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Aethelwine's avatar

Is this the new norm for celebrating a birthday in Jr. High?

Asked by Aethelwine (42961points) September 9th, 2016

Today was the birthday of a classmate of my daughter. She turned 13. A small group of girls celebrated in the lunchroom during lunch. Six girls got to eat pizza, cupcakes and white chocolate covered strawberries. There were also balloons. This was done in front of 45–50 other students.

This is expected in grade school, but Jr High? I’m friends with some of the parents of the girls because my daughter was close with them in grade school. There was a facebook post from one of the moms with a pic of the girls. The mom is a teacher at the school. The caption read “another spoiling down!” Apparently they are going to do this for each girl in their clique.

Am I the only one who feels this is a bit much? I’m sure some of the less fortunate felt left out. My daughter thought it was over the top.


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49 Answers

jca's avatar

I’m feeling bad for those left out (the ones left out who wished they could be included, obviously not the ones left out who don’t care or don’t like the girls). I’m also surprised they want to do it this way, in front of the school, and with a time limit. I’d think the fun of doing some kind of celebration would be away from school where it can be two hours if you want it to be, or the entire evening if you want it to be, not within a 40 or 50 minute lunch period.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I don’t know if it’s the new norm, but obviously it’s been instigated by an ‘in group’ of parents with little thought for the kids who aren’t involved. I understand we want to celebrate our child’s birthday, but this sort of celebration should take place out of the school environment IMO. If everyone can’t be involved, nobody should be involved. If a kid wants to bring in cupcakes for their whole class, fine. Not for a small, elite group though.

Aethelwine's avatar

@jca. The girls are also doing something special tomorrow. Probably a sleepover and other fun things are planned. Every moment will be documented on Facebook.

@Earthbound I agree. A boy celebrated his birthday as well. He brought cupcakes for his homeroom classmates. I think that’s a much better idea.

Seek's avatar

There were lots of kids in my schools growing up who had treats, and carried balloons, and got gifts from friends, and flowers from their boyfriends, and whatever else for their birthday or Valentine’s or whatever.

Well, I didn’t have friends and my birthday was over Christmas break anyway, so I never got surprise balloons.

Whatever, life’s not fair. Fair is a weather condition.

It doesn’t make sense to bring cupcakes for “The Whole Class” in junior high. There are 150 kids or more that cycle through your different classes. Someone is always going to be left out. If you want to spend time with your friends, have at it.

Aethelwine's avatar

@Seek There are approximately 40 students in her grade. The students have homeroom last hour, which consists of about 12–15 students per classroom. I hear you though. This is all grade school stuff imo.

Seek's avatar

Well, I’d argue making sure to bring enough for the whole class is classic grade school.

When I, as an adult, go out to dinner, I don’t make sure I bring everyone I know with me every time, whether I like them or not. I choose the people I want to treat differently than most.

Aethelwine's avatar

My question is about middle school.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Jr. High is a good time to learn some hard lessons on the tough realities. Some of us aren’t going to the party, and the sooner a kid can appreciate this, the better prepared he or she will be. The trip through the minefield of adolescence is about as perilous and unpredictable as can be. And that party exclusion thing is one more metaphor in the tumbler of events shaping a rookie adult. The range of reactions will vary from seeing to it that you are never excluded from a party through scorn and contempt for the parties and those in attendance. Who knows?

SmashTheState's avatar

This is just another example of how children are conditioned to believe that money equates with morality. Rich people are more moral, and therefore deserve more treats. Poor people are less moral, and this is why they’re poor and get nothing. After all, Santa Claus brings copious presents for the wealthy, while poor children get little or nothing. Clearly poor children are less deserving.

And this is how class prejudice is born, and why it’s nearly impossible to eradicate after having been pounded in at an early age, and why it will ultimately require oceans of blood and horror to smash capitalism and break that early conditioning.

jca's avatar

I’m not sure if the kids in my local middle school do this but I am wondering if it would be allowed. She’s still in elementary school. I know when she started school a few years ago, I wanted to have invites to her party passed out through “backpack mail.” That’s what they call when you send something to other parents and it’s brought home by the kids in their backpacks. The teacher told me party invites are not allowed to be sent through backpack mail, which I guess is to eliminate hurt feelings from kids who aren’t invited. All the kids in her class were being invited to this particular birthday party, but whatever, I understand rules are rules. I took all the invites and put them through the regular postal mail.

