Birthday party madness: How do you limit the invite list?

Jan. 20, 2010 at 5:03 PM ET

From TODAY producer Joanne LaMarca, My phone rings today and it’s my friend Wendy. We have a lot in common: We both work in television; we both live in the same suburb; and we have sons the same age who go to the same pre-school. As working mothers, we help each other out whenever one of us is in a pinch. Her job is stressful with little time to handle anything other than her work responsibilities during the day. So when her number appeared on my cell mid-day, I knew it had to be an emergency. I did something I don’t often do when I’m with my 3 1/2 -year-old… I picked up the call. “I have a huge problem,” Wendy said. “I’m trying to plan Dylan’s birthday party and I’ve got a list of kids a mile long! Do I have to invite every child in the class?” In the midst of planning my own child’s birthday, I felt her pain. After all, what does a 3-year-old about to turn 4 know about friendships? Up until school started, his friends were the kids of my friends. It was simple for birthdays 1, 2 and 3. I invited the people I wanted to spend three hours with. But the game has changed. My son comes home from school and tells me how he wrestled David on the playground and got a time-out. When I ask who David is, he tells me he's his best friend. When I say, I thought Nate was your best friend, he tells me both Nate and David are his best friends. The next day, I pick him up from school and he asks if Zane can come over and I say sure, who’s Zane, and he says, that’s right … you got it: “He's my best friend.” How does my 3 1/2 -year-old even know what a best friend is and how can I trust the friend instinct when I can’t even trust him to wear a sweater in the cold, let alone underwear? I have a best friend. We’ve been best friends since we were 5. And we’ve stayed best friends decades (and decades) later. So is 5 a good age to determine who your friends are and who’s not your friend? I don’t even think at 40 you always know who your friends are. I asked Wendy if she asked Dylan who his friends are. “Yes and I went through all 34 kids on the school list and with each name, he said yes!”

“OK,” I say, “I’ll ask Mack who he and Dylan hang with in school.” Except Mack tells me “I don’t know. Everyone.” “Hmmm,” I say, “These are boys and we’re bound for these kind of answers the rest of our lives, so we’d better start drawing our own conclusions or become really good spies.” Then Wendy asks who I’m inviting to Mack’s party. I tell her I’ve got to limit the list to 20 because of where the party is taking place, so basically if Mack hasn’t talked about a kid within two days of the invites going out, they’re not on the A list, because there is, of course, a B list. “What if Mack was invited to their party?” Wendy asks. “Well, too bad. I can only fit 20 kids and if your name’s not heard around the house, then it’s off the printer.” What do you think? How do you manage the invite list for your kids' parties? Share your thoughts with other TODAY Moms below.Related parenting stories: