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Let’s be honest here: I’m not exactly jumping for joy when one of my kids gets invited to a birthday party. No matter what’s written on the actual invitation, here’s what it really says: “Please sacrifice your upcoming Saturday to shop for, wrap and deliver a token of your child’s affection for mine and then join us for two hours of sitting on the floor at Gymboree before eating a slice of cake you’ll not really enjoy and feel guilty about later.” The exception of course is the six-hour drop-off affair to which both of my kids are invited, which is mostly an exception in the sense that it hasn’t actually happened yet.
You’d think I’d have been excited to open a recent invite, which had a little note at the bottom I had to read three times before the words would compute: “No gifts, please.”
No gifts? At a child’s birthday party? Wasn’t that the point? I mean, sure, none of our kids need another book, baby doll, board game or teddy bear, but socially speaking, it feels a little awkward to walk into a party empty handed. Should I wrap up a card that says a donation has been made in the birthday girl’s name? And more importantly, do I have to deny my kids birthday gifts for fear of looking greedy in comparison?
As much as I’d love an excuse to avoid another expensive, overstimulating trip to Toys R Us, I also think that having my kids choose a gift for someone else is a nice little lesson in philanthropy (even if they’re not feeling the financial pinch themselves yet), not to mention a solid reminder that they’re not the center of the universe. I assume the parents are trying to de-emphasize the materialistic aspect of the annual birthday celebration, which I applaud. However I also think having your kids hand over the DVD or dinosaur that they really, really wanted to keep for themselves builds character, too.