I am wondering if her school (at the middle school level) would allow parties of the kind @jonsblond is talking about.

jca's avatar

@stanleybmanly: Yes it’s true that the sooner a child can learn that “Some of us aren’t going to the party, and the sooner a kid can appreciate this, the better prepared he or she will be” but when it’s at school, it’s different in my opinion for a number of reasons. It’s more “in your face” than if a kid has it in their house or off-site and nobody else has to watch the pure glee on the faces of the invited and all that.

Seek's avatar

Yeah, I still don’t really see a problem.

Thinking back on the clique types in junior high, I would probably have turned down an offer to join them anyway.

It’s cupcakes and pizza at the lunch table. 20 minutes of party time that I preferred to spend reading anyway. Big deal.

At some point we have to stop forcing our kids into social situations with people they don’t particularly like in the name of “fairness”.

IMO, junior high is a good cutoff point.

Did your daughter express disappointment in not being invited, or think it would be embarrassing to have the same thing happen on her birthday?

zenvelo's avatar

It sure isn’t normal in our town, in fact despite living in a pretty well off town, it is not allowed in the schools.

There is a pretty strict rule about not extending invitations at school, or any non-inclusive celebrations. And outside foods and sweets are not tolerated.

jca's avatar

I’ll find out if it would be allowed in our school district (also a well off district but I don’t see how well off or not well off has anything to do with it). I’m guessing if invitations are not allowed to be given out in school, parties of the kind described by the OP are not allowed either.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Of course, there are lots of occasions when young people feel excluded and have to deal with cliques @Seek, but I think the question goes to should schools and teaching staff encourage situations when this happens? Schools should be safe spaces where bullying and exclusionary behaviours are strongly discouraged and prohibited.

In the situation @jonsblond describes, the school appears to be allowing the development of a practice that can only leave kids excluded and could potentially result in situations where less popular kids are bullied or pointedly excluded. Given our greater awareness of how vulnerable teens are, and of how damaging bullying is, schools have to take a leading role in at least trying to ensure situations aren’t allowed to occur where kids are actively excluded. That’s not happening at this school when a teacher is involved in organising exclusive activities and the headmaster is supporting the practice on Facebook.

@jonsblond, if it were me I would have a quiet word with the headmaster and point out the potential for these parties to become a very negative situation for the school and some of his pupils. Hopefully,he’s insightful enough to understand the risks.

This would not have been allowed at schools I’ve been involved with either.

Seek's avatar

Schools are full of exclusionary stuff.

Not everyone gets elected to student council. Not everyone makes cheerleading squad. Not everyone gets into AP Chemistry.

And not everyone gets a birthday balloon.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

You are talking about entirely different things. A formal election for school council is quite different to the school endorsing a celebration for the ‘cool kids’ on school grounds that excludes those who aren’t part of the ‘in crowd’. Kids are going to be excluded from birthday parties and the like outside school, but schools are a place of learning. That learning includes raising awareness of how such behaviours can affect other people. To the executive’s best ability, they should discourage bullying and exclusion and make it clear why they are not allowing such parties. I don’t see how these parties can be positive for anyone other than the invited few.

I would also comment @jonsblond‘s daughter for recognising how these parties might make her non-invited peers feel. Good for her for speaking to you @jonsblond about her concerns. It’s another example that you’ve obviously done a great job of parenting.

Seek's avatar

The school isn’t endorsing anything. A kid brought in cupcakes and pizza for her friends. What’s the big deal?

JLeslie's avatar

I hate it. A friend of mine switched her two girls (elementary age) to a new school, and the older one was never completely in the cool girl click. This cool girl click, when one had a birthday, the other girls in the click would decorate their locker, and do special things, without including all the girls in the class. All the girls in the click had expensive backpacks, and other little telltale signs they were “special.” The school is a Catholic private school, with dress codes. It is Co-Ed. I know I just talked about girls, but in elementary I don’t think it’s odd for the girls and boys to not always include both sexes.

Anyway, on a couple of occasions my friend went to the principal about some extreme things that went on that excluded some of the children, and the school didn’t care.

One mom offered to buy my friend’s daughter on if the expensive backpacks. Hello?! How about teach your daughter not to be a snob. My friend is very far from a charity case. They just don’t buy into buying expensive name brands, and don’t want their children to be so superficial. Especially, in a Catholic school?!

