With Bode’s 1st birthday right around the corner. T has had many questions surrounding birthday parties, gifts, etc. This is likely going to lead to several posts, but we decided to start with the birthday party gifts. Or as M likes to say……….
Stuff, Stuff, and More Stuff.
M: I’m sure you have figured out by now that I am generally a party pooper. This is pervasive in all aspects of my life. Probably comes (in part) from the fact that I am pretty much exhausted all the time and, yet, always adding more to my schedule. In any event, here is another area in which I could be perceived as a party pooper – birthday party presents.
T: For somebody who consistently tells me I am from the “grouchy family” M can sure be Oscar the Grouch.
M: *eye roll* This post isn’t mean to be about family birthday presents – we are talking about presents at a birthday party. I have often been at Target looking for a reasonable gift for a child I do not know at all (and do not know the parents either). I’ve gone to birthday parties with my child only to see 40 – no joke – birthday presents for the 2 or 3 year old. Seriously, who wants that much stuff????? Even when they are 5 and in school, do you really want your child to get so many new things at once? Do you want that stuff in your house?
M: So what should you do? We have dealt with this in a few different ways. First of all, we don’t have birthday parties until they are in school and actually KNOW some of their friends. Even when one daughter turned 4, we had one special friend go to one special place with us. It was much more meaningful and fun.
T: I feel like most of my birthday parties were limited in the number of guests invited. But now it is so common to invite the kids entire class to the party: a) that’s a lot of gifts and b) what do you buy for a kid your kid doesn’t know or play with often. At that point you end up having to buy something totally random and hope for the best. I know it shouldn’t be about the gift but the thought, but that’s part of the problem. There is NO thought going into these gifts.
M: Exactly! For us, we often give the kids a choice of a big birthday party with lots of friends and no gifts or a smaller party with close friends and gifts are acceptable. Once they have good friends, buying gifts makes a lot more sense. Your child has an idea of what their friends like or want and they WANT to give them something that’s picked just for them. I will sometimes “bribe” my kid with an extra gift from us (the parents) in exchange for a bunch of gifts from friends (when they want a bigger party).
T: Lately I have seen a lot of parties where the kids donate the toys or ask for donations to something in particular. That may be more of the parents forcing that issue but it’s a great lesson for the kids! In the alternative, prior to a birthday you could ask your kids to find toys that they no longer play with to donate. For instance, if your kid is turning 7 they have to find 7 things they no longer play with that can be donated.
M: We have definitely gone this route. We have had parties where people bring a book to be donated to a charity – and, of course, the donation is optional because I don’t want people to stress out before our parties.
T: I think that’s a great alternative
M: Here is another problem with so many gifts, thank-you notes. We are thank-you note writers. (OK, so I am and I force my children to be because I believe in holding on to some semblance of etiquette, though I know it’s waning.)
T: Me too!
M: Either my kids dictate the note to me and I write, or they painstakingly write the note themselves. We are not doing those pre-printed ones either. To me, if someone spent their money on a gift for me or my child, the least we can do is acknowledge it in writing.*
(*footnote – I have a child who is the world’s worst speller and I do allow him to type his thank you notes.)
T: For me I would expect Bode to hand write them, but honestly I would just be happy they got sent no matter what form they were in. Birthday parties, presents, and thank you notes are overwhelming to think about! I want Bode to have that fun experience and get the chance to open presents and stuff like that. But I also just think it’s a lot and I’m worried that it hurts people’s feelings who want to do something nice.
M: Hmmm….I have never worried about people’s feelings getting hurt because I say no gifts. In fact, some people bring a gift anyway and I’m totally fine with that. (Though my kids HAVE complained when they have to write a thank you note after saying no gifts!) I personally love unexpected gifts from people and love to give unexpected gifts – especially when you find that perfect gift or you lift someone’s spirits with something small. I just think the gift giving at parties can be meaningless and excessive which isn’t good for the gift-giver or gift-receiver.
T: And it’s not to say that they can’t give a gift if they want to, you’re really just asking them not to feel obligated true?
M: Haha i mean when I say no gifts I mean no gifts ;). But true, I would never make my kid turn down a gift because I had written no gifts on the invitation.