mothers cancelled you should have called them up and said, “That’s OK, I was just going to call you and tell you that your child shouldn’t come because Lucy decided she’d rather invite some other friend rather than your child. I’m sure you’ll understand.”

    • A different Tracy May 16, 2017, 8:01 am

      Oooh, I like this.

    • at work May 16, 2017, 4:44 pm

      Wow, can you imagine? Thanks for the perspective.

  • BlindAsABat May 15, 2017, 8:19 pm

    Wow. That’s insane.

    I’d bet this all stems from the mothers of those boys just not wanting to deny them what they wanted or enduring whining/crying on not being able to attend the superhero party. I can picture the little boys coming home with the news of a special superhero party and being so excited at this prospect and then mom having an “oh crap” moment when she realizes it’s the same day as Lucy’s party. Then come the “yes, honey, of course you can go to the superhero party!” as mom picks up the phone to dial Lucy’s mom.

    … but that’s just what I’m picturing.

    At least they had some courtesy to call and tell they were not coming instead of just not showing up. But that doesn’t help much at all in the long run.

    • Anonymous May 16, 2017, 2:58 pm

      Yes……I can see that happening. Also, it seems as if the superhero party was planned rather last-minute, right? Well, I can see another plot twist in all of this–the superhero party probably sounds cooler to a passel of grade one boys, than it actually will be. I bet anything that this “superhero party” will just be a thrown-together home party with superhero décor, and maybe a screening of some superhero movie. Come Monday at school, the kids who went to Lucy’s party will be talking excitedly about how they got to go swimming/skating/trampolining/playing at the indoor playground, while the “superhero party” kids will have been to a party that was just okay…..and make no mistake, I don’t think there’s anything WRONG with simple home parties for kids, and the reverse situation (kids reneging on a previously-accepted home party for a new invitation to a venue party) would also be rude, but it’d kind of serve those kids right if the “better offer” that they flaked on their commitment to attending Lucy’s party for, wasn’t actually “better.”

  • Ajay May 15, 2017, 8:19 pm

    Well, this is handy, my DH tells me just last night that he has plans on saturday, I reminded him of our previous agreed plans for a friends going away for a years working holiday, and this normally well balanced and polite man actually pouted at me.

    He was asked it he was kidding and he did have the sense of mind to realise that we see the other people weekly and only get to see the soon-to-be-traveler monthly, at best.

    I shall use the above to gently school him in set agreements – or ground him, which ever is more appropriate…

  • sunnydi84 May 15, 2017, 9:01 pm

    So sad for little Lucy. And so wrong of parents to tell you that their boys can’t come because they are going to the other party! Who does that? The only reason I can think of to back out of your RSVP is death (yours or a close friend/relative) or illness. If I got a call like that, I think I might have said, “Oh boy, that does cause problems as I have already paid for Johnny based on you telling me he could go. And, my $20 fee is nonrefundable. And, Lucy will be sad when I tell her Johnny isn’t coming as he’d rather go to H’s party.” And then allow a few moments of awkward silence. There really is no excuse for this rudeness.
    If this kind of behavior is allowed when they’re young, they will end up like my 45 yo brother who can not commit to ANYTHING until the last second, presumably so he can assess all his offers. It’s infuriating. We’ve stopped inviting him to things. Or, we wait until the day before or the day of to invite him. I know, not great etiquette, but I don’t like being part of a pool of offers. Yesterday we literally invited him to go somewhere 2 hours before! He had no other offers at that point, so he was available.
    But, back to the party, it is on the parents to teach their kids that their word means something. It’s a good teaching moment where the parent can ask their son how he would feel if the shoe was on the other foot. And, then making their child honor their commitment. As it it just that, a commitment. Allowing them to back out for a better offer is just wrong.

  • Rebecca May 15, 2017, 9:20 pm

    “The best I could come up with at the moment is to respond, “Oh, what a shame that he’s not coming, especially since I’ve already paid for him to attend. Lucy will be disappointed when I tell her, I’m sure. Thanks for letting me know. ” And then never invite him again.”

