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Reining in kids’ birthday parties

Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax

DEAR CAROLYN: I’m struggling with how to celebrate my twins’ 5th birthday. They attend preschool and are in separate classes. The norm seems to be to invite everyone in the class, so we invited both classes to a party at a play place. We have 25 RSVPs so far.

This seems tacky to me now. We just wanted a party for them to play with their friends. I’m sure their friends’ parents are wondering if they have to buy gifts for both twins. My kids do not need any more toys.

Should I try to rein in this party and somehow request no gifts or a charity donation instead?

Struggling

DEAR STRUGGLING: Yes, spread the word that you’re collecting for a charity in lieu of gifts. Check with a local shelter, pick something easy for your guests and use this excess for good.

You can also do what we did in this situation, and have a grab bag — every guest brings one gift for the bag (set a low price limit, like $10) and every guest takes one home. You contribute two to cover your twins.

In the future, buck the “norm.” One of my kids’ schools recommended the formula of inviting either the whole class or less than half of it — safeguarding, say, one or two kids from finding out in horror that everyone got together without them.

A small gathering (say, one or two friends per kid) is perfectly acceptable, not to mention developmentally apt.

For your own sanity, in fact, for any kid — not just multiples — it can be really helpful to treat birthdays with different intensities over the years. One year, big, OK, but then make another low-key, and another just family, and another friends-focused, and etc. Creating fixed expectations can mess with the response you get — especially when you peg them high, leading to the ever-increasing chance of disappointment.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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