Imagine you've arranged an elaborate birthday party for your child—an event where you had to pay in advance to reserve the space. Then, one of the kids who RVSP'd doesn’t show up. How would you feel, knowing that you just wasted about $30 on the no-show?
Annoyed? Of course! Angry enough to send an invoice to the absent child's family, threatening to take them to small claims court? Um, no.
Yet that's exactly what happened to the Nash family from Cornwall, a county in England. Their five-year-old son Alex was invited to a classmate’s birthday party at an indoor ski hill and he confirmed his attendance. But, before the party, the family realized they were double-booked and chose to visit Alex's grandparents instead. According to Alex's mom, Tanya Walsh, they looked for contact information so they could inform the party hosts, but they couldn’t find any. So Alex was a no-show. To be honest, I think it was rude on the part of the Nash family to simply not show up.
However, what happened next was a complete surprise. Julie Lawrence, the mother of the birthday boy, passed along an invoice to young Alex at school. She's billing his parents £15.95 (approximately $29 Canadian) for the missed party. She even threatened to take them to small claims court if they didn’t pay up. The BBC analyzed whether Lawrence has any legal claim to the money and the short answer is no. A party invitation to a five-year-old would not be seen as a legally binding contract.
I understand the frustration over a child who RSVP’d but didn't show, but demanding payment is ridiculously over-the-top. It's a party-planning given that 10 percent of invited guests don’t attend. If the parents didn’t want to assume responsibility for the costs of potential no-shows, then they should have just had cake and and played a round of musical chairs at home. Yes, the Nashs should have made more of an effort to have Alex attend the party, but that still doesn't excuse Lawrence turning into a vengeful mom seeking payment. She's now coming off as one loot bag short of a dozen, which is bad for both her and her child.
She obviously didn’t care enough about the friendship between the two kids—one which Alex claims is now over—or her reputation in the schoolyard since this is the kind of story that spreads like hotcakes at morning drop-off, even without the media coverage.
I do wonder how the story hit international news. The Nash family could have refused TV interviews. The fact that this story has been brought to the public's attention takes revenge to a whole new level. I’m not sure who I think is worse in this situation. Maybe these families deserve each other.
The boys in this story are only five years old. Five! The party was obviously an expensive one for such a young child, but that isn’t the issue. I think this story, and the outrage that continues to follow it, speaks directly to the whole birthday party racket in general. My mother told me that throwing a birthday party was the worst day of the year, and it’s true. There is tremendous pressure to make your kid happy, to “keep up with the Joneses” and to create perfect memories of each and every milestone. On top of that, we live in an inconsiderate, disconnected culture. People don’t respond to RSVPs (mea culpa, I’m guilty of that, too!) or they expect individualized loot bags and elaborate, healthy meals. Birthday parties are out of control, and the behaviour of the adults is, too.