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The Birthday Party Shaming Trend Needs to STOP

It's great that communities rally, but at what cost?

You've heard by now of Peterborough, Ontario boy Odin Camus. When his mother found no one RSVP'd to his 13th birthday party, she took to Facebook.

There is a recent trend that has seen parents either charging parents for not showing up at a birthday party or trying to embarrass them someway by sharing their stories online.

As a society, we tend to stand up and cheer when this happens. After all, we all like to root for the underdog and in most cases, it’s because the child at the centre of the controversy does not fit societal norms—Aspergers’, autism, Downs Syndrome. The Mama Bear in us demands justice and so we grab our pitchforks and rally around the parents. I know because my knee jerk reaction usually falls this way.

When my oldest daughter was in kindergarten and Grade 1, I insisted we invite every single classmate to her birthday parties. I couldn’t bear the thought of hurting a child’s feelings and as we all know, little people have big hurts. As she got older though, she didn’t want the boys. Fine, now it was all the girls. Then as she got a little older, she pondered why she had to invite so-and-so when they were so mean to her at school, or invite another little girl who’s personality simply didn’t mesh with hers. As so it began.

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As much as we’d all love to live in a kumbaya world, the reality is we don’t. I wouldn’t want people I don’t like at my birthday party and I certainly wouldn’t attend the birthday party of someone I didn’t like. That is just life, no need to call the papers, which brings me back to my original point.

Something about this recent trend wasn’t sitting right with me and when I explored my feelings on it a bit I figured out why.

It is just plain rude to not RSVP but there are circumstances in which people should be forgiven. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve not RSVP’d to a few parties. Before you poke me with your pitchfork, let me explain.  My youngest daughter - unlike her older sister - balks at the thought of social events. She hates them. So much so that her birthday parties have always been comprised of her and her best friend. Every time she would receive an invitation at school she would shove it to the bottom of her school bag and never tell me about it. When I would ask if there was anything I should know about she’d say not a thing. I am not the birthday party whisperer, so needless to say I’m sure there are parents out there who have painted me with the asshole brush.

The same thing likely occurred when it came to the case of the 13 year-old boy. How many of the parents even knew the party was happening?  13 year-olds are not exactly open books and although they probably know that they should RSVP by this point, they are thirteen for heaven’s sake. We can’t expect them to all be Miss Manners when they’re dealing with raging hormones and this whole growing up thing.   

As with most things that go viral these days, it shows the best of the internet and the worst. I think people who show their support have wonderfully kind hearts, but when all the fanfare goes away, what’s left?

No one likes to see their kids hurting but by making them the centre of a vendetta, it’s their face that’s plastered all over the internet. Long after the people who didn't attend are forgotten there will only be one name at the centre of a Google search. The reality of our society today is that every future employer, lover, and friend will be doing a search on them. Guaranteed that a child’s first employer will think twice about hiring someone whose parents made a spectacle over their birthday party. What would those parents do if they were fired?  Send an invoice for pain and suffering, or maybe start an online petition.  I haven’t even touched on the dark underbelly of the internet who have field days with these kinds of stories.

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I’ve written about parents who humiliate their children on the internet before. You don’t see parents going to the media when someone fails to RSVP for their birthday party or sending invoices for dinner parties no one showed up for.  If it’s not your story to tell, don’t tell it, even if it’s your child. Period.

Which brings me to what really makes me uncomfortable about this whole thing.  If there’s something I hate more than children’s feelings being hurt, it’s adults who behave like children. Every slight we have, every hard knock or disappointment does not need to be a Facebook status and it certainly doesn’t have to be front page news. My heart aches for little kids with broken hearts, but not so much for parents with vengeful ones. 

Image Source: Twitter