In less than 2 weeks, B turns 5. Aside from the mingled feelings of shock and pride I feel about this, I’m also experiencing the frenetic anticipation of putting together B’s birthday party, which will be next Saturday. He had a pretty big party when he turned 1, but he was too little to have much opinion in the matter, and I had a lot of help from my mom. For his second birthday, we had a party, too — he was also too little to vote much, and I also had help. His third birthday was party-less (aside from Dan, Liam & I), and last year we were at the beach with family, so we had a party, but pressure was minimal and help was plentiful.
This year is different. This year B really wanted to have a party, with his friends, and he has lots of ideas about what it should entail. He has very strong opinions, but he isn’t able to articulate some of them until I suggest something counter to his idea and he gets very frustrated with me for not (psychically) understanding.
He wanted to invite his whole class at school (20 kids) in addition to his other friends. I vetoed, and said he could choose 8 from school (which evolved into 11 once we accounted for their siblings). Add to this the complication of having at least 5 different first languages represented amongst the invitees, and I think we’ll have our hands full as it is.
This is where crossing cultures becomes an adventure. The invitations said RSVP, and I provided both my phone number and email (in case there was anyone who didn’t want to attempt English but didn’t trust my German), but although B’s party is next weekend, I currently have no idea how many kids will be there. Of the 17 invitations we gave out for his birthday party, we only heard back from 5 of the kids. We were able to contact 3 more to find out their plans, but for the other 9, kids from B’s school for whom we don’t have contact info, we have no idea if they’re coming, and, unless they decide to call, we won’t.
I’ve always heard that the rule of thumb is that most people who don’t RSVP won’t come — people who know they can be there let you know, people who can’t, or who aren’t sure, don’t feel as motivated about getting back in touch. But the thing is, in a different culture, in a different country, I can’t really make that assumption. Maybe RSVP doesn’t mean anything in German (I mean, it’s an abbreviation for a French phrase, so it doesn’t technically mean anything in English either). Maybe, culturally, a “regrets only” mentality is typical, so I ought to take their silence as a yes. Maybe we caught people just as they were leaving for summer holidays, and everyone is gone (in a country where 2-4 week summer vacations are common, a lot of people are gone for a lot of the summer). Maybe everyone is just really busy and I’ll get a bunch of responses this coming week. Or maybe they never got the invitations at all (they were left in the kids’ cubbies at school). I just don’t know, but I can’t make too many assumptions.
So, at this point, we know we’ll have somewhere between 6 and 15 kids here for the party, plus parents. That’s a bit of a wide range for planning purposes (somewhere between 12 and 35 people, I’m guessing, because of course, for the non-RSVPers, we have no clue how many adults might come, too).
It’ll be fine. In fact, it’ll be great. It’s 3 hours out of everyone’s life, and the only person whose opinion really counts is Benjamin, and he certainly isn’t going to care if we run out of paper cups or if there aren’t enough places for everyone to sit. He’s going to have (I hope) a great time no matter what. He’s excited to celebrate with his friends, and that he shall do. I’m excited, too.