Parent wonders what age is old enough for drop offs at birthday parties—and other parents weigh in

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When it comes to kids’ birthday parties, there’s an age-old question hanging over each one: Do you just drop off your attending kid(s) and leave it up to the hosting parent(s) to supervise everyone? Or do you stay and assume responsibility for your own child? Does it depend on age? The location? The activities they’re doing? One parent took to Reddit to ask other parents what they thought after some conflict over this at a birthday party they hosted.

“Just had my kiddo’s bday party at a public pool. Decent sized place with a lazy river, slides, splash stuff, it’s a fun spot. All kids invited just finished 3rd and 4th grade and I know most of the kids and parents pretty well,” they wrote. “One parent brought my kid’s 10yo buddy and their twin (I met this friend and parent once a couple years ago) and when she started to leave, I apologized and told her it wasn’t a drop off party. She just kinda stared at me and I apologized again, said I would have put ‘drop off’ on the invite had I thought to and wasn’t comfortable accepting responsibility for her kids at a public pool.”

They added that the other parent said they needed to pick up another child and would be right back, but ended up not returning.

“She didn’t come back, and sent a text just before the party ended saying she was busy and told me to leave her kids at the pool or have them sit by the parking lot. I let her know I wasn’t comfortable with the position I was in and said we’d stay for a while but I would tell the office about the situation and give them her info if we left before she arrived. Someone came to get them 30min later,” the parent wrote.

A similar situation happened with another parent at the party: “Another parent, never met them or their kid before today, didn’t introduce themselves, just said ‘here to drop off [kid’s name] for the party’. They stayed but it was pretty clear they were unhappy about it.”

The parent writing the post added, “I felt in the wrong and out of some loop, but the other parents that came were similarly surprised as they hadn’t thought about the drop-off thing before either. Is there an age when drop-off at these things is just the way of the road?”

From their post, it seems like age isn’t the only question here, but the fact that the party took place at a public pool, where kids who may have different swimming abilities will be in the water and spread out, making it difficult (or even impossible) for one parent to supervise them all.

Still, in the comments, other parents wrote that at that age (assuming kids who have finished third grade are at least 9 or 10), it’s pretty much assumed that parents will just drop off at birthday parties unless they’re explicitly told that you expect them to stay.

“I just hosted a birthday party for my 10yr old. It was 15 boys, all 4th and 5th graders. None of the parents stayed, even the ones that I’m friends with,” one commenter wrote.

Another added, “At that age, you 100% need to specify if you’d like parents to stay.”

Another parent left a thoughtful comment with some more context: “My feeling is that given the context that it is a pool party, yes specifying would have been a good idea. At age 9-10 drop offs are the norm. But given the context of swimming I can understand why you felt more cautious. Take it from someone who taught swimming through high school and college: At that age parents have very, VERY different levels of comfort and confidence regarding their child and swimming. Some kids that age are great swimmers and some are not. Some parents are totally confident in their kid’s ability to remain safe in the water and some are not.”

They continued, “Gently and respectfully, if someone is dropping off their kid who is a good swimmer, I can see why they’d be pretty surprised you expected them to stay. This would go double if there were lifeguards on duty. I also imagine that the parent of a ten year old who is not a good swimmer would probably choose to stick around of their own accord or politely decline the invite.”

Sounds like this one could go either way, but clear communication (before the day of the party) would have helped everyone.