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After kindergarten class my son started first grade this fall in a new class, which was a mixup of children from the previous kindergarten classes.

There are 15 boys and 10 girls in the class.

10 of the boys are heavily into soccer as are most of their parents. My wife and I as well as the parents of the other 4 boys were a bit worried about this when we started out, and we brought it up at the first parents meeting. There we agreed to make sure that everybody prioritized class events in order to do our best to get a good class.

It has not worked out completely without problems. In the fall, a previously arranged class-event was moved by a soccer-parent to avoid clashing with a soccer-arrangement (and then it clashed with our sons sport instead), but we did not make an issue out of it. Also, most of the conflict in the class is initiated by the "soccer-boys".

Now my sons 8 year birthday is coming up, and we just sent out invitations to the class. We agreed in the class, that birthdays can be for all the girls, all the boys or everybody, so we invited the boys.

Today we started to get messages from the "soccer-boys" parents that they could not come to the birthday. Some did not give a reason, but one explained that there was a soccer tournament this weekend.

We are now anticipating cancellations from 10 out of 14 of the invited boys.

So we are discussing whether we should just move the date or if we need to make an issue out of it now.

Our son is fairly popular in the class (despite not playing soccer), so it is not a popularity issue. But we are of course worried how this will affect him.

Do anyone have some good advice?

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Just to clarify, are the boys watching soccer or playing it? –  Karl Bielefeldt Apr 11 at 12:33
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Am I the only one that finds the agreement to invite all the boys or all the girls (or both) to be horribly offensive? You're basically forcing the children into gender roles up front. Let the kids invite whomever they want to invite. If there's a particular problem with one child being left out, deal with it on an individual basis - but please do not perpetuate gender discrimination. –  Joe Apr 11 at 13:53
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I'm a bit confused about the class dynamic here. Maybe the country involved would help? Where I grew up, this wouldn't be considered a class event. It's not during school hours and it excludes all of the girls. –  Rob P. Apr 11 at 14:05
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Dealing with other parents is part of parenting, certainly. –  Joe Apr 11 at 16:25
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A lot of good answers below, but I'd just like to add something. Things such as soccer tournaments are usually out of the parents' control. The tournament is scheduled by outside parties and involves a great deal of children other than those invited to your son's party. Your son's party on the other hand is most likely more flexible and under your control. To me, regardless of which position I would be in, I would expect the tournament to take precedence over the party simply due to the fact that I can reschedule the party, whereas none of the parents can reschedule their tournament. –  Dryden Long Apr 11 at 16:45
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7 Answers 7

To me, this sounds like much ado about nothing. Your son needs to learn how to socialize and how to make friends; sounds like he's done that already, so that's not your problem.

So what is your problem? The fact that some kids aren't coming to a birthday party? Sounds like a good opportunity for a conversation with your son about the real world. People have priorities, and sometimes they choose differently from you. That's life. His friends need to decide between going to soccer and going to his party, and he needs to choose between holding his party on that day or having it another day. That's life, and it's the sort of life lesson you actually can learn at 8 years old.

You talk a lot about yourself in the question, but you didn't talk at all about how he feels about this. Does he care? Does he want a birthday party with all of his friends? Find out, and give him the choice. If it's expensive to move it (like, you booked something expensive that's non-refundable), tell him that, and he can either have his nicer party with four people or Chuck E Cheese's [or equivalent cheaper party] with the whole group.

By eight years old, he's old enough that the parents shouldn't be the primary drivers of socialization between him and his friends. Let him decide what he wants to do and go with it.

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Amen. As a parent, I think you (OP) are way over-invested in your child's social life and unrealistic about the role that classmates should play in a healthy, balanced life which should include many social groups - family, neighbors, teams, classmates, etc... PLUS the above, which is that this is a life lesson. Why should the fact that your child is celebrating his birth on a particular weekend count more to these other children than a tournament for a team they have been investing hours in practicing with? –  MJ6 Apr 11 at 14:10
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+1 for the real life point –  kaptan Apr 11 at 18:06
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If you DO make an issue out of it, what will be the result? Will the other 10 families start to consider everyone else in their priorities and scheduling, or will they apologize and keep right on with what they're doing? It's apparent they feel that having their children participate in soccer is a higher priority than having their children participate in events with their classmates. And it could be these families feel that, with 2/3 of the males in the class participating in this sport, they're getting both at once.