    Yes, this. I think these parents need to be told that their flakiness does have an impact on you. What I thought when reading the OP was, “Oh! The deadline for me to confirm numbers with the venue was a week ago (or whenever it was) so I have already paid for Johnny’s spot because you RSVP’d a yes. This does leave me in a bind. I’m sorry to hear he won’t be coming after all.”

    Maybe these parents had to listen to their boys saying, “Aww….but I want to go to the superhero party!” but it was their job to say no, it’s not OK to ditch Lucy just because something better came along. This scenario played out a few times when I was a kid, and sometimes my mother made me go to something I’d agreed to go to even while I was missing out on something newer that had come up. I still remember her telling me, “Anna would be so disappointed.” It taught me respect for people’s feelings.

  • staceyisme May 15, 2017, 10:16 pm

    Slightly off-topic of the etiquette of attending, but interesting as a possible way of solving birthday planning and costs. My very dear friend has a daughter who is artistic and classically feminine. She also has a love of decorating and an absolute mania with organizing. Their family uses a system where the young lady has a fairly elaborate party one year (themed, with home-made decor, games and treats) and has a simple party on the “off” year. I don’t think that she has had many friends miss her parties (although mostly girls have been her guests over the years). She has quite a fun time with planning, shopping, creating and preparing. Mom helps, but it’s her project. The party itself is just the icing on the cake. Perhaps it’s an etiquette issue that she is organizing her own party, at least insofar as preparations. But I must admit that I was struck by the creativity and harmony of this dynamic in their family system.

  • Bea May 15, 2017, 10:18 pm

    Being a kid who was bullied at that age, I just shivered because it sounds like sabotage to me. It sounds like H wasn’t invited and heard about the party. So the parents decided to have their own party and invite only boys, luring the boys who had already confirmed to the OPs party.

    I was the kid who invited people to my birthday party and they’d promise to come, only to be without anyone but my trusted two or three solid friends who also had parents who weren’t snobs, looking down at the kid who lived in a trailer park, despite my parents not having any issues, my mom was a stay at home mom and constantly volunteering at the school, yet the other mothers would give her the cold shoulder at fundraisers because of where we lived.

    I’d shelter your child more than punish these boys for being rude. Cut anyone who is toxic out of her life who decides that they can just say something like “something better came up!”.

    • Amanda H. May 16, 2017, 3:45 pm

      I was bullied as a kid too, and generally only invited my few solid friends to my birthday parties. I think that’s where I got the idea with my kids to only invite a small number and have a manageable at-home party.

      But I would give H’s parents the benefit of the doubt. My kids have brought home enough last-minute birthday invites in the past few years that I think some parents just don’t plan very far ahead and assume that the guests’ families won’t have anything else going on, or are inviting a large-enough number of guests that a handful of “no” answers won’t matter too much. It would take a lot to arrange a deliberate sabotage of another child’s party just because their kid was “snubbed.”

      Your issue with guests promising to come and then just not showing is something else. *shaking head*

  • NostalgicGal May 16, 2017, 12:40 am

    I would have mentioned politely to the mothers that called to cancel about ‘Oh but I already turned in how many for the party and will have to pay for little Marvin whether or not he attends.’ So the other mom might get the idea that it is inconveniencing the host plus costing them anyways. It might have made them make their child stick to the original plans… or offer to offset the cost, or something.

  • Elizabeth Mayhew May 16, 2017, 3:18 am

    My take on this is that perhaps the boy throwing the boy party was hurt that he was omitted from the birthday party invitation list. It is hard to keep kids from talking about the upcoming party, so word gets out that some of the kids were invited and some were not.

    • Jai May 16, 2017, 7:27 am

      OP here… H was invited. Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I hadn’t realized his birthday was within a few days of Lucy’s – his mum politely turned down the invite and explained they had plans.

      • Amanda H. May 16, 2017, 3:46 pm

        Because H’s mother, at least, knows how these things work.

    • Michelle May 16, 2017, 8:54 am

      I was thinking the same thing, Elizabeth. The other mom made it very “boyish” so they boys would want to come to that party instead.

      I love what Marie upthread said “I’d probably be blunt and say: “Oh dear, do you have any thoughts on how to tell Lucy that her friend is no longer coming to her party because he got an invitation he liked better so he cancelled his commitment? I’d like to tell her in a way that will not hurt her feelings on her birthday, do you have experience with this?

