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Dear Heidi: My son wasn't invited to a friend's birthday party. What should I do?

Open your mind and heart. Extenuating circumstances happen every day that you may or may not realize are at play.

The world of children's birthday parties can be tricky. If you're the host, naturally, you want to make sure your child has a beautiful birthday full of friends and fun. It doesn't always turn out as planned due to myriad reasons, some obvious, others blurred. Regardless, as the parent, you want to model the behavior you expect from your child—be respectful, kind, and forgiving.

Be mindful of the high road and kindly imagine this plausible scenario:

You scrutinize the invitation list to make sure it's inclusive and conducive to a great party. You cross-check your son's past invitations in an attempt to reciprocate and not miss someone. You plan a menu, establish a theme, create a timeline—wait, is this a dinner party or a child's birthday? Well, you put as much effort into either; you want it to be perfect.

The invitations are issued, and the responses trickle in, nearly every child will be in attendance, and then your son asks; "is Joey coming?"

You scratch your head, and hold your breath for a moment and contemplate, "Joey? The kid whose party you were not invited to? That Joey?"

You respond, "I thought you and Joey were no longer friends."

Your son replies, "We've always been friends. There was a death in Joey’s family, sometime near his birthday, and things were hard and mixed up for Joey for a while."

You wonder why you didn't know this before, and question if your son's lack of invitation to Joey's party was some slip. There must have been many things happening in Joey's life at that time, and holding a grudge over a non-invitation seems petty about now.

So, what are you, as host and parent, supposed to do?

My advice is to be open and honest with your son and with Joey's parents. Realize that your initial list system failed — you only cross-referenced previous invitations. Tell your son that you will make sure Joey is invited and feels welcome.

Do a little research, and find a number for the parent responsible for Joey. Call them and explain that you are hosting a birthday party for your son, who has explicitly asked that Joey attend. Offer the date and time and express your hope they can accept your invitation. Luckily, Joey can attend, and all is well.

Lesson learned. Open your mind and heart and be mindful that extenuating circumstances happen every day that you may or may not realize. Steer yourself onto the high road and stay there — you'll be better for it.


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