Ask any parent if they think their kid has too much stuff, and you will likely get a resounding, “Yes!” From junky fast food trinkets to relatives overspending on them at holidays, kids likely have more toys than they have time to play with them. The last thing they need is a party with their entire class where they get 20 to 30 birthday gifts. It’s too much, make it stop!
But, as a parent attending these parties with your child, is it cool to just opt out of bringing a present because you think the whole gift-giving thing has gotten out of control? In a letter written to Slate’s Care and Feeding column, one parent bemoaned the fact that, in the spirit of including the whole class, they had constant birthday party invites, and they weren’t really down with shelling out $25 a pop for gifts. Personally, they had adopted a no gifts policy for their own kids and wondered if they could follow the same code as the party attendee.
“Over the past few years, we’ve gone through some financial struggles and also receive too much stuff from family, so I made a rule to not give (or ask for) gifts,” said the letter, signed "We All Have Enough Crap" (WAHEC). WAHEC went on to say, “Recently I attended a friend’s son’s party and, per my rule, didn’t bring a gift. The birthday boy asked, ‘Where’s the gift you brought?’ and I said, ‘Well, we didn’t bring one.’ He asked why not. I felt like such a jerk.”
It seems like a lot for WAHEC to put their personal philosophy on other people’s kids, who are too little to be the punctuation of an economical stance. Slate’s Rumaan Alam didn’t necessarily agree. “It’s the role of the parent of the birthday kid to teach them not to demand gifts at their party,” he writes. “Grandparents and close friends can shower them with presents; the attendance of their more casual playmates should be gift enough.”
True, but in my house, we’re still learning basics like saying “thank you” after opening presents and not complaining if you already have the same toy at home. To also explain that some people fundamentally object to the concept of presents seems like a big leap for a kid’s little brain. Kids shouldn’t be grubbing for gifts, but don’t expect them to not be hurt when you show up with nothing.
Some birthday party invites will specifically say “no gifts please,” which is great because it lets you off the hook of shopping for a kid you have never met and alleviates the burden of the hosting family to find space for so many new things their kid doesn’t even need.
If you get an invite that says that, please, please follow it and don’t try to be the cool person who says, “Oh, but the birthday kid needs something to open!” If you show up with a gift, it makes everyone else who followed the rules look bad. Assume the parent and the birthday kid have already worked something out and the kid will not be disappointed in this instance.
If your invite does not ban gifts explicitly, even if you think the kid doesn’t need anything, it’s best to bring something small if that’s all you can afford. It doesn’t need to be the latest LEGO set (those things are pricey!), but even something from the dollar store, like Play-Doh or crayons, along with a homemade card, goes a long way. It also follows the classic rule of never showing up to a party empty-handed.
I think the takeaway from this parenting lesson is to worry about ways to cut down the junk in your own house and let other people create their own mess, even if it’s a mess of half-broken action figures and empty surprise doll boxes. That is their problem!
Not a member of Dailybreak yet? By registering, you gain access to lots of perks, like the opportunity to earn points by simply reading what’s new this month on Netflix or learning a new recipe from your favorite brand. Once you register, you can use your points to enter to win prizes ranging from a $25 Amazon gift card to a Fire HD 8 Tablet. So what are you waiting for? Sign up!