      Yes, extremely brutal. But also very clear. Admins advise is better, but oh, how I’d love to hear the silence on the phone when their ears turn red of shame.”

  • Anonymous May 16, 2017, 5:28 am

    I agree with Jeanne, and everyone else here–the OP made plans, and booked (and paid for) the party venue based on the original number of affirmative RSVP’s–so, ten guests at Lucy’s birthday party. In that case, it’s rude for guests to cancel their RSVP’s because they got a “better offer.” It’s not even about not wanting to go to a “girly” party; the reverse situation would be rude as well; if they’d first accepted invitations to the superhero party, but then heard, “Oh, wow, Lucy’s having her party at Cool Venue, whereas Linus’ party is just at his house.” Even so, it would have been rude to Linus, to ditch his party, and rude to Linus’ parents or caregivers, who might have put a lot of time and effort into, say, baking cupcakes, cutting and sewing superhero masks for all the guests, and making a Pin The Lightning Bolt On The Flash game. It’s rude either way, because plans have been made according to the number of affirmative RSVP’s, and then, when the RSVP’s change, those plans have to change too, whether that means paying more money at the venue for fewer guests, having items you bought or made go to waste, or having uneven teams for a planned activity, like laser tag.

    As for the local party venue in question, what kind of venue is it? If it’s the kind of venue that appeals to both boys and girls (like, say, a YMCA that does gym and pool parties), I think even the outnumbered boys will still have fun. Also, I know that this isn’t the point of this post, but I think it’s good for kids, in the long run, to have friends of both sexes, because that way, they’ll see people of the opposite sex as just people, which will make it much easier for them when they’re ready to start dating.

  • Anonymous May 16, 2017, 5:37 am

    P.S., I wouldn’t NEVER invite the boys who skipped out again, because, as a previous poster mentioned, I wouldn’t want to teach Lucy to hold grudges, but I don’t think I’d invite them to anything that required firm plans, or a finalized guest list. So, a future party at home or in the park would be fine, but if Lucy wanted her party to centre around a “firm number” activity, like say, a children’s theatre production that requires tickets, I’d probably tell her, “remember what happened next time, when Justin, Jordan, and Jayden said they were coming to your party, but then changed their minds and went to Linus’ party instead?”; and then either discourage inviting them, or steer her towards the kind of party where amorphous RSVP’s wouldn’t matter. Adults do this all the time–I’m sure most of us have friends who we won’t make firm plans with, because they’ve flaked on us too many times. I know I do.

    • Kate May 16, 2017, 3:37 pm

      It isn’t teaching them to hold grudges, it is teaching them, to quote “believe people when they show you who they are.” These boys and their parents aren’t people who can make a commitment, they are people who don’t care about the time and money you spend for them. So it doesn’t make sense to invite them to anything, because they probably won’t be very good guests. I wouldn’t invite them to anything until they are much older and might have learned (not from their parents) how to commit to an invitation.

  • Lara May 16, 2017, 6:50 am

    Last year we decided to do a big end-of-school party for our kids and their classes. Just a backyard water-fight style thing. All three of our kids’ classes, every one. That was something like fifty kids, maybe more. As of about three days before the party, I had had exactly two children RSVP. It was really hard trying to plan a party, even such an informal one, without knowing how many kids were going to show up. I ended up having a bunch of last-minute texts and enough came to have a fun time, but it really seems that the art of the RSVP has been lost on this current generation of parents.

    • A different Tracy May 16, 2017, 8:14 am

      If the invitations were handed out directly to the kids, there’s a pretty good chance many of the parents had no idea their kids were invited.

    • Dee May 17, 2017, 1:18 am

      You don’t need to hound people to RSVP; their silence is loud enough. Simply call the ones who have and tell them that you’ve decided to do something different – given that the number of guests attending will be much smaller than you had planned – and you’ll pick up the kids and take them to Really-Exciting-Play-Place instead. We’ve done that before and it worked well. Generally people who didn’t RSVP but still show up expecting to attend a party, only to find an empty house, do not say anything beyond that, as they are quite aware of how rude they are. They also tend to RSVP next time, if they are invited again.

