Deciding who to invite, and not invite, to a child's birthday party can be a tricky business. But what happens when the birthday boy or girl is adamant they do not want to invite one member of their friendship circle?
One mum has found herself in that situation and had taken to Reddit to ask: "Is it ever OK to exclude a child from a birthday party?"
If your first response is "No way," then listen up - there's more detail to this situation that needs consideration.
The mum says her daughter doesn't want to invite a particular girl to her birthday slumber party and is asking people to give their two cents worth about whether the child should be invited, or excluded based on her behaviour towards her daughter and to others in the friendship group.
Whichever way you look at it, it's a tricky one involving teaching her daughter personal boundaries, while not wanting to deliberately hurt a child nor cause friction between kids who spend every day together.
"My daughter is in a group of rather tight knit friends. They have been together since kindergarten, and most likely will be together a few more years. They are all in third grade. The parents are all friendly as well," she begins before explaining that her daughter wants to invite the three of the friends to her party, but not one other girl in the group whom she has a tenuous relationship with.
"My daughter (B) and A don't always get along. A relentlessly bullied her in first grade. Second grade was good and they were close. Third grade it is back to them fighting constantly."
She continues, "A bullies my daughter and one other (C). A is currently not allowed at the homes of two other friends in the group due to this behaviour. But overall the girls themselves still love her and she is part of the social group."
And here's the dilemma.
"B does NOT want A at her birthday as she doesn't want her to say mean things or to be rude at her birthday. A no longer specifically targets my daughter as B will generally stand up to her, but she does target C who is much more meek and will not stand up to her, but just dissolves in tears."
The mum explains her issue with the situation.
"My issue is, I am torn between two things. Number one is respecting my daughters right to choose whom to have at her birthday as well as her right to be free from harassment on her big day. Number two is the desire to not leave anyone out of an established group and not hurt the feelings of a kid."
She goes on write, "Kids talk. If A finds out the entire friend group came to a birthday party but NOT her she would obviously be upset," before wirting that these kids cold be together until Year 8, which is a long time to be dealing with an epic blow up this situation could spark.
"I don't wish to cause any increase in hostilities or promote drama in this group of friends. My daughter at the moment seems to despise A, but they have been back and forth on their feelings for each other several times."
The mum herself is on the fence about the child, saying she's got many great qualities in addition to her not-so-nice ones. She simply doesn't want to create drama within the group, nor hurt the girl.
Redditors are keen to weigh in with their thoughts.
One writes, "It is SUPER important to teach kids that healthy boundaries for themselves, their physical health and their mental health are ok to establish, even if it means hurting someone's feelings. Especially young girls."
Another responds, "But obviously the daughter needs to make sure she doesn't go out of her way to rub salt in the wounds either."
"We dealt with a nearly identical situation. I would never force my daughter to invite a bully. My gut tells me that if she's asking the kid not to be invited, the situation is likely worse that you know," responds someone who knows.
And the replies in favour of excluding the girl keep coming.
"Why are you willing to possibly ruin your daughter's birthday party to protect the feelings of a child that bullies her? Your daughter is your priority."
This person offers specific advice.
"If you're friendly with the parents maybe this is worth addressing with them, 'I was saddened to hear B say she doesn't want A at her birthday party this year. Any insight into why the girls are growing apart?' Then offer your own observations, 'C seems to get her feelings hurt and cries a lot around A.' The little girl is 9, not 4. Social isolation is a fair consequence of bullying."
And this from someone who was made to invite the bully by her parents.
"I went through almost this exact same scenario at the same age. 'The talk' [with my parents] was humiliating and immensely frustrating. My feelings didn't matter and the unfairness of it made me hate A even more. Was the party still fun? Yes, but we ignored A. And it left a sour memory in place of what should have been a great one. I never hung out with A again and was not as open talking with my parents anymore and didn't trust them as much."
The mum responds with "Yeah, I won't be inviting A. I didn't want the aftermath to be awful for my daughter if A goes berserk from finding out. It isn't so much about saving A as it is about being realistic about a social consequence and trying to figure which one is better or worse for me daughter."
She decides to postpone the party a few weeks until the school holidays where the girls won't be in daily contact and there's far less chance of A finding out.