1. Gigi

    How to word invitations for a children’s-only birthday party?

    Where I live in the US, it’s common to have kids be chaperoned by parents to birthday parties, due to the current trend of having children’s parties at venues like Chuck E Cheese, etc. Instead for my son’s 6th birthday I’d love to have a bunch of his friends over with ideally NO parents, to have traditional fun and games, running races, etc.

    However, a) how would I word the invitations to politely indicate that it’s really for kids only and b) I wouldn’t want to turn parents off who might not have been to my place before and therefore might not want to trust their kid to my care – how would I deal with that?

    I really don’t want to have to ‘entertain’ parents at the party. It’s about the kids. I want the kids to have a ton of fun and I feel fully up to the task of creating a great party that they’ll love with fun food and games, without other adults present. Is there a polite way to indicate this on the invitation?

    • Alicia

      6 is about the age that parties just start moving from a parents attend to parents drop off the kids and leave for a few hours and then come back and pick the kids back up. At least based on the invites that my 5 year old neices ( about to turn 6) get the difference in invites seems to be to call it a drop off party.
      So the invite would say something like kids name on invite then
      You are invited to a Drop off Party to celebrate Birthday kids Birthday
      From 2-4pm on Date
      at location
      Please RSVP to parent name email and phone

      • Gigi

        Thanks Alicia! That’s a wonderful way of doing it! Drop off Party sounds great. Thanks for the sample invitation wording too. You’ve been a great help.

        BTW – I know that purely by etiquette having the invitation addressed to the child’s name should be enough, but it’s not really enough because a lot of times parents simply assume they are wanted to chaperone their child. So your “Drop off Party” is a wonderful way of making it clear without sounding rude.

        • Alicia

          You are right at the border of the change in expectation of drop off vs parents stay parties. Expect the parents will want to come in and make sure you have their contact info in case of ether emergency or more likely kid meltdown.

      • Hi Gigi,

        Alicia’s suggestion is great; another suggestion would be to word the invitation however you normally would, but then indicate “drop-off” and “pick-up” times.

        It’s Mikey’s Birthday!
        Drop off: 4pm
        Pick up: 6pm

        Something like that. Have a great party!

        • Elizabeth

          I like this better, tying the words “drop off” and “pick up” to the times. “Drop Off Party” is a weird term…it’s a Birthday Party, right? In any case, when the parents call to RSVP, that’s the time to reiterate that they should “drop off Billy at 4 and pick him up at 6.”

        • I agree with this–calling it a Drop-Off Party sounds a bit odd…what is a Drop-Off Party? If the indication that it is children-only can be worked into the time of the party, that would be, I think, a little more elegant.

  2. Gigi

    Hi Cyra and Elizabeth – yet more wonderful ideas thanks! I can see how writing Drop off and Pick Up on the invitation would be a great way to get the idea across instantly, and also to remind people the drop off and pickup times when they RVSP.

    I would only have one concern about the wording you suggested Cyra, and that is, how could I make it clear that it’s only the invited guest that is to come (and not siblings)? I know that’s a whole separate issue, and that any parent that knows even the basics of etiquette would know that the invitation is for the person to whom it’s addressed. I felt that Alicia’s opening wording was clearer that the invitation is for just the attendee. At the same time I loved Cyra’s wording.

    To combine both the concepts, what do people think of:

    Todd is cordially invited to Mikey’s Birthday
    Date: …
    Location: …
    Drop off: …
    Pick up: …

    Does this sound OK? What do you all think? I’m keen to get as much input as possible. Thanks so much!

    • I think having the name of the invitee in the actual invitation is so personal; I love it! Between that and the name on the envelope you *should* be ok. If you think a third reminder is necessary, then you can always say something when they RSVP–“Great! We look forward to seeing Todd on Sunday at 4!”

    • Perfect. Yes, address the invitee by name on the envelope and invitation, and, if necessary (as Cyra suggests), when they call to RSVP. I like your wording of “Todd is cordially invited…”– it makes it very clear you are only inviting the one child.

  3. Waverly

    My mother-in-law and I don’t have an easy relationship. What started off well a decade ago has since deteriorated into the merest of pleasantries when we get together for the holidays. It’s true that all of the daughters-in-law have had issues with her in the past; she has a habit of making snide remarks (about our natal families, for one) when we are within earshot but not quite in the same room.

    Over the past year or so, I haven’t been as cordial as I should have. I regret that I didn’t follow the rule that two wrongs don’t make a right. There was never a blow up, but I’ve not been overly gracious either.