      I’ve said it before on this site that, for kid’s parties, I would send out invitations with either the time of the party or the location missing. That way, I’d know that those who didn’t RSVP would not be expecting to attend at all. Those who did want to attend called to let me know that my invitation was missing important information. That’s when I’d tell them that it was my way of getting RSVPs from everyone who intended to come. Some of the moms were pretty excited about using the strategy for their own parties. It worked beautifully.

      • NostalgicGal May 17, 2017, 10:39 am

        I kind of like the ‘party was to be at home’ but because of a truncated (few RSVP’s) rounded up those that responded and taking them to someplace off more fun. Then it gets around that the ones that DID RSVP and got to go do X, more kids might RSVP next time. Positive feedback for doing the right thing… heh.

  • Annon May 16, 2017, 7:32 am

    I had a roommate who did the exact same thing. Would be invited to something, and either wouldn’t RSVP until the very last minute, or not go if something better would show up. (PS. it was a male roommate). He actually once said to me when he didn’t respond to something “I’m waiting to see if something better comes along, if not, then I’ll go.”
    They start it early, they don’t change.

  • Jai May 16, 2017, 7:46 am

    OP here – thanks for all the comments! I actually submitted this a while ago, so I can give an update…
    The party was very successful. The party venue was a soft play / bouncy castle / roller-skating / laser tag place for 6-10 year olds and unisex so the boys who came had a great time. No one seemed to have any issues. The older boy did come and everyone played together, I was glad we invited him though just to even it up a bit.

    Just to clarify – H, who held the other party, was actually invited to Lucy’s, his mum politely RSVP’d no. I’m guessing they had probably already planned his party for that day but hadn’t sent out invites at that point.

    I’ve loving the advice on how to express polite dissatisfaction – I can’t bare to be rude, but ‘oh, that’s a shame, I’ve already paid…’ seems a good way to show I’m not impressed!

    We’ve talked about what we’ll do this year – and after discussion with Lucy, we’re going away somewhere for the weekend as a family instead. I used to hold parties at home until we worked out that by the time I’d done food, party bags and entertainment, it was only marginally more expensive to hold it in a party place, plus I wouldn’t have the clearing up to do! I work very long hours so this was a key consideration! Family members do have parties here in summer (BBQs etc.), but Lucy has a winter birthday and we’re in the UK so we definitely can’t rely on the weather, otherwise I think a park party would be great 🙂

    I still haven’t decided if we will invite the same kids again – I’m really tempted not to. One thing I will do in future is now I know H’s birthday and Lucy’s are within a day or two of each other, I will try and liaise with H’s mum to ensure we don’t arrange things for the same day. Not that it will help bad manners of course. If something more exciting comes up, I have no doubt the same parents / children would pull out. Thanks for all the advice, I love reading everyone’s points of view.

    • AppleEye May 16, 2017, 1:40 pm

      So glad it worked out! And thanks for not being one of those greedy, entitled people who would go so far as to ‘invoice’ the parents of the no-shows!

    • Darshiva May 21, 2017, 12:48 am

      I think liaising with H’s mother is a great idea. It’s not about avoiding the rudeness of the guests. It’s about making sure that H can attend Lucy’s party (since you say he was invited, so obviously Lucy likes him enough to invite him).

      So glad to hear that the intentional sabotage theory is wrong.

  • A different Tracy May 16, 2017, 8:04 am

    I’m surprised that some of you seem willing to guilt the other parents into respecting their RSVP and sending their child to your party instead of the other one. I’d be concerned that the boys who preferred to go to a different party would be party-poopers at this one. Or were you meaning to just nudge the offending parents enough to make them feel bad, but not enough to make them come to your party?

    • Devil's Advocate May 16, 2017, 9:30 am


      what do you mean by “willing to guilt the other parents into respecting their RSVP and sending their child to your party instead of the other one”?

      I think it is the only correct thing to do – to honour my commitment. Whoever RSVPs “yes” but then opts out for a “more interesting” event, is incredibly rude and SHOULD feel guilty.

