Tag Along Trouble: Dealing with an uninvited playdate

by epi on April 4, 2013

Q: I was always taught that it was rude to invite myself anywhere to anything and never did. I have 6 children ranging from 6-28 years of age. Over the years, I have found more and more that if my children invite their classmates for an afternoon of playing Barbies or whatever the case may be, the parent frequently asks: Can Sally bring (older/younger) sister or brother Jane or Jerry? They do this at birthday parties as well. I find it extremely rude however I haven’t found a polite way of saying ‘no’ and find myself with a house full of ‘uninvited siblings’ and quite angry. Sometimes they do not even ask they just ‘dump’ the children and sort of pretend that the invitation was for both.

A: You are correct. It is inappropriate for a parent to ask if another sibling can also come over for the play date or attend the party. Nonetheless, we would suggest the next time a parent asks that you simply say that you’re sorry but you would prefer just having Sally come over. You don’t need to give any reason. If a parent brings another sibling to a party, you again could simply say you’re sorry but that only Sally was invited and that you had planned the party for a certain number of guests. If the parent is embarrassed or upset, so be it. The rudeness is on her part – not yours. However, this is only a suggestion.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Vanna Keiler April 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm

EPI, I think it’s an excellent suggestion.

There seems to be a surfeit of topics doing rounds on advice and etiquette columns nowadays, such as this, where the question is always “someone was invited, but wanted to invite so-and-so also. What do I do?”.

Whatever happened to the good old days, where people politely accepted invitations (or declined politely) and did not try to orchestrate or customize the event to their own comfort or needs? If one cannot attend an adults-only party because one has children, then one need only decline the invitation. Similarly, if one wants to invite their entire family or additional friends to a wedding or other event which specifically stated certain invitees, aside from calling and asking if so-and-so can also attend, either accept or decline the invitation.

The key to etiquette and courtesy is to evaluate the invite “as is”, and determine if one can attend or not attend according to the invitation at hand. Don’t make assumptions, don’t try to inconvenience the coordinators by customizing aspects of the event to your own needs. If you cannot eat food you are certain will be served at a wedding, eat before you go and have the salad (or nothing). Of course, one could argue that invitations are in the eye of the beholder, as in “one should accommodate one’s guests to their best abilities”. This may hold true for smaller venues such as intimate get-togethers with few friends at one’s house. The larger the event and the number of people, the more the guests should assume they need to make their own arrangements if they have specific requirements or needs…or just politely decline.


Lilli April 4, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I agree with this advice for when you are making plans, but if the parents just shows up with an extra kid to a birthday party let the other be included – it’s not their fault that their parents don’t have manners and the kid probably didn’t see the invitation to know they weren’t invited. I would mention for the next party which children are specifically invited and maybe call the previously offending parents to remind them.


Joanna April 5, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I had a childhood friend whose mother ALWAYS did this — it would be a girls-only party, and the mom would drop off my friend along with her toddler brother. Not only was he younger and a boy, but he was, quite frankly, a demon child whose behavior was incredibly difficult to control. As far as I know, however, my mother never said anything out of politeness or fear of rocking the boat. I have Little Brother in the group photos of a decade’s worth of birthdays, LOL


Cyra April 17, 2013 at 1:34 pm

A totally agree about not extending the invitation if the mom asks ahead of time, but I think this changes when she’s actually standing at your front door. If it’s a drop-off-your-kid kind of party then I totally agree with EPI about standing your ground. But if parents are staying then you need to be a gracious host to whomever shows up. I would though, reconsider inviting this family to my events in the future.


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