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Are kids obligated to attend full-class birthday parties?

| Wednesday, March 7, 2018, 10:09 a.m.

Adapted from a recent online discussion

Dear Carolyn:

We have hit the age of the full-class invite to birthday parties. Yet, I am unlikely to throw a full-class party. Or maybe in a few years. Is it bad form for my kid to attend if it's not a close friend and she didn't invite/won't be inviting the kid to her (very small) party? Is it OK to decline just because we need family time? How much say should the kid get in attendance?

-- Anonymous

No, you don't have to throw big parties;

No, you don't have to skip big parties just because you don't throw them;

Yes, it's OK to decline just because you need family time;

Yes, your kid should have some say in deciding whether to go, of course.

Please always be mindful of the feelings of the child for whom the party is being thrown. Apply as needed.

Re: Parties:

Our son's third birthday party is Sunday. We told him he could invite three friends (on advice we read here to invite as many kids as the age) and he immediately responded “Larry, Curly, and Moe.” Well Larry's parents have plans on Sunday and can't bring him. Just found out Curly's in the same boat and not coming. So we'll have Moe and her little brother. I'm sad for him that 23 of his party isn't coming, but am trying to treat this as a learning experience (just because you invite people doesn't mean they come).

-- Fingers Crossed

He's 3! He won't even remember it.

There's another takeaway available, too -- with a three-guest party, assuming the degree of the friendship is mutual, you can plan it for when the three are available.

Dear Carolyn:

My future mother-in-law asked that my soon-to-be sister-in-law, “Sue,” be included in the bridal party and I agreed for the sake of family harmony. The problem is I am planning to have a smallish wedding party, only three plus my sister as the maid of honor. Two of the four are out of town and can't help much and Sue isn't really stepping up to the plate. That leaves my poor sister to do everything.

I know Sue's wedding was very small and laid-back but our wedding is anything but that. The bridesmaids need to fill their traditional duties if this is going to work. Sue doesn't seem that interested or invested, and I think she only agreed to be in the wedding for the same reason I asked her.

It seems silly for both of us to be doing this out of a misplaced sense of obligation. Would it be alright if I had a frank talk with her to see if she'd be just as happy bowing out and letting one of my friends take over? The dresses haven't yet been ordered but will have to be soon so it's now or never. And if she does agree, how do I best break the news to my fiancé's mom, since this was all her idea in the first place?

-- Now or Never

So, your biggo wedding depends on the unpaid labor of your friends?

That's what you need to rethink, not the inclusion of your future sister-in-law. Your poor sister indeed.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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