Does a child’s birthday party have to involve more than cake and soft drinks?

Dear Miss Manners: A while ago we had a reception after our daughter’s christening. As sometimes happens, the guest list got out of hand because of the “if we invite them, then we have to invite so-and-so” policy.

My wife did a great job planning and hosting this event, but she exhausted herself by making sure to cook a full meal for guests every day they were in town.

Now our daughter will have her second birthday. My wife asked if we could skip the birthday party, explaining that if you have any kind of party, no matter how casual, you have to provide a full meal for the guests. (Only one person will come from the city for this purpose, everyone else is local.)

My experience has been that a kid’s birthday party might not involve anything other than cake and drink, but I was raised by notoriously casual parents. I don’t want my daughter to miss out, but I also don’t want my wife to hate “having to” cook food.

Is this rule my wife articulates really a rule? It seems too rigid and demanding, but maybe I’m a barbarian!

GENTLE READER: Full food is not a requirement for a children’s party (especially if the party is not at meal time), but if your wife prefers to entertain in this way, neither you nor Miss Manners should stand in her way. We shouldn’t even argue that she’s abstaining from voting this year because she’s too exhausted to do so.

But as your daughter gets older, she’ll have her own thoughts about skipping a birthday party because mom doesn’t want to feed the whole town. At that point, you might want to tell her that cake and drink is a perfectly acceptable—and proper—child’s birthday party.

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(Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, [email protected]; or by mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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