Your son is still friends with these boys, so his participation in a different sport isn't hurting him with his peers. And there are still 10 other children (the girls!) who have not been invited who might be able to come and will boost the numbers so he doesn't feel like his party is not well attended.

If you're worried about repercussions within the peer group, ask your son what he would like to do. My kids are slightly younger than 8, but rescheduling due to a conflict is certainly something that's much higher on MY radar than theirs. See how he feels about it and get his input.

I'm not sure I'd choose this particular hill to die on, though. If your end result isn't likely to be the one you'd want, you're likely tilting at windmills.

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There we agreed to make sure that everybody prioritized class events in order to do our best to get a good class.

No, you didn't agree. It is possible that no one spoke out against this suggestion when it was made, but that is probably mostly due to an intense social pressure in the situation. Can you imagine someone in the situation saying: "I don't think we should prioritize class events over soccer." without branding themselves as egoistical?

Ultimately there is realistically no way of making such an agreement. There are always going to be things that have greater priority, but there is no way to make a consensus about what those things are. You wouldn't want the other parents to decide what is and isn't important enough for you and your child to miss a birthday party either.

Forget that "agreement", you can't enforce it, trying to do so will only create strife.

Look at it pragmatically, next time if you consult one of the soccer parents before deciding on the date you can deal with a lot of potential calendar conflicts in an efficient manner. This time, reschedule.

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A possible option, if you can manage to get it going on such short notice, is having the birthday party as an afterparty to the tournament. I don't know if you can find a place near the tournament grounds that can handle so many kids on such short notice though.

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An obvious solution is to move the date or time of the party to not conflict with an event that is very important to a large portion of invitees (and which they do NOT have the option to reschedule).

If you don't want to change the party time, then perhaps you should consider whether it's a priority for your son's party guest list to exactly coincide with his school class.

You say your child has another sport he participates in, which presumably contains kids he is friendly with. Are there also not kids he socializes with from the neighborhood, from other classes at the school, among family friends, or kids he knows from other activities that are not in soccer? Is there a reason why the birthday party must be ONLY kids from his class, the majority of whom are wrapped up in a sport your son doesn't play? Surely you can scare up a dozen kids for a good party, which include some kids from his class who can attend, and other kids from elsewhere (that he knows and likes) who do not have a schedule conflict.

I must say that I am confused by this passage: "There we agreed to make sure that everybody prioritized class events in order to do our best to get a good class." I don't know what this means, but your son's birthday party is not a "class event" if it happens outside of the school, and it seems a little creepy to pressure other parents into agreeing to prioritizing certain out-of-school events over others. If soccer is important to those kids, that's their prerogative. Not. Your. Business.

Nowhere in the original question did I detect anything about what you son wants out of any of this.

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Which notice came first? Did parents know about the tournament before the birthday party or vice-versa?

If the tournament was known about first, it should have priority. If the opposite, then it's iffy. If you do make a big deal about it and the kids are, in a sense, forced to give up watching soccer, a sport they enjoy, they may end up resenting your son. With that in mind, you should readdress the previous conversation as it seems to be a lingering problem.

Update

Whoa whoa whoa. Hold the phone. If you are talking about that group playing in a tournament, too bad, so sad. You can't viably request an entire event like a soccer tournament be cancelled for a birthday party. Now, if it's watching, which I had originally assumed, then the original answer stands.

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If it's playing instead of watching, then it's not relevant which came first. That [part of] day is busy, and that's it - no matter who has a birthday then. –  Peteris Apr 11 at 23:16
    
@Peteris, I don't disagree but the OP didn't specify so I can only assume it's watching since I don't believe any rational person would ask for a tournament to be scheduled just for a birthday party. –  ChristopherW Apr 12 at 2:25
    
The OP doesn't seem particularly rational. –  Lightness Races in Orbit May 3 at 19:26
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I would think it much better to plan for a birthday party on a weekend when there isn't a big tournament to play in or watch. Does it really matter if the birthday is celebrated on the exact day? Give the kid a choice. Perhaps he would rather have four of his closest friends and some family at a time when it is good for all than be responsible for inviting a whole class of resentful kids who would perhaps rather be somewhere else and would leave early anyway.

I only had two birthdays in my long life. One when I was 13 and had three girlfriends in to dinner that my mother prepared where everything matched the table cloth. (even green mashed potatoes) then a movie and when I was 65 and was eligible for the Old Age Pension. A party I almost missed. Now parties for kids are so common that many have to give up a lot to please the host parents. Heaven help them if they can't make it to one of the parties.

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