    During one memorable phone call to congratulate me profusely about my pregnancy, I gave her the conversational equivalent of the cold shoulder. Three years ago when we adopted our son from Korea, she was hardly supportive, while when we were expecting our first (a biological child) she had been ecstatic.

    To my chagrin, I remain bothered by the contrast to this day. At the same time, I know I need to let it go and that a better person would have by now.

    We are supposed to see each other before the end of the summer. My children are (thankfully) oblivious to our mutual distrust . My husband is supportive of my position but naturally does not want to make waves.

    The truth is that we – my mother-in-law and I – don’t see each other often. Major holidays and perhaps two weekends over the summer are about it.

    I am looking for advice as to how to proceed. I don’t trust getting close – my husband describes her behind closed doors as a “major b****”, but surely there’s a better way forward than more of this ice-cold quid pro quo.

    I want to give my husband a break and be a role model for our children. Any advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

    • Ehnonnie Mowse

      Hi Waverly,
      I am still new to this site, and put my reply in the wrong place as a new thread.
      I hope some of the regulars give some thought to this soon. It won’t be long before the major holidays are upon us.

      • Waverly

        Thank you, Nonnie, for your support and recommendation to speak with my husband. His feeling is that nothing good will come from “clearing the air”; it would only make her more vicious. Knowing that I have his support helps tremendously.

    • Alicia

      A few thoughts.
      1. Part of the reason for the contrast may be that you gave her a cold shoulder about the first kid may explain her not gushing about the second kid. It might be related to the differences in how they entered your family but it may not be and could be a response to how to treated her in relationship to new grandkids. I do not know.
      2. I know my mom never really liked her mother in law ,my grandma, due to her cold welcome into the family before I was born. Mom was always civil but rarely could be found in conversation with grandma at family events and instead would chat with others in the family. This continued until grandma passed away. I suggest the same. You will see her at family events. Say hello be civil and then go grab a drink and meander into chatting with other family members.

    • Andra

      Some other options:
      When she makes snotty comments, respond in a mild tone, “I’m not sure what you mean by that, MIL”. Also good: “Why do you say that?” and “I’m not sure I understood your comment” and “I’m sorry, I don’t think I heard you right.”

      If you don’t want to talk about something, a simple “I’m sorry, I’m really not comfortable talking about that, tell me about your …. “. If she comes back with “Well why not?” or some other return to the conversation, a simple “I’m just not comfortable with that.” is acceptable.

      It sounds like you’ve been either putting up with it or being cold and somewhat passive aggressive. I give you kudos for wanting to change the relationship. It is perfectly possible to be both polite and call someone on their behavior.

      • Nonnie Mowse

        Hi Andra, not sure to whom your July 15, 3:23 comment was directed but thank you for sharing it!

        I don’t know if I was being passive aggressive, I do know that shyness and fear drove most of my behavior for most of my life so if I was p-a, it might have been me trying to protect myself from what might happen. I would sometimes participate in uncomfortable conversations when pressured, just to try to fit in, and then feel miserable for days afterward. Since my MIL would start to argue in front of everyone after any challenge from anyone, I just put up with it.

        This is where psychotherapy and good manners are kind of colliding and confusing for me. It never would have occurred to me that I was ALLOWED to call someone on their behavior, especially an elder, and in front of people at a special gathering. That is my conditioning. I have had a chronic illness (no cure) for 24 years that has kept me from attending most family gatherings anyway. But those that I am able to attend, I do not want to have my limited energy used up on having to be ‘at the ready’ for discord, especially in front of MIL’s grandchildren. Your suggestions are really good, I just have to figure out how to decide if the moments are battles to choose or avoid. Thanks again. There has been so much good knowledge shared here from everyone.

  4. Ehnonnie Mowse

    Waverly, I could have written your question, with a few of the details different. Things between both my in-laws and myself have become very strained. I have read over the years that it isn’t my place to have discourse with them, that it’s my husband’s job. But my husband (who was not raised with any traditional etiquette) disagrees and thinks conflict should be handled between the people having it. And somehow, he’s never in the room when things are said, so he’s not comfortable stepping in because he wasn’t witness first hand.

    The trickiest thing for me is when does rudeness actually qualify as verbal abuse? And how should it be handled if it’s the latter, and done in front of a group of people? This is probably a question for a completely different kind of forum, but while I’ve been trying to be respectful of the differences between our backgrounds, I am weary of the tension.

