Birthday Party Ditch and Drop

Friday’s “What the frak…?” moment (WTFM) is brought to you by………..

The Birthday Party Ditch and Drop… for four year olds: At what age does it become okay to turn a birthday party into a day care drop off?

“How do you know if you’re supposed to leave your children or if you’re supposed to stay for a birthday party?” my friend, Mia*, asked me, more than simple curiosity filling her eyes.

“Uh…” I stammered, uncertain what she was searching for. “I guess once the kids are old enough, I’d ask the parent directly if it’s okay to leave them there or if they want me to stay.” I glanced at her again. “Why do you ask?

“I was at a party this morning for a four year old…”

She grabbed my attention immediately, as I am the exhausted parent of a four year old, and filled me in on the details.

The Party: Held in honor of a four year old little girl.

The Hostess: The mother, seven months pregnant. Also mother to a six year old.

The Place: Birthday girl’s house.

Those Present: At least ten to twelve children ranging from four to six years old. Mia and her husband. Several dads.

Missing: All other mothers. A parental representative (of either gender) for several children.

That’s right. Several parents performed the Birthday Party Ditch and Drop. For a four year old’s birthday party.

Where the hostess is seven months pregnant.

What. The. Frak.

Am I missing something here? Did a memo go out?

When did people start leaving four year olds alone like a birthday party is day care?

Mia’s friend, being the person she is, took in stride as Mia helped to herd and contain the hoard of children while her husband was on duty with her youngest.

The other dads?

They stood on the fringes, minding their own business, until given specific instructions to help with a task.

Mia talked to me, livid on behalf of her friend. Because parents left a very pregnant woman at the mercy of unattended, very young children.

One poor four year old girl spent most of the time crying for her mother.

In theory, I understand there can be a host of reasons why a parent does the birthday “ditch and drop”. But in reality, it is a bit incomprehensible to me, particularly at such a young age.

The birthday parties I attend are for the children of my friends. Of course I want to attend and stay at the party, getting a chance to chat with our mutual friends while the children are distracted. I suppose this feeling might change as my children make friends through outside sources, but then I am faced leaving my child with a stranger who likely doesn’t even recognize my child.

So I ask you, because a I shudder in fear of wrangling a dozen five year olds:

At what age do you (or did you) participate in the Birthday Party Ditch and Drop? Is four too young? Does it depend on the type of party?

Or were you ever a surprise “victim” of it, expectantly finding yourself in charge of unattended angels/hooligans when you fully expected a parent to stay?

*Mia’s name has been changed.



About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos ( sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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24 Responses to Birthday Party Ditch and Drop

  1. Mean Mom says:

    I always asked specific friends to stay (read that, mothers I liked) and hoped the rest would just drop off their kids cause the “little darlings” were usually much better behaved without their mothers around. And yes, that included the 4 year old party.

    • There are some kids like that, I agree.

      My son is often better behaved for others than with me – he doesn’t test them. However, this works in a one-on-one situation, not with a huge group of kids where he picks up on the energy and is likely to go into kamikaze mode.

      Thank you for sharing!

  2. How can they just leave their kids there? Its a party for a four year old! I mean its waaay too young. I find Mia’s friend to be a very brave woman having had to deal with all that and be seven months pregnant to boot! Cudos to her!
    My opinion? Its not cool to do the ditch and drop at a four – to even 10 year olds party. They get more rambunctious (I could think of other words but I wanna keep it clean this time) with age. So the more moms there are around, the better.

    • Those were precisely the questions I asked. Then I thought of why.

      What do you do if you have 7 children, and only two of thefour year olds are invited and your spouse isn’t around to help out? Do you ask for them to invite your entire family? Do you just not go? Or do you arrange it so you can do the ditch and drop because two children without you are better than five?

      That is just one scenario, but I can see why you might do it.

      Not that I would. My son at four is not consistently well behaved enough to be left alone in birthday party chaos.

      I’m with you, on the more moms the better.

  3. This is just one more reason I have all birthday parties involving friends out of the house.

    Just a little bit of devil’s advocate here – perhaps Mia’s friend wasn’t clear enough on the invite that she expected parents to stay (mothers preferably).

    When you write on the invite “parents welcome to stay” most will think you’re doing it to be polite and don’t want to put you out.

    You could write “we require a minimum of x parents to stay to assist with the party” then parents will self-identify, know they are not there to watch from the sidelines and if they really can’t stay they should feel compelled to call before the party and ask if it’s okay to do the drop off.

    The third option I’ve seen work very well is invites that clearly read “Mommy and Me Parties” with funny reference to “mommy friendly snacks will be served”. It gives no other option but for moms to stay.

    I have learned that if you want parents to stay you have to be VERY clear about that on the invite AND when they rsvp (“and who will be attending with dear little Ben…”).

    Don’t get me started on my what the frack moments that made me swear I was never doing a birthday party at home again.

  4. Kate says:

    Kelly – Mia’s friend is such a trooper. It’s unbelievable so many parents lack of the manners or are so completely self absorbed. I like Maija’s suggestions and will keep them tucked away in my head. For me, I always ask the hostess what the preference is if there is not specific info. on the invite. I simply put myself in the shoes of the hostess. I know what it’s like to host young children for a party; and it’s not easy. My four-year-old is definitely not mature enough to be left by himself. With my 8-year-old, I let her attend by herself if she and I are well acquainted with the family or hostess. But, if she and I have not met the parents previously, I usually talk with the hostess about staying at the party for a short time or for the duration. If I stay, I always offer to help out while taking the opportunity to make new friends and catch up with old ones.

