I’m sorry, but I could not let this go without mention. In part because it seems like the whole world (literally) has jumped on the bandwagon today. So what’s my voice among, literally, thousands who have an opinion over the little boy invoiced for not turning up to a friend’s birthday party.
In all of these voices, I think another child seems to have been forgotten. The actions of this mother, in issuing the invoice have not only catapulted her into family living rooms around the world (I was reading Tweets this evening from Canada, America and Australia). These actions have created a monster – you could hardly refer to it as an elephant in the room. I mean, imagine next year… birthday party invites are sent out…. the response from invited children is going to be one of two: immediate RSVP (for fear of missing the cut off point and resulting invoice) or a number of children politely declining and what will end of being a flat birthday celebration for an innocent child. Let’s face it, the polite declines won’t come from the children will they – all those parents at school will have a view on this tonight? I can picture the conversations in the playground now. Battle lines drawn. Wild West music playing in the background. Tumble weed rolling by. My experience of playground politics says that ‘sitting on the fence’ will not be tolerated. Even those parents who don’t want to voice an open opinion will sneak off to the side to talk in hushed tones. Eyeing carefully the two sides of the battle. And I repeat… somewhere in the middle is child whose friendship group is going to take a bit of a reshuffle over the coming weeks.
So is there a safe place to stand in this emotive battle of wills? Yes, I know first hand how frustrating it is when invited children don’t make it to parties and yes it can and will cost you when this happens. But what I would ask is what price do you place on your own child’s happiness? A birthday party is the one time in the year where they are the sole centre of attention (unless like me your birthday is one day apart from your younger siblings!!) I always stopped short of the ‘whole class being invited’ syndrome. I always saw that as some sort of points scoring opportunity – my child’s party is bigger than yours…. Our children had up to 10 children most of the time and fewer if we were having a more expensive treat. Only their best friends and family friends invited. This helped to keep a sensible lid on what could have become an already expensive day. So having asked ‘what cost..?’, I hoped we struck a sensible chord. But yes… with limited numbers, how annoying when a child just didn’t turn up. I’ve read comments made by the invoice-wielding mother that the invitation (originally accepted) had all appropriate contact information on there – so there was no excuse about not being able to retract the invitation. But I’ve been that mum who wrote the party details on the family wall planner and then threw the invite away, only to find I forgot to make note of the time and/or location! I’ve also been the ‘double booked mum’! And… stand by.. I also once cleanly forgot about a birthday party which had not made it to the family wall planner. That resulted in an extra special gift for the forgotten child and a bottle of white fizz for the frazzled mummy! But in all that time… after 14 years of children’s parties and endless rounds of sandwiches, I never, ever, EVER thought about invoicing a non-attender! Genius but, in my view oh so very foolish. Not that I hadn’t thought negative things about non-attenders… the worst action I ever carried out was to not repeat the invitation! The reason… because whatever I thought, however I felt, however much out-of-pocket I might have been (which wasn’t massive) … MY priority… my ONLY priority was my child, the birthday child and this extended to their relationships with friends at school. Child No2 (the puppy like boy) has some mates with dubious table manners, strange humour and an obsession with bodily functions… but they’re his mates and they’re not causing any harm (most of the time!). It might not be my choice of behaviour and I have been known to (gently) put my foot down, but essentially I want him to be able to bring his mates home, play console games, eat the contents of my fridge (with permission!) and for them to feel happy in our home. This poor little boy today will FOREVER be known as the kid whose mum takes you to court if you step out of line. He’s only just started school… my heart goes out to him.
I guess my closing thoughts are based around where this stops….? If this makes it to the Small Claims Court and IF a judge finds in favour of the aggrieved mother … what next? Terms and conditions for accepting a wedding invitation? Invoice for food not eaten at Great Uncle George’s 80th birthday? 1/50th charge for hall hire for missing Aunt Sal’s retirement bash?! I’m reaching for my calculator to work out if we break even… events we have missed (with genuine reason) versus those who have missed our events?!
It’s my birthday this weekend and you know what… I think I might just take my sister for a drink down the local to celebrate hers too!! It’ll be safer! I mean we can’t surely sue one another…?!