Sunday, 1 November 2009

Scary mummy business

I have offended someone else- again! I hate when this happens.

This is the world I live in nowadays. The delicate and intricate world of a mother in an English suburb. A world full of rules and etiquette. Things to be done in a certain way, words to be organized in particular sequences with subtle meanings and nuances.

Having had a week away from my usual motherly chores, I jumped off that plane and landed deep into something I always found stressful- organizing my daughter’s birthday party.

How can something so pleasant (theoretically) end up causing me so much headache?

I have to admit, I acted a bit Azeri last year and went overboard to throw the biggest party I could (not really) afford. In the end, I felt cheated. Most of my friends, some with a lot more money and therefore nothing to prove, settled for shared parties, no parties at all or something very modest. I of course, had to have an entertainer, 25 kids and hot food for adults.

But as I said before, I try to learn from my mistakes. So, this year, when my daughter asked if she could have a small 'girls only' tea party at home, I thought that might be quite nice.

I typed a list of her girlfriends, and imagined a very civilized picture in my head: the games they could play, the food I would prepare and decorations I would hang around my house. A pleasant day, surrounded by a few mothers drinking a glass of chilled wine, whilst my daughter and her good friends played nicely. But then I remembered about siblings.

I inserted column C in my excel spreadsheet. And my head span.

This little friend had an older brother. This one had two. This one had a tiny baby, still attached to a breast. This one has a toddler brother who is into opening kitchen drawers and taking everything out. Surely, I thought to myself, if I word the invitation carefully, people will understand. They would maybe appreciate that I am doing it low key this year. That I am dong it at home. But what if they don’t? I might end up with not 10 but in fact, over 20 children in my modestly sized suburban home.

So I panicked. But then, having thought about it, I thought: hold on a minute!

The girls are 4. OK, that is not quite the teenage years yet, when they would sneakily smoke a fag and snog boys in bushes around the corner; but they are surely big enough for some mothers to happily drop them off. Other mothers might in fact, prefer to leave their toddlers or babies at home with a nanny, so that they could spend some quality time with their older daughter....

So, all that was left was to ask nicely. 'OK-I thought- 'I can do that!'
Not so easy, but possible. A bit like those people who put ‘No children, please’ on their wedding invitation. And all the breeders hate their guts. But hey, it is their wedding, and their right to request the party they want should be respected by their friends and family. That is just what I think.

‘Just put: “Sorry, no siblings” on the invites?’-suggested my mother in law. I agonized over that. No. Could not do it. Too rude, I thought. I would email my closest mummy friends first, explain the situation and see what happens.

And everybody was OK with it. Or maybe, some were OK and some pretended quite well.

Except for just one friend. I guess, out of 10 it is not a bad result. But it still hurts. Things that got mentioned included parenting styles, cultural differences, private vs public school etiquette and so on. Ouch, ouch and ouch again. Right into my solar plexus.

So, NO- she said and it felt like she slapped me across the face with a cold fish- I won’t be able to come, I am sorry.

Did I see this coming? No. Did I expect this particular friend to over-react like this? Not in a million years. But I never do.

So there we go. Something that I thought was a good idea is now turning into a painful experience.

At another child’s birthday party yesterday, as everyone was getting ready to leave, I noticed my daughter chatting to the entertainer.

- What were you saying to Auntie Julie? – I asked her in the car.
- I invited her to my birthday party!- she replied excitedly.

Next year I am going back to the big hall option. And inviting everyone who is still friends with me.


  1. Some mums do take things like that personally, unfortunately. I suppose they picture in their heads their poor little angels who are not welcome at a birthday party. But, surely, they should understand.. At the end of the day they will face the problem twice (or more) a year and will have to deal with 2 sets of siblings...:)

  2. There are probably some cultural issues in this case. But 1 mom out of 10 it is not a bad result in deed!

  3. Here in US siblings never ever come to kids B-Day parties and parents never stay unless you ask them to do so ahead of time. It’s still a stressful event but only because you have to watch a group of kids to make sure they don’t get into any trouble.

  4. Nata: That's why I like mothers to stay! :)

  5. My niece had her second birthday a month ago. And yes, this is a stressful situation for the parents. And it shouldn't be like that... I guess.
    But I agree with some previous comments: you did it nicely.

  6. I don't see you did anything wrong. That mom must have taken it personally. So, don't worry. You are a nice scary AZeri:) Happy B-day to your daughter!

  7. You didn't do wrong. A party in your own home is not an appropriate place for mums to turn up with siblings in tow and expect house room. She seemed far too sensitive to me.

    Now you've made me think if I've offended another mum by declining a party invitation - I can feel a post coming on!

  8. I'm no mom but I think you didn't do anything wrong! Usually you are not supposed to bring people over if they have not been invited ...
    At least that's why I think. Coz if everyone did that you would end up with the whole neighbourhood in your house :)))

    (maybe cultural differences indeed lol)

    P.S Happy B-day to your daughter :))

  9. You House, your party, you invite who you want, if they dont like it then tough. I wonder how your friend would feel if uninvited children turned up at their party.
    Happy Birthday to the little one.

  10. I think mothers can be sensitive when it comes to their "chado" as we say in Russian....Not sure how to translate the word chado...any helpers? :)))) I guess I could say their pride and joy? hmm...

  11. I have unleashed my imagination and came up with this alternative for "chado" - how about we turn "chado" into "childo":)) This is not the exact translation but a good play of words:)

  12. Eh? Someone actually objected to your suggesting that a birthday party for you daughter be composed of just her friends and not the entire family as well? Good grief. Noo way in heck that I would give house room too everybody's random sibling and their mother for a birthday party. In my house or otherwise to be honest. Oh, I am going to be sooo popular.

  13. I have only a week left till my daughter's B-day and haven't booked any place yet! Help!!! We really wanted to skip the party this year and have a nice family outing in her honor, just the 4 of us, but birthday for her is sacred, she started begging to have at least her few best friends over and so now I'm frantically searching for a place nearby that we could book for a small cozy party. I can not say "no siblings" either, sounds a little rude to me, but on the other hand if it's "girlfriends tea party", it's not too bad and very clear that it's only girls and only her friends and not friends' siblings. Yet if you have guts to add "no siblings please" you shouldn't be bothered by someone's negative reaction or offense, you've got to respect their feelings as you want them to respect your restrictions.