    • See, this is what I do. It never really hit me someone would actually leave their child, but then again, I am already friends with the parents of the parties I attend. For me, it’s a chance to catch up.

      Which is why I was so curious about what others do/have experienced.

  5. This is further proof that G-d gives you what you can handle.

    Monkey’s b’day is in August. He celebrates at summer which means he gets cake with his bunkmates who are so beyond excited to have sugar. He is serenaded by an entire dining room of over 250 people screaming “Happy Birthday” which is amazing, the pitch positively deafening. And then, the chaser: “We won’t shut up til you skip around the room.” They sing this over and over until he gets up and skips around the room. Twice.

    Oh, it is glorious.

    And I never have to be there.

    Monkey has been going to overnight camp since he was 8 years old.

    He is going to be 12.

    Prior to his going to camp, he was allowed to have one friend over and we would go to an amusement park or a water park or mini-golfing and the kid could stay overnight. A little dinner at his favorite restaurant. A little cake. A few small presents from us.


    I have watched many people suffer through the “Big Ditch,” and I vowed it would never be me. Call me a “mean mommy,” but I never allowed it to be me, and Monkey is fine fine fine.

    I think.

  6. Evin Cooper says:

    I might be a bitch but I specifically put on the invite “Unattended children will be fed extra cupcakes and possibly crack” — It keeps the snooty bitches away as well as lets the parents know this is NOT a day care party. My kiddo is 6, btw.

  7. juliesaysyay says:

    Four is batsh*t crazy.
    I have a four year old, and it seems like we do the birthday party scene about every other weekend. Even at bounce/pizza/funhouse parties where there is additional paid supervision, there is an unspoken expectation around here that at least one parent stays. One time I went *across the street* to grab a coffee at a bounce party, and in that 10 min my kid got kicked in the cheek and had a breakdown. The other mommies looked at me like I was a smack addict while they comforted my child.

    My older son’s 7th birthday party seemed to be the point where we clicked over into ditch and drop. Costume party at a private room in a park facility & only one set of parents hung around. Even at 7, it sure did get all Lord of the Flies up in there. 7 or 8 seems to be the norm, but 4…that gives me the shakes.

    • See, I was thinking seven might be an “okay” age to begin this, assuming it has been cleared with the host and your child is capable of avoid Demon Spawn Mode for the during of the party.

      And yes, our children always pick the 1% of the time when we aren’t there to have something happen. It’s uncanny.

      I shudder at it for age 4 as well..

      Thanks for stopping by.

  8. jdaniel4smom says:

    I think until the hosting parent says they don’t want parents to be at the party I will be at the party.

    I can’t imagine just dropping by son off.

  9. Lance says:

    My kids would prefer I drop them off, but to haunt and anger them I stay.

    Seriously, birthday parties are social events for the kids and parents. I also would never burden someone else with my daughters. My kdis are well behaved away from home, but my luck would be, the one time I wasnt around or their mom wasnt around, that’s when they’d rob a liquor store or take off all their clothes.

  10. Jocelyn says:

    I skimmed what everyone had written but I might have missed it if had been said. Im having a party for my almost 6 year old and honestly I will have several family in attendance (which includes my husband and 14yr daughter). I would prefer if parents didnt stay, honestly I can barely get people RSVP to begin with and I cant afford to feed all the parents along with their other kids that quite frankly were not invited to stay and to feed them too. How do you tell parents that the CAN Ditch and run. Im thinking of writing on the invitation “Drop & Run – OK”. Im sure some will stay like some of my besties. I mean really how many moms have the time to sit and socialize at their kids parties, some of these parents I havent really met other then class orientation and I would rather get to know them when I wasnt overwhelmed with running a kids party. Does that make any sense? I guess what Im wondering is if it’s ok to put on the invitation “drop and run-ok” or is that tacky?

    • Interesting point of view from the other side – because the numbers do add up quickly when parents are factored in.

      Perhaps if you address the invite to the children, not the parents and just include a note at the bottom by the RSVP: “parents are welcome to attend but your presence is not required”.

      Of course, I’d probably do something funny, depending on the guest list like, “Parents please let me know if you wish to attend. Otherwise, you are free to drop your child off and enjoy two hours for yourself.”

      My family does not live close and with a 4.5 year old and a two year old, the idea of being alone for a party is terrifying. Of course, most of the guests are my friends anyway, so I don’t mind having the parents attend – I expect it.

      I’m guessing it will be quite different once my kids are school age.

      Thanks for the comment!

  11. Stephanie says:

    This is a funny thing because i had a birthday party over the summer we had a huge waterslide out back for the kid’s for my two girls ages seven and three. We sent out invite’s to the children that didn’t say specifically one way or the other bc to be honest I didn’t really even think about it. MISTAKE! I had mother’s dropping their kid’s off two and three at a time!! They didn’t ask me if it was ok if they could they just did!! So I was left there with my mouth hangin wide open holding the children’s bag’s and towel’s! I had one mother that had brought her child and someone else’s child and dropped of them BOTH! So i was supposed to be hosting a children’s party of forty plus finishing up with the last minute decorations watching my two birthday girls and seven other children that were ditched and dropped!! Never again, Never again…. lol

    • I am envisioning the stress of wet kids, the inevitable mud, towels, and changing that evolved from that.

      What a nightmare!

      This has opened my eyes and any party I have where it does not include parents who are good friends will definitely have instructions about such things.

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