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Friday, August 7, 2015

Birthday parties in the modern age

My kids are turning seven next Monday, and to celebrate, I'm throwing them a party at a local bowling alley on Saturday.

Now, when I was a kid, we all still lived close to our extended family, so my network of aunts, uncles and cousins was virtually limitless. Because of that, my mother had extra hands on board, and extra friends of friends and siblings to help undertake this task. And at the very least, SOMEONE would show up to my party because they were related and their mom brought them.

But it never got to that point because when I was growing up, the Internet wasn't a thing. In order for my friends to get together, my parents had to make an effort to get to know their parents, and they did. But it was also easier because everyone was in the same boat. Communities had to get to know each other. They were there for life. Other parents stuck at the tee-ball game would chat to you because they didn't have smart phones and their network of friends far away in the computer. They exchanged phone numbers. We had a post-it note with my friends' number on it in our cabinet for 20 years, no lie. And it wasn't weird to go out and ask for the numbers and then use them.

When my kids were in kindergarten, I went to a parent-teacher conference night and basically attacked other parents for their phone numbers. And I never used but a few of those numbers because the parents and I never had cause to interact again, and honestly, I don't even remember their names. I should add that no one has asked for my number. It's just not something that's done anymore. I've never gotten a call from a parent asking my kids to come over to play--a mainstay of my own childhood.

And so, I find myself here. Just a few days before this party. With three kids coming.

I sent out a mass email to the 53 kids in my kids' classes last year. But no one knows who I am. No one even probably remembers who my kids are. Friendships are...different these days. I don't know anyone's address so I couldn't send cute invitations in the mail. When the bowling alley gave me a stack of invitations, I was like, um. I can't use these. I can't call to confirm or make this in any way personal because I simply do not know any of these people. It's only by luck that the three kids are coming at all, their parents probably happy to have an afternoon off for any reason, and my being a fellow parent at our elementary school official enough for it to be okay.

I want to break out of this for my kids and for their social lives, but I'm not quite sure how to do it. Even when I have in past invited children to play, the parents have stayed at my house, probably because they don't know me because we never have an opportunity to speak. At least not one that we take. I'd probably have been better off introducing myself as "the woman you see walking with twins behind her every school morning" because that's how people actually know me. I'm serious. I'll get stopped on the street, in the gym, even at a restaurant or bar with "are you the woman who walks your twins to school every day?" This is how far we've wandered, people.

I have to send another mass email out today to the parents who didn't respond, meaning, I have to go through and match email responses to email addresses and delete those who responded from the second mailing because I do not know these parents' names. It's all very sad and embarrassing.

Right now, though, we do have six kids coming, which is plenty for me.

This coming school year, I will do my best to promote at least acquaintanceship with other parents. I will try to learn about at least four families and their children. I will reach out, at least a little, and hope against hope that that is reciprocated. My kids deserve better than this online life. Even if it's very hard for me to try.


  1. as a mama to a soon to be kindergartener, this spoke volumes as i enter this new phase of life. thanks for sharing. hope the party is all your twins hope it to be. xx

  2. Every school my oldest has been at has the rule that if you invite one kid in the class, you invite them all. So, I try to stick with her Girl Scout friends - as their leader, I have to know their parents :) And the girls definitely have something in common!

    And this is my preference. I don't want to make small talk with people I don't really know just because our kids happen to be on the same team or in the same group, but aren't really friends. I do try to find ways to get to know the parents of my daughters' friends -- their teachers have been willing to share contact information if I ask for it. "Dear Mrs. Jones, would you share Jenny's mom's name & phone number as Maggie wants to have a play date."



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