"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> urbanMamas

Sister to sister: "It's my birthday & I don't want you there"

Well, she didn't say it quite like that, but I am sure it sounded like that to her younger sister.  My older daughter turns 12 this weekend, and she has made plans with her girlfriends to hang out afterschool, have dinner (with us, her parents) at one of her favorite restaurants, then go play a round of mini golf, all with her friends (and us, her parents).  One thing she was explicit about: "can we find something else for *her* to do?"

This is a little different than the birthday party where we ponder whether to invite the friend & his little brother.  We're talking about the celebrant's own sister.

Her sister is deflated, 3 years her junior, wanting ever so much to be a part of the fun and celebration.  Granted, we will have more celebration reserved just for the family, so there will be an opportunity for Sister the Younger to celebrate with Sister the Elder.

On the one hand, I want to respect the Elder's wishes for space from her sister, wishes for a little autonomy, wishes for some fun with her own friends.  On the other hand, we like to exude inclusivity, especially among family.  Everyone is invited, all the time!

Well: WWYuMsD?  What would you urbanMamas do?

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She will be doing something after school with just her friends. You could have younger sisiter invite a friend to dinner and golf so she isn't crowding in with the older girls.

That's a tough one! On one hand, I feel like kids should be entitled to time with just their parents on their birthdays. It would probably be very special for her to go to dinner with just you. On the other hand, family is family, and if you have a general rule that the sisters are always included, it would be hard to break this one time.

In your place I would probably find a way to be alone with the birthday girl as requested...with the understanding that when the younger sister's birthday rolls around, she too will get alone time with her parents. Maybe if your older girl thinks about what that will feel like on her sister's birthday, she'll change her mind. Or at least be prepared to feel the same feeling of exclusion. But at the least, they'd each get a little special time with you, which in the end isn't a bad thing!

Deflated probably doesn't even capture how rejected the little sister would feel with everyone out to celebrate except her. Birthday girl just isn't old enough to appreciate what kind of painful lifetime memory that would be. Bad enough for little sister to know that older sister planned it, even worse if she thinks her parents are on board with it. What would I do, you ask? Birthday girl can plan her independent birthday with friends and no family when she is an older teen. In the meantime, I'd let birthday girl have limited plans with friends and one parent, not both parents, while sister goes with other parent to do something tremendously fun for her.

I agree with anon. It seems cruel to have everyone else in the family invited except her.

That is really, really tough but my initial gut is inclusion. It feels a little "mean girls" to me. I would completely understand if your older daughter was in high school and that will come soon enough. If I was the younger sibling, I would be crushed. I think Anon's idea is pretty great. I can honestly say, if I were in the same shoes, that's exactly what I'd do. If both parents go, it's a family date. If you split up, it's a great opportunity for some one on one time with the younger daughter so she isn't cut of from a family celebration. Let us know what happens and good luck! I'll be there soon enough with my two boys who are exactly four years apart...

Woops - I mean "cut off from a family celebration." Typing too fast!

I agree with anon, Amy and vjl above. If I were to give in to the request re parents, it would definitely be only with one parent while the other does something fun with the younger sister. But if we're talking about a single parent family, this would be a no go for me. Agreeing to the 12 year old's request to have a family celebration without the younger sister is to implicitly say it is okay to treat your younger sibling like **** when it is your birthday. Birthdays are special but not that special. And what kind of message would the parents be sending to the teen and the younger sister if the parents condone such an attitude? The message part is particularly important during these impressionable years when the teen is already starting to have what sounds like a "mean girls" attitude.

Agree with ash. Have a friend for the younger sister to hang with. Don't let your older one get away with being mean to the younger one for no reason.