      • A different Tracy May 17, 2017, 8:02 am

        What I mean is, some of these replies seem designed to hound the would-be-guest’s parent into bringing their child to Lucy’s party instead of the one they’d prefer to go to. And while that’s obviously the polite thing to do, once you’ve said “we’ve had a better offer,” it’s too late to do the polite thing. If I were Lucy’s mother, I wouldn’t want the company of guests who clearly wanted to be at a different party. I wouldn’t really expect the best behavior from them. So I think a better response would be to make them a *little* guilty, but not harangue them about how much you’ve paid and how hurt Lucy will be, to the point that they decide to send their kids to Lucy’s party.

    • Amanda H. May 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

      Probably enough to make them feel bad, and think twice before reneging on an accepted invitation in the future. So that next time something “better” comes up, they remember the guilt and go, “maybe we shouldn’t skip out on the one we already said ‘yes’ to.”

  • Tan May 16, 2017, 8:13 am

    IF someone said “I’m sure you’ll understand” after being that rude. I think I’d simply play dumb i.e. “no I don’t think I do understand, can you explain?” “no sorry I’m not getting it, you RSVP’d yes, no emergency has come up but it’s a no” “maybe explain it to me like I’m a 8 year old girl… imagine you are talking to Lucy, what would you say to explain this behaviour?”. It’s not very polite but it hammers the message home.

  • Lindsay May 16, 2017, 10:54 am

    Completly unrelated, but I haven’t thought of this in years and wanted to share. When my parents divorced, we moved to a different state and I was having a really hard time making friends. I had made this one, singular friend on the school bus, and we sat together everyday. After 3-4 months, she had a birthday party and invited me and I WAS SO EXCITED. So I get all dressed, pick out her perfect gift, and go over to her house for an afternoon of makeovers and games and cake and all of that. The party was supposed to end at 7, but by 8, none of the parents had picked their kids up and the rest of the party goers were looking at me funny.

    That’s when I realized it was a sleepover and I wasn’t invited. I ran home crying and wouldn’t let my mom call her mom to give her a piece of her mind, but my momma was HOPPIN mad. I was just hurt and broken.

    Anyway, my point, I think, is that removing kids from a guest list based on others actions seems a little harsh.

  • Pamela Love May 16, 2017, 12:23 pm

    This is actually a plot I see frequently in children’s magazines and books. The main character has RSVP’d that she or he will go to a friend’s party and then gets a supposedly “better” invitation. However, the parent always insists the child honors the original commitment and she or he has a great time.

    The one time I saw this plot and the child sneaked out to the party she preferred, she was bullied and had a horrible time and was so sorry.

  • Emmy May 16, 2017, 4:11 pm

    I am a mom of a 5 year old and if the situaton would have come up with her, I would have her go to the first that she RSVP’d. These parents are teaching their kids, it is OK to blow somebody off if a ‘better’ offer comes along and that their word doesn’t mean much (after all it would be easy to make all sorts of promises, then decide not to follow them because there are all sorts of reason to change your mind). This may come to bite the parents in the back – if a 7 year old thinks it is OK to blow off one party after committing to attend, when the child grows up, he’ll probably think it’s ok to blow off mom and dad for Thanksgiving if a ‘better’ offer comes along.

  • Cat May 16, 2017, 5:51 pm

    I have to vote for not inviting those boys again. This sort of behavior, if not stopped early, only gets worse with age.
    I had an adult friend with whom I’d make plans and then, shortly before our arranged outing, she would call me and say, “Oh, I’ve decided I’d rather stay home and clean house.” Her house was immaculate so it was not as if the health department was closing in on her.
    I just quit asking her to do anything.

    • Darshiva May 21, 2017, 12:53 am

      Ouch! Not only rude, but insulting, too. “Yeah, you’re my friend, and I like you sooooo much that I actually prefer housework to enjoying your company. PSYCH!”

      I’m glad that you “had” the friend, and not “have” the friend. I should put “friend” in quotes, as well.

  • Princess Buttercup May 17, 2017, 9:47 am

    My response would have been something like, “So you’re telling me that you made a promise to be somewhere but are now going back on your promise just because something better came up? What an unfortunate example to set for your kid and mine. But I have to pay for him whether you do the right thing or not so I it is my kid you’ll have to speak to and tell that you can’t be trusted.”.
    Sure some would say that is rude, however I do not find the truth to be rude. Everyone says they want honesty but then when an opportunity for honesty arises they get made and hate the person who is honest. No one learns if everyone babies them.

