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Ask Ellen: Uninvited Party Guest

Q. At 1 PM last Saturday, two hours before my 5-year-old daughter's birthday party was to start, the telephone rang. On the other end was the mother of one of the girls we'd invited  -- just getting around to RSVPing yes. I'd assumed her child wasn't coming. Worse still, she said her younger daughter had seen the "cute" invitation and asked to come too  -- and she had told the little girl she could! "I hope it's okay," the mom said breezily. I was so taken aback, I said, "Fine." Actually, it was not fine  -- I didn't have enough pizza, cupcakes, or loot bags. What else could I have done besides say yes?

— Party Pooped

A. Ugh. The woman's a toad. You have certainly earned the right to dis her to 40 other mothers. But what was the alternative? To bar one or both of her kids from the party? I don't know about that. I mean, did the little sister really eat that much pizza? Nah.

Look, a party day is all about creating a feeling of community. And it's about you, as hostess, welcoming guests into your home  -- even a mom who RSVPs late and then adds on a little sister. It's easy to forget that sentiment these days. Throwing a grand kids' party means working like a dog, often for guests you barely know. Next year, why not suggest to your daughter that she have a small party with friends you're familiar with?

Whatever the size of the get-together, put "Sorry, no siblings" on the invitation. If some mother hasn't responded by the date indicated, phone her to find out if her kid will attend. Have on hand a few extra cupcakes and (cheap) party favors. If you're ever caught short in some way, make do: Give the unexpected guest a PB&J sandwich instead of pizza; suggest to the invited kid that she share her loot bag with her little sister. (Maybe she actually will.) Above all, remember: The day is for kids. Somebody's rude mother is like a fly that momentarily circles the cake: She'll buzz off.

Ellen Welty, who has been dispensing advice for years to friends, family, and the readers of many national magazines, lives in New England with her husband and two children.

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