Did she make this comment in front of little sister? I would use this as an opportunity to talk to older sister about sensitivity. IE, explain that a better way to express her desires about her ideal birthday celebration would have been to approach mom (or dad) privately so there could be a discussion without hurting her sister's feelings. That may have provided an opportunity to "find something else for *her* to do" in a positive way, not an exclusionary way. Certainly there will be times in her life where she wants to convene a specific group, and there's a tactful way to do it. And mom/dad could have explained to older sister that while alternatives for younger sister could be explored and might even be more appealing to younger sister, the bottom line is she would be welcome to celebrate the birthday if she wants to.

Sounds like that's not the way she approached it, so I think the lesson here is for older sister - if you aren't careful and sensitive when it comes to people's feelings, often you have to change course to make amends. IE, apologize to sister, and welcome her to the celebration.

I forgot to say I like ash's idea, too.

Our rule in this house is to treat each other with kindness and respect. On occasions where our big kid has been mean to her little sibs or me (she is never really mean to her dad), I have taken away things like playing with her friends and I have literally said, "I am sorry, but your playdate is cancelled, and you won't get any more scheduled until you can show us that you can be kind to your family." Now, a birthday raises the stakes, but not enough to allow mean behavior.

So, I'd first sit down with big kid, alone and talk about why she doesn't want little sis there, and how she'd feel if she was in her place, being excluded from her little sister's celebration. If she has a good reason, then maybe - maybe - I would agree to have just one of us accompany the birthday kid, and the other accompany little sis on a super fun outing. If she's doing it just to be mean, I'd say - well you can have the birthday celebration with the whole family involved or not at all. And, I'd follow through.

I can tell you from my own experience that if you force the older one to let the younger one tag along the younger one will pay when you're not watching and it will greatly exacerbate whatever wedge is there. This behaviour usually peaks at 12-14 and then it gets better. I like the parents dividing and conquering approach, as well, since it was stated there is going to be a family based celebration that will include the sister.

as a mom of 2 girls, and having 4 sisters myself, i would encourage you to respect your older girl's wish, and let her have some "special alone time" with you and her friends.

as for the younger gal, she can do something special with someone else on that day, maybe a favorite auntie or friend from school. and she will survive that few hours that you spent celebrating without her, and you'll all still enjoy your family celebration.

ALL of our kids will survive disappointment and being excluded from time to time. i know i did. and most of my friends did, too. our kids are far more resilient than we like to think. our jobs is to teach them how to succeed AND fail, how to manage our hurt feelings AND what to do when we hurt others, how to work through fear and disappointment and anxiety, because life isn't fair, and it never will be.

if there's a separate family celebration planned, i'd be fine with having younger sister not invited. as others have suggested, why not send 1 parent so it's not a family party with 1 person excluded, but an outing with friends that mom or dad chaperones?

i would care very much how the request was made. if the words, tone or context were intended to hurt - then there's a problem to address straightaway. but if it wasn't meant to be hurtful - it's fair. my kids are together ALL THE TIME. even at 6, they relish opportunities to define experiences that don't include each other. by 12 years old, i would be very respectful of my child's need for that.

hurt feelings for the younger sib are a reality to be compassionate about. (maybe mitigate with a special outing of her own, maybe help the older sib build empathy.) but - not a reason to say "no way." as m. says above, every one of us survives disappointment. life isn't fair, but we all get the upside of that unfairness at times, too.

oh, and kelly is 100% correct. if older sister doesn't want younger sister there, you're not doing younger sister a favor by forcing it. older sister may find ways to punish younger sister that no one else ever sees.

Perhaps everyone sees this differently, but here is my take. If the older sister is inclined to be "punishing" when no one else is around, enforcing birthday unity isn't going to change that one way or another. There are enough bumps and bruises in a sibling relationship to "justify" meanness eight days a week. But allowing her to be exclusionary will send the message - to both of them - that that behavior is okay by you.

I don't think that the older sister is necessarily being "mean" by not wanting her sister along for her birthday celebration. I remember being incredibly fed up with my little brother when I was 12 and my birthday certainly would have been much more pleasant if he hadn't been around! A birthday is a special day and kids should get to be happy an not deal with normal stressors on that day. I dont think we should teach kids to always be inclusive at the expense of their own emotional stability. It doesn't mean that little sister can't have a fun day of her own - maybe a playdate or something - and when her birthday comes around she should get to choose who she wants to invite!