    One thing comes to mind Waverly, have you asked your husband what might help or what would make things worse? I had that conversation with my husband, and it was really helpful for me to decide how to proceed.

    Wishing you luck… Nonnie

    • Dear Waverly and Nonnie,

      Strained family relationships are always difficult and you have my sympathies. From an etiquette perspective, the most you can do is make sure your own behavior is above reproach. Now this doesn’t mean you have to allow yourself to be verbally abused; it is completely fine to walk away and leave the room when rudeness is directed toward you. Nor do you have to fake a level of trust and intimacy that doesn’t exist–this is where those polite small-talk skills come in handy. As your children get older they will start to notice the friction between mom and grandma, and you will be a great role model to them by remaining polite and civil.

      • Waverly

        Thank you, Cyra! I am quite good at small talk…and certainly have the ability to walk away. I will remember this advice at our next get together. Much appreciated.

      • Vanna Keiler

        I like Cyra’s suggestion to Waverly’s question, and second the motion that one need not tolerate any abusive behavior or dialogue for the sake of family peace, as these issues tend to fester and eventually blow themselves out of proportion. In other words, don’t hold it in and tolerate it, to later have it out with her. Being civil, keeping the discussion to a minimum and recognizing that we must deal the hand we are played is the healthiest attitude. And I wouldn’t worry about the children or their perceptions of any friction between you two: children tend to be aware but not really care if it doesn’t affect them – our family knew my mother’s views of my father’s family and respected them, but it didn’t stop our fun during family get-togethers or our own perceptions of what we thought of them. Good luck!

      • Ehnonnie Mowse

        Thank you Cyra. I’ve always had trouble setting boundaries and thinking on my feet to know what to say to set them. The other problem is, my m-i-l seems to have a notion that etiquette was for the rich and they kept the ‘rules’ from her because she was poor. I was not rich growing up (and am not now either), middle-middle to lower middle class but my family is also ‘older’ than hers by about ten years. So there are a mix of economic, societal and cultural differences that I am constantly trying to be aware of to not hurt her feelings. It’s difficult though, when she insists on discussing topics I was taught were inappropriate and when I try to dodge, I can tell she thinks it’s because I think she’s inferior somehow which couldn’t be further from the truth. I am just on the private and shy side in those areas and wish not to participate with things that are personal with someone I don’t entirely trust with the information.

        • Vanna Keiler

          Hi Ehnonnie. Surely, surely, your MIL should have gauged by now that regardless of her feelings of inferiority (which sounds like a ridiculous excuse), certain topics do not make for public or trivial conversation. I would not worry too much about economic/societal/cultural differences when discussing personal information about yourself: universally-speaking, people “get it” when one does not wish to divulge their personal information. Perhaps the MIL has to learn to be patient and earn your trust, and learn not to bring up personal topics with you in front of a group or alone. I think you simply need some tools to deal with unexpected comments. How about the next time she asks you a question you are not prepared to answer, you:

          (1) Shrug your shoulders and smile, to buy yourself time to think up an answer. If no response can be thought up, excuse yourself and walk away.
          (2) Say “wow”, and pause, to give yourself time to answer.
          (3) Do what some others do: An “I don’t know” with a smile, then changing the subject, may also allow a smooth transition to other people in the group. Or if it’s just you and her, remark on her dress, earrings, hair, etc. or ask her something.
          (4) Do 1 through 3 in order, until she recognizes what topics kill a conversation, and what bring a smile to your face.

          • Ehnonnie Mowse

            Thank you Vanna, for your reply at 6:04pm. I hope this is posted in the right space.

            I will store your advice in my new repertoire. I have known her for 30 years, and doubt she will change much. She thinks shouldn’t have to change? Past attempts to excuse myself from whatever have elicited under her breath snotty comments just loud enough for others to hear. I think she truly believes I am excluding her, and just her. I don’t really know the cause, I just have to try to wing it to try not to agitate her further.

            My mother, with laser beams from her eyes and fire emanating from her aura, taught me to be kind to all, no matter what race, creed etc.. Respect all elders. A snotty tone was a verbally punishable offense in our home. A flip side to that is that I didn’t know I was allowed or how to set boundaries. So at my later age, I am just now learning. Thank you again Vanna for helping! Nonnie

  5. Ehnonnie Mowse

    Could someone please tell me which ‘reply’ button I use, I thought I replied to Cyra but it showed up much further down the page. Is it the one above or the one below? Thank you kindly… Nonnie

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