  • Anonymous May 18, 2017, 2:15 pm

    Oh, here’s another question, that seems to fit in with this story: When I was six years old, and in grade one, I had a Halloween party at my house (obviously my mom helped plan and host this party). Anyway, my childhood best friend (let’s call her……Svetlana) RSVP’ed “yes” to my party, because, well, she was my best friend. Then, a little while later, she got an invitation to another Halloween party being thrown by a boy in our class (let’s call him……Perchik), who we were both friendly with, but we were closer with one another than with him. Anyway, Svetlana’s mother’s solution (since six is a little young to manage one’s own social calendar) was that Svetlana would attend half of Perchik’s party, and then half of mine. My mom was upset about this, but I was happy that Svetlana was still coming to my party, and not ditching it outright for Perchik’s party. In this case, who’s right? I mean, a good chunk of the class had already RSVP’ed “yes” to my party by the time Perchik handed out invitations to his, so I think Svetlana’s mother wanted Svetlana to make an appearance at Perchik’s party so as not to hurt his feelings (because he might not have had a lot of guests), but technically, my mom was correct about it being proper etiquette to honour one’s original RSVP.

    • Darshiva May 21, 2017, 12:56 am

      Sheesh. She could have at least given your party the first slot, since you were the first to invite her. And it’s rude to come late, so she’s really being rude twice.

      Who’s right? I think your mother is right (Svetlana’s mom was rude), and you are understanding and forgiving.

      • Anonymous May 23, 2017, 7:36 am

        Actually, I didn’t see it that way–I think I preferred having Svetlana come to my party after Perchik’s, because that way, she got to stay for the cake. She didn’t even miss much; just the sort of “ice-breaker” craft activity that we started with (making ghosts out o f Kleenex). I think Perchik’s party actually started earlier than mine, so Svetlana didn’t have to miss much of either one of our parties. I guess what I’m trying to ask is, do the rules of “rude” and “polite” change in situations like this, with young children whose feelings might be hurt at having a poor turn-out for their respective parties?

  • Girlie May 18, 2017, 3:11 pm

    When I was little, my older sister, who was in middle school at the time, threw a birthday party. It was her first “teenager” birthday party, sans the aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. that usually got invited. She invited a lot of kids from her school and received a lot of confirmations…. and only her best friend showed up.

    My sister was devastated. Even at my age – 5? – I could see the disappointment and hurt that was etched in every line of her body and face. I have carried that with me all of these years, and I do NOT rescind RSVPs unless there’s an illness or emergency, and I try to attend every event (within reason) that I’m invited to because I don’t want anyone to ever feel so rejected on account of me. I would certainly NEVER dump one friend because a better offer came along.

    Poor Lucy. Kids are resilient, but they are also perfectly capable of understanding rejection, and I hope she feels all right.

  • SadieMae May 19, 2017, 11:50 pm

    When I was about 12, a friend from school (not a close friend, but still) invited me to her slumber birthday party and I said yes, as did many other girls in the class. Then a more popular girl scheduled a birthday party on the same night. I was desperate to go to the more popular girl’s party, but my mother was firm: I had said yes to Friend A and was going to Friend A’s party.

    I was so mad, but in retrospect my mother was absolutely right. And thank goodness she stood her ground, because I was the only guest to show up at A’s. Some of the girls who had said yes just decided to go to Friend B’s party and no one let A know. It was pretty awful – A was fairly new in town and she was really upset, although she tried valiantly to hide it from me. It wasn’t a very fun night – but at least she wasn’t totally abandoned! I was always glad my mom stood firm – and I’ve never let my kids break an RSVP either, unless they were sick.

  • Shalamar May 22, 2017, 2:34 pm

    My birthday is in July, and back when I used to throw parties to celebrate, I’d lose count of the number of people who’d say “I MIGHT come to your party. If the weather is good, though, I’m going camping instead.” So nice to feel like an afterthought! That’s why I don’t have big parties for my birthday anymore. Just a handful of our closest friends and some pizza.

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