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Ask Ellen: Party-Spot Stealer

Q. A mom whose kid is in the same class as my son asked me where I'm having his birthday party. I told her I'd found a great new place with a rock-climbing wall. Now she's booked her kid's bash there  -- for the week before mine. Can I tell her to change to another locale?

— Second in Line and Steaming

A. This woman has already put down a deposit. You can't ask her to lose that. Besides, she'd whisper to other mothers about how you're so deranged you want her to alter her plans so you can have the site all to yourself.

But that doesn't change the fact that she should have checked with you first. If you can tell her, in a joking tone, "Hey, you stole my party spot!" go for it. You'll also be doing a public service; she needs to be more considerate. If, however, you can't say those words without a forehead vein bulging, don't risk looking like a fool. Remember: Your party will still be fun, simply because you and your boy are at the center of it.

Are you worried that a jaded little guest will grumble aloud, "Rock climbing again?!" Shuck it off; the child will be whooping it up by cake-cutting time. Concerned that you'll look like a copycat party planner? From now on, remain absolutely mum about your celebration ideas until your invitations have been stamped and mailed.

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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