Q: My daughter’s tenth birthday is coming up soon, and I’ve promised her that she can have a birthday party. The problem is that her best friend practices a religion that doesn’t celebrate birthdays. I don’t want to exclude the little girl from the festivities, but I don’t want to offend her family by sending an invitation. My daughter really wants her to be a part of her big day. What should I do?
A: Whereas some aspects of life are open for negotiation (like bedtime or chores) others are not. Religion is one of those non-negotiable areas. While you see birthdays as a time meant for fun celebration, your daughter’s friend sees them differently. It’s not your place to decide whether that outlook is right or wrong, but it is your place to demonstrate tolerance and respect by not placing your daughter’s best friend in an awkward position. No matter how much your daughter wants her friend to come to the party, you cannot ask her to forgo her beliefs for the sake of your daughter.
You can, however, talk to the friend’s parent about the situation. Many people are hesitant to ask others about their religious beliefs, but an open dialogue can go a long way toward dispelling misunderstandings and prejudices. In fact, the girl’s parents will probably appreciate your thoughtfulness. Assure mom or dad that you don’t want to make them uncomfortable, but let them know that your daughter would like to do something special with her friend. Ask how you can accomplish this in a way that won’t infringe upon their religious beliefs. While the little girl will probably not be able to attend the party or give a gift, she may be able to spend the night or go to a movie as long as it’s for the sake of friendship and not for the sake of a birthday celebration.
If the parents are unwilling to allow the girl to participate in any activity that may be contrived to be a birthday celebration, drop it. Pushing the issue may result in the loss of the friendship.
Want to ask any of our experts for advice? Visit our Ask a Question page to submit your dilemma!