Agreeing here with Kelly, m and ap..

Frankly, I'm stunned this is the first time you've had this issue. Just because they're sisters doesn't mean they'll always like one another (in fact there will be times that they HATE one another). And forcing this Brady Bunch style unity won't necessarily make it happen.

A 12 year old would view themselves as vastly more sophisticated and grown up than a mere 9 year old----and it will probably be this way for awhile. Your older girl is a middle schooler (even if she attends a K-8) and doubtlessly views your younger as something of a baby.

To avoid hurt feelings, if you're unable to either do the one parent thing or find someone/something else for her to do, assign a weekend day (soon) to spend some super special time just with her.

Should all work out just fine. And (again) is something you're gonna be dealing with.

OMG are NONE of you the younger sibling in your family? I can't believe the lack of sympathy for the little sister. Both my husband and I were tortured and tormented (and excluded) by our older siblings. To this day we have strained and/or non existent relationships with our siblings. We have made it very clear to our daughter that, this type of behavior is completely unacceptable. While my children might not always "like one another" they MUST be kind to each other. The only circumstance in witch I can envision it being acceptable to not include the birthday child's own sibling would be if the activity were age-inappropriate for the younger sibling. To the OP it's time to have a heart to heart with your eldest about the real reasons she want's to exclude her little sis.

Just wondering if people's responses would be different if the siblings were opposite genders.

I totally agree with left out too and (and everyone else who would include the younger sibling). I am/was the older sister by three years and I was horrible to my sister. I hated her and totally wouldn't have wanted her anywhere near me. Things got better over time and we were friends for years and now nothing. The terrible childhood sibling rivalry drove her away from our whole family. I completely get the older child's perspective but wouldn't budge on this whatsoever in my family. Clearly some kind, thoughtful discussion is in order, communicating about respect and how hurtful seemingly simple things can be. I know I'm coming at this with some serious baggage but that's what animosity between siblings can easily create and I think it's worth taking seriously when you still have the chance to effect it.

There's no way I would let the older sis exclude the younger from the celebration. It just doesn't sit right with me. Kids these days do not need any help learning how to be exclusive. What they need is more focus on the importance of family, connection, being kind and considerate of others' feelings, etc. I'd say if she wants to celebrate, it's with the whole family or not at all. And I'd also have lots of talks about sensitivity, compassion, empathy, etc. She's not old enough to make that kind of choice for herself and her family, and that's why she has parents there to guide her into making better choices. She can spend some special alone time with parents at a different time when younger sib won't feel so left out.

i'm the younger sister and i'm one who thinks it's fair for the older to have her own party. just to respond to the question about whether only older sibs think it's ok. i was left out plenty of times. but there wasn't an expectation in my family that everybody got to do all the same stuff. i remember being disappointed and often unhappy that i was the youngest, but rarely (if ever) distraught. being the youngest has its own perks.


To clarify, I don't think birthday girl is being mean just because she feels bugged by a little sister. However, I think that a kid who goes out of her way to "punish" her little sister when no one else is looking is pretty much the definition of mean. I certainly hope that this description, from kelly and jojo, doesn't apply to the OP's situation.

Also, I don't think there's anything wrong with one child wanting "alone time" with one parent. But this isn't the same thing - this is a lengthy schedule of activities with BOTH parents, deliberately excluding only one person in the family, on a day that most people consider a family occasion. After all, when these girls are grown, will most of the 12-year-old's friends even be her friends anymore, much less remember her birthday? But her sister will still be her sister, whether she understands that at age 12 or not.

I can sympathize with why the older child might wish for both parents and no sib, but not why parents - who have the benefit of good judgment and the long view - would go along with it. Unless there were some severe extenuating circumstances.

I think anon at 9:27 hit it on the head. Also Liz. The person who grows up to feel the worst about an executed sib-exclusion scenario may very well be Birthday Girl.

Younger sister here as well---and then, as now, understand perfectly that older kids get to do other stuff. Honestly, I think it shows some serious emotional stunting that you're still horrified/traumatized by what is perfectly normal sibling conflict.

And no, I would not change my attitude at all if this involved boys.

Me too Zumpie and as my mother finally put to me, "why would you insist on going to a party to which you are not at all welcomed? You're either being immature or vindictive and I'll have neither". And the painting of younger siblings as victimized innocents is laughable. It takes two to tango and younger and older siblings both play their games.

Thanks, Kelly.

I actually thought about my comment about the Brady Bunch and I realized even THEY didn't entirely enforce "all or nothing".

When Marcia, Peter and Jan were middle schoolers, they held more than one party on the show (Peter thinks he boring was my favorite).

While those three kids were at the party, high schooler Greg (who would've probably been welcome, but elected not to) was absent. As were elementary schoolers Bobby and Cindy. Because this was an older kids party and not for them. I don't think the issue was even raised.

And yeah, I get it's an idealized TV family in 1972---but if they viewed this as "okay", so should we recognize such age differences.

It sounds like, from the OP, that the older sister doesn't want her around for the part of her birthday where her friends wil be around. Makes sense for a tweener, with tweener friends. The entire family should have dinner, and one parent should take the tweeners to the fun thing, while the other parent takes the 9 year old to a movie. Discussions to both about how's and why's should come first.

I think I would try to balance both kids' needs if possible--include little sister for part of the festivities but let big sister have some of the evening be the special time with friends she craves.

Ask her if she would be "Happy" to be left out when its her sisters birthday!

Yes, Helen ask a tween if she wants to go to a nine year olds birthday party or spend the time with her friends instead.

i can't imagine insisting that my 12-y-o have her 9-y-o sister at a party.

BUT, i can't stop thinking about how differently we come at this question. in an earlier comment i said that there was never an expectation in my family that everybody got to do all the same stuff. maybe that's what it comes down to - family culture. my family was close, we did most things as a group. but my mom came from a family with 7 kids and (i think in response) sort of prioritized making sure me and my sibs got special things and special experiences apart from the others. maybe because of that, or maybe because of who we were, there wasn't much jealousy, competition, or feeling left out when it wasn't my turn for something. i knew my turn would roll around soon. in another family culture, maybe this is a very different question.

I was the youngest of 3 and only girl in my family and I recall being included with my brothers' parties, probably until they were teens. I remember bugging the hell out of them by complaining; they still tease me about it. But I don't recall them ever wanting to come to my "little girl" parties (they are 3 and 5 years older than me)so for sure I think it is a gender and age deal. If my dad was bringing a group of boys to the driving range or something I wouldn't have wanted to go, but if he was bringing them to Fenway to see a Red Sox game I would have been devistated not to be included.

I am helping a good friend host a very girly "Dance Party" birthday party. My friend's daughter is turning 8 and it's her first birthday party that's she has actually requested to have only girls. All the games are girly, all the game prizes are girly, the cake is girly... Her 5 year old brother is upset that he won't be included. I feel bad for him but I know that a group of 8 year old girls does not want a 5 year old boy crashing their good time. His mom feels horrible for him and wants to include him. I'm inclined to respect her duaghter's wishes to have a party with just her girlfriends. I'd like to see his father take him out for a "boys night" to distract him. Is it mean to exclude him? Suggestions?

My daughter said something similar for her 8th birthday, and it was VERY girly. In our situation, it was hard because younger sister (and 6) was welcomed by big sis, but younger sister's twin brother was not welcome. I had dad take our son to something special while the I handled the birthday party and both girls attended.

We did a family celebration on her actual birthday where all were included.

To be honest, I suspect that little brother will soon ask for his own "boy party" without his sisters, and we will honor that, too.

Sometimes they just need time with their friends.

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