Invitation Etiquette

Parent Q&A

Organized class-wide costly outings May 1, 2018 (6 responses below)
Inviting 1st grader on amusement park trip Jul 24, 2017 (8 responses below)
  • Organized class-wide costly outings

    (6 replies)

    I would appreciate some thoughts whether the below is common and any advice as to how to navigate to the extent possible with the the limitations of not being the organizer of the outings so having little control over it.  I have a child in public school with a large but very close knit class with many playdates occurring and many parents involved in the school.  We have an outing coming up to a fun and kid friendly location, but with a costly admission fee.  The outing is outside of school hours and is organized by parents but the whole class is invited. It is not a birthday party, so each family is expected to pay for themselves.  We love the idea of the outing, are comfortable with the cost, and know that a large portion of the class is going (and we are going as well), but I found out that a few of the kids cannot make it because of cost.  PTA cannot help because it is not school sponsored event.  They said it is unfortunate, but it is effectively a playdate on a weekend to which some kids are going (it is majority of class, but not all) and it is up to the organizers and school cannot appear to sponsor it.  Organizers cannot help since the location is selected and there is nothing anyone can do about the cost as it is everyone pays for themselves event.  Besides trying to ensure that the next outing is in a park and we at least alternate between expensive outings and free/cheap ones, I'm curious if anyone's class is equally close and parents organize those type of outings, and how students' families' different ability to afford outings is being handled?    

    My kids aren't in elementary yet, so take my advice with a grain of salt! Honestly I'm kind of appalled at the organizers for being so insensitive to the different economic realities of kids in your class. For this situation, can you quietly organize a group of parents to each donate enough to cover the kids who can't afford it? Or maybe someone can organize a general pot of money that can be used towards covering some kids or at least reducing the cost for all such events? And I would, as diplomatically as possible, speak to the organizers of these events to suggest less expensive outings in the future. Maybe offer to organize one of them yourself so it doesn't look like you're trying to micromanage.  

    Granted, my kids are older now, so maybe this is just an example of changing Bay Area demographics.  But it seems to me that, while your class may be "very close knit," whoever organized an expensive class-wide playdate knowing there are kids from homes with very limited means was not wearing their sensitive hat.  There are a lot of alternatives that wouldn't have resulted in those few kids being excluded.  If it's really important to them that the whole class be able to participate, some of the wealthy parents could pay for everyone by arranging it with the venue to buy tickets ahead of time, for example.  If I were you, I wouldn't just try to "at least alternate between expensive outings and free/cheap ones," I'd suggest that everything outside of school hours that's meant for the whole class be cheap or free.  Leave the expensive outings for smaller groups of close friends who can afford it, where the few kids who can't attend for financial reasons wouldn't be stand out.  

    I teach and see this a very problematic. These parents are setting up a situation where the students who can afford to go will be talking about the outing the week after, and the less well-off students are going to feel excluded. It is like with a birthday party -- either everyone should be invited and it should be an event everyone can afford, or it should be on a smaller scale where only a few children/families get together. If you look at this from a larger-picture viewpoint, this is one of the ways children's sense of their relationship to inequality gets reinforced.

  • Inviting 1st grader on amusement park trip

    (8 replies)