I’m actually more bothered it was allowed in elementary school than Jr. High. At the elementary age we have more control over what kids do. In Jr. High it isn’t very unusual for friends to hang out in groups. There were cupcakes for the table. It isn’t like elementary where there are only 15–30 kids in the class.

dappled_leaves's avatar

” I’m sure some of the less fortunate felt left out. ”

It’s high school. To some extent, that’s the point. This is the basis for most John Hughes movies, the moral of which is usually that the spoiled kids are jerks, and the less fortunates are way cooler and end up winning the day.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

The school is endorsing it @Seek. One of the parents is a teacher at the school and (I’m not sure if @jonsblond posted this here) the principal has publicly thanked the kids for giving him a cupcake. That’s public endorsement of this activity. And the big deal is they plan to do this for every birthday of a small group of cool kids. If they want to spoil their kids, fine. If they want to have a party, fine. It shouldn’t be on school grounds while the non-invited kids have to watch on.

jca's avatar

If there were nothing wrong with it, all schools would allow it. The fact that some schools don’t allow it shows that there’s an issue there.

Seek's avatar

That’s some seriously flawed reasoning, @jca.

If I had a week I couldn’t list the reasons that logic is flawed.

jca's avatar

OK, @Seek. I’ll talk to my daughter’s school tomorrow (or the middle school) and ask for their reasoning. Others here have talked about their reasoning as well.

jca's avatar

Maybe this is a good question for Social Q’s on FB.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think the schools celebrate way too many things now a days.

Aethelwine's avatar

The principal allowed a small group of girls to celebrate with special treats during lunch hour in front of all the other students. Over half of the students eat a crappy free lunch because they are poor. The girls eating this special lunch are children of teachers and school board representatives. They get everything they want at this school because of who their parents are.

I’m sure any student at the school will be allowed to have a special lunch, but not many will because their parents can’t afford to spoil them this way.

I just think its odd that this is being done beyond grade school. I don’t remember any student from my past having a shindig at school past grade school.

I feel it is inappropriate for these students to celebrate in front of others at school. They can have their party at home. These same girls spent the entire weekend together. Why make a spectacle at school?

Students choose which sports or activities they want to take part in, but they don’t choose when and where they get to eat. Learning to deal with being excluded shouldn’t be a lesson taught in the lunchroom.

The principal did thank the mom for a cupcake on the facebook post.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@jonsblond The free lunches are exactly the same lunches the paying kids get.

But that is just wrong. When I was in school the rule was don’t bring anything to the class unless you have enough to share with everyone in the class. It’s just simple courtesy.

Aethelwine's avatar

Yes, I know. The school lunch is crap. My daughter takes her own lunch because she doesn’t like the food.

SmashTheState's avatar

@jonsblond It’s always been like this. Thirty-five years ago I remember having official pizza parties at school in which people whose parents were too poor to give them pizza money had to sit in class and watch other people eat pizza. The very first thing kids did when they got their pizza was spit on each piece so no one else would beg them for a slice. Schools are a formalized brainwashing program to turn children into empathy-free capitalist cogs for the great, rusty, iron machinery of oppression which keeps the reptilian robber barons in control of the world.

“And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps.”H.L. Mencken

Dutchess_III's avatar

They are pretty bad @jonsblond!

Aethelwine's avatar

You are right @Smash. I’m glad my daughter wasn’t bothered by the display, but she thought it was important enough to tell me about it. She felt it was over-the-top. What stood out most to her was when the girls held hands and prayed before they ate and a couple of the girls giggled while they prayed. My daughter is agnostic.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@jonsblond, please feel free to say you’d rather not answer this question. Since your daughter was included in this pizza and cupcake extravaganza, when her birthday comes around will you be expected to provide pizza and cupcakes for this group of girls? I know you and your family have been through struggles in recent times, can you afford to do that? If you have to say no, will that cause stress for your daughter if she has to say she can’t provide the goodies on the day? Or will you feel pressure to make sure you do provide pizza and cake to avoid her feeling embarrassed?

Aethelwine's avatar

^I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear, I’m a terrible story teller. My daughter was not included. She was close friends with these girls from first grade until they started Jr High in sixth grade, then the sporty girls went one way and the artsy girls another. My daughter is one of the artists. She’s friendly with these girls but they don’t hang out.

I don’t think she’d want me to do it even if we could. Her birthday is in January and we’re usually pretty broke that month, but I’d pull it off if she wanted it.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Oh sorry @jonsblond. I thought she was invited. My mistake. And I’m glad you’re not going to be faced with this challenge, but I wonder if all the parents in the group can afford to reciprocate? Apart from the kids who are not included, it puts pressure on families who might on the surface appear to be doing fine, but who in reality have financial worries. It’s just a bad idea all around from what I can see. We all want to do the best for our kids and we don’t want them to feel like outsiders or the ‘poor relation’.

jca's avatar

I’m still researching this. I am asking people who have friends who work for other districts. Meanwhile I have to find a way to ask it of my daughter’s district without them thinking I’m nuts, since it’s not something we’re actually asking for ourselves.

