RVA Parenting: When birthday parties take an unexpected turn

Published: Apr. 24, 2017 at 3:10 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 25, 2017 at 9:22 AM EDT
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Tara Gray is a stay at home mom in Hanover. She says she was a mom in her heart before she became one. Tara enjoys any opportunity to get outside as a family -- Carytown, Colonial beach, Belle Isle or a picnic in Maymont.

Planning your child's birthday party changes through each passing year. This particular party was my daughter's fourteenth birthday party. This would be a co-ed party. I was not sure what to expect from this age group as she is the oldest. At that point, I was finally accepting and embracing I am the parent of a teen. It had been a couple years since planning a party or get together outside of our family.

I let my daughter invite all of the guests. We brainstormed a fun theme. She passed out invitations at school. I began asking for some sort of head count about a week before her party. It looked like it was going to be under ten kids. She thought she had a good idea of who would be a confirmed yes. Very duable for our home and backyard. For the movie theme, I rented an inflatable outdoor movie screen. Scoring cool mom points for this party. Apparently, it was a cool party. I will get to that in a minute. This was a memorable birthday in more ways than one.

Party time was in full swing. Her guests started arriving. As the mom of this age group, I tried very hard to just hang in the background. Introducing myself, then allowing my daughter to play hostess. Running around checking the food and making sure everything is in order. Answering questions from some of her guests. I kept hearing cars pull up, stop and the kids getting out and walking up. Very quickly it was becoming apparent the guest total was not ten. As I am scanning around the party, I had counted about twenty kids. Double what I had anticipated. My dad noticed the food was disappearing right along as the guests were multiplying. As more kids are arriving he offered up help to go get more pizza.

As I sat out more food, I took a head count as I started the movie. Gathering everyone to start the movie, there were about thirty kids. How could the total
be so far from what I was prepared for? Looking back, the answer is probably simple. This kid told this friend who told this person. I would not have turned anyone away. I was a bit surprised though at the kids that were just being d ropped off with no contact from myself or husband. I don't know if my expectations were way off for this age group when it comes to parental involvement. Again, this was my oldest child, so I was not sure what to expect. I do now. Plan for the unexpected, either way.

The takeaway is that most kids in this age group will hear of a party and ask to go, even if the invite is through a friend of a friend. It is up to the parents to touch base with the parent hosting the party.I try very hard to be respectful when responding to a parent when my child brings home an invitation for a party. Allowing for a timely, accurate head count. Of course it could go the other way. Getting ten confirmations and three show up. Luckily we were fine to adjust and accommodate. It was all fine in the end. It was mostly an outside party. There was no sitting back with my feet up though, with such a large group. I walked around more like a movie theater usher instead of casually mingling. There were no problems and every child was picked up on time! The next morning when I walked out back it looked as though we had a festival in our yard. My daughter did help with the clean up. Six years later we still talk about it. Parents of teens want to give them some breathing room as he or she earns more independence. However when your teen tells you of a party my suggestion is just quickly touch base with the parent. I understand your teen wants to be treated more like a young adult. Reach out to the parent even if you simply email or leave a voice mail. It is very appreciated!

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