    As a family we generally don't buy concession foods when we visit amusement parks.  We generally bring lunch and snacks with us and will only occasionally buy ice cream if it is hot or get extra snacks if ours run out. My kids are used to it and are ok with it.  On our latest outing to Santa Cruz Boardwalk we brought along two of my son's friends -- one is a close friend of my son whose parents I know, and another is a new friend of my son who asked to come during a playdate and as my son is allowed to bring 2 friends he was invited. We purchased the all day rider passes for both boys partially because the invite came from us and partially because I'm pretty sure it would have been a stretch for the new friend's family to pay for it.  The boys are in first grade.  The boys had fun and generally behaved but the new friend was whining non-stop pretty much starting an hour after we arrived there for concession food and dessert and snacks.  We brought plenty of food for everyone so he was not hungry, just wanted the sweets there.  I purchased ice cream for the boys during the middle of the day but said no more concession food at least until all of our food/snacks had been eaten.  The new friend kept asking and went as far as to try to pressure my son to ask us for him telling him that "when x's parents (another common friend of the boys) took him to a park they bought him more concession food then just ice cream."  My son said no since he knew we would not change our rules and I think by now he was getting fed up with the whining too.  I don't think we were being unreasonable, but is it really that common to get concession food out?  My son's close friend did not ask for anything but it might be because we have gone on many outings together with his parents and he knows the rules, plus I think his parents have similar rules.  The second issue is that we are going again next weekend and my son invited his close friend again and another boy (another friend of his) to join and not the new friend.  It works for me since that boy really made it much harder on us plus I like my son inviting different friends of his so I get to know more of his friends (the close friend comes almost every time since he spends many of the weekends with us).  The new friend's mom called me and said that her son really enjoyed the Boardwalk and that he heard from another friend of my son's (the other boy invited) that he was joining my son in Santa Cruz this weekend and he really would like to go too.  I told the mom that we can only take 2 boys on top of my son since I don't feel comfortable supervising more than that (plus it can get expensive, though I did not mention that) and that this time my son wanted to take another friend, but she seemed pretty pushy and asked if I can ask my son to invite her son the next time we go and when will it be.... I remained non-committal about our plans but am pretty sure my son is not inviting this boy again to join us for such an all-day outing since none of us want to deal with the whining and the non-stop requests.  For now I remained vague about whether we will go again and told her the invitations are up to my son and we also often go with our family friends, etc. but I'm wondering if I should tell her about her son's behavior or assume she already knows.

    This is not a big deal. You shouldn't have let the kid whine all day- you should have made clear that was the end of it. You say simply to the mom that you'll be taking another kid this time but are happy her kid had fun. No you do noit say that you are happy her kid isn't coming because he wants junk food and you don't like that it's petty and you are looking for conflict. Let it go. 

    Is it really that common to buy concession food at an amusement park or similar "outing" location?  Yes, very much so. In fact, although the Boardwalk of course is different because it has no gated entry, most amusement parks, zoos, etc. do not allow you to bring your own food inside.  Of course, that does not give your young guest the right to demand treats that you have not offered to provide.  On the other hand, he is very young, it's quite likely that going on that type of outing without buying special foods was very much contrary to his experience, and I think a kid that age could be forgiven a little whining when his anticipation of sweets was unexpectedly balked.

    Are you in any way obligated to invite him again?  Of course not.  Should you say anything to his mother about his unpleasant behavior?  Well, it depends on whether you feel this is a friendship worth investing in any further.  The fact that she was pushy suggests that perhaps he does not have the best role model for good manners as a guest, but if the boys otherwise like each other and your son might like to invite him to future social occasions, it's not a bad idea to explain to the mother, when the next occasion arises, that she should remind him of your "family rules" about sweets and snacks to him beforehand so that he knows what to expect.  Don't assume she knows that there was a problem!  Most likely she has no idea. (And decide in advance how you will respond if she offers to send her son with money to pay for food for all of the kids; it's what I would do, particularly if you are paying for admission/rides, but then, I wouldn't be pressing you for another invitation.)

    You have two separate issues here, I think. Is it common for families to buy concession food when at boardwalks or fairs? Yes, very--I would even guess this is the norm vs. bringing your own food. But that's not really your issue here--you have a child who is being treated to a day out who is, frankly, being very rude. I would simply state your family's rules and reiterate them as often as necessary in response to whining. If you do want to take the child again, I'd talk with his parents beforehand to let them know that you will be bringing a picnic lunch and can they help let their son know so that he doesn't expect the concession food. I'm also somewhat aghast that you are paying for all of this, though--I'm happy to have my kids' friends along for trips like this, but it is absolutely always with the expectation that they pay their own way (and that is part of the invitation--"does Joey want to join us for this play that sounds fun? It's $xx a ticket. Let me know and I'll get enough tickets for him to come!") If we are treating, that will be explicit too--but the fact that you are taking a seven-year-old along for an entire day sans parents is more than enough of a contribution, in my view! Good luck navigating the tricky situation.