Aethelwine's avatar

I looked at the school’s parent/student handbook and it does mention that students are not allowed to receive floral arrangements or balloons. It also mentions that individual parties or celebrations are not allowed in classrooms or in the lunchroom. Apparently the teachers and principal didn’t read the handbook.

JLeslie's avatar

^^Not surprising they haven’t read it.

jca's avatar

I’ve been reading the middle/high school’s student handbook and it has no mention of birthday parties so I guess I’ll have to call someone. As I said, I’m trying to think of a reason why I’m asking, since we’re not in the middle or high school. My first thought was saying “I’m having a discussion with people on the internet” but then it evolved to “a friend of mine has this issue and I’m curious what our school’s policy would be.”

Seek's avatar

“I’m writing a blog post about ways to celebrate a ‘tween’s birthday and I’m wondering if X is allowed in your area?”

Saves you having to identify yourself.

jca's avatar

I looked into this through several friends with contacts in local schools. It took me a few days because I’m working and also relying on the help of others.

My local middle school said sometimes kids bring in donuts for their friends at lunch if it’s their birthday. Balloons are not allowed in school. They eat the regular lunch (or their regular lunch).

A friend found out: ”I can clearly speak to our school but don’t think there is a state wide policy. Except as I there is a lot of policies on dignity act, safe schools. My advice to your friend would be to call the school , but I wouldn’t make a bigger deal because one thing I know, Junior high is a very tough place. I always tried to empower _____ that not all people played nice in the sandbox and I know it hurts.”

Another one wrote “there are some exclusivity rules, where no child should be left out, and balloons are definitely not allowed in school

I called the neighboring town’s middle/high school and was referred to the Principal, who has not yet called me back.

I know that none of the info above is really definitive, but I tried. I did the “writing a blog post” thing but in addition, I identified myself and said my daughter is in the district but explained the answers are not for me, they’re for the blog post.

Aethelwine's avatar

Thank you @jca for taking time to do this. It’s interesting to hear from other school districts.

jca's avatar

I guess this whole thing really hit home for me because my daughter will be in your daughter’s spot in a few years, @jonsblond. I don’t think being left out of a party can compare to losing out to the cheerleading squad or class president because those are things that kids seek out, and they know going in that there is a possibility they will lose. Also, my daughter went through this thing this past winter (at 8 years old, 3rd grade) where my daughter’s former best friends shut her out because they formed a club and she wasn’t part of it so she couldn’t play with them.
Seeing how hurt she was just tore at my heart strings. In the case of the club, the teacher said the kids had to stop that, which was encouraging that the teacher realized it was wrong and took a stand and stopped it, but I know this crap gets worse, especially in a rich district like I live in, where the kids are going to have the latest phones, the latest hand bags by Michael Kors, horses, cars, trips, etc.

Dutchess_III's avatar

^^^ It’s a shitty thing to do. Common courtesy should tell the adults that.

tranquilsea's avatar

Hmm I’m not sure it would bother me too much as a parent. I mean it is almost like being in a restaurant and another table celebrating something significant. It’ll happen through life. If it brings a certain twinge when you see it then perhaps it’s time for some introspection. Maybe you need to cultivate better friendships or maybe take notes for your own friends.

Me? I hate it when attention is thrust on me in large groups. School probably did that to me.

Aethelwine's avatar

^Maybe not as a parent, but what if you were one of the children who had to watch the privileged children celebrate in front of everyone else who is stuck eating a crappy school lunch? Going out as an adult is completely different. It’s a choice. It is written in the school handbook that these types of celebrations are not allowed.

I do have an issue with these particular students. They receive benefits at school because of who their parents are. This question is only one example of the things that have happened the past year. I don’t need introspection.

Aethelwine's avatar

Maybe you need to cultivate better friendships or maybe take notes for your own friends.

I’m confused by this comment.

Aethelwine's avatar

I apologize if I’m coming across as dismissive to the comments I disagree with. I do appreciate everyone’s input.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, I agree whole heartedly with you @jonsblond. We’re talking about children, not adults.
Children get excluded from different things by other bratty children enough as it is. It’s wrong for the adults to actively encourage it.

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