Saturday, August 05, 2006

more birthday opinions

Since becoming a mother, I have been to a lot of children's birthday parties, and I've hosted seven of the them. Anton and I have formed some strong opinions, which thankfully we share, such as Pinatas Are Evil; Please, No Gifts In The Thank You Notes; and RSVP Goddammit Don't Make Me Have To Call All Of You On The Phone.

It probably won't surprise anyone to learn that we have many opinions about the proper handling of birthday gifts. The thing which irritates us no end is when parents do not allow their children to open their birthday gifts. I keep my mouth firmly shut about this, unless the parent asks my opinion, because no one wants to hear their parenting criticized and it's not exactly a child abuse crisis. But later, in the car, we complain. I guess the parents feel that it's too hard on the other children to see presents without getting them, but they're all getting grab bags and pinata swag, so that doesn't seem that strong an argument. My problem is that my children -- and the other child guests--- WANT to see their friend open their gift. They are excited about it. It's a big letdown to them when they can't be there to see their friend tear open the wrapping paper and react to the gift.

Additionally, many parents feel that their children would be spoiled if they got a lot of presents on one day. Arguably by instead parcelling out the presents and giving them over a month, they lessen the impact. I actually think it's much more spoiling to give children a gift every day for weeks. It makes the actual presents seem less special, and it sets up an atmosphere where the child gets a present every day for a full frigging season, with no particular entitlement on any one day.

Other parents use the birthday presents as a disciplinary device. One mother confided in me that she doled out the birthday presents for months afterward as rewards for good behavior. That, however, diminishes the relationship between the child and her friends. The item is presented for cleaning her room or flossing for a week or whatever, when it is really something picked out by a little pal for her birthday.

Just let the kids open their gifts, please. Let the other little kids get to see their friend open the box. The other kids will be okay, truly. It just builds up anticipation for when their own birthday rolls around. And don't make me have to bring a gift for all children in your family; that's really spoiling the other siblings and setting them up for a lifetime of feeling entitled.


Susan said...

So far, we've not opened gifts at an actual birthday party. Of course at Michael's 1st, we said "no gifts". So even though some people still brought them, we opened them later. For his 2nd, we said, "please do not feel the need to bring a gift". (Some people at his 1st party said, 'but we WANT to give a gift'.) Again, no opening at the party. We never wanted anyone who didn't bring a gift to feel they were cheap or anything. Because we do not think that.

Michael's 3rd is coming, and we probably won't open at the party then either. I don't know. Bad past experiences at a 6 year old's party. (You can guess who.) She ripped through everything, never taking a moment to really look at anything, and never even realizing who anything was from. She just pulled it out, threw it aside, and went for the next box. It was sick.

I guess we'll play each year by ear. I definitely understand what you're saying though.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Yeah, that behavior is pretty poor. I think that kids can be taught to open presents quickly but politely, but that requires having parents at the ready who are writing down what each thing is and who it came from (for the thank you notes) and who can prompt the child to say thank you.

There are some kids out there who shouldn't open presents in public, no doubt.

Susan said...

HAHA! This was the case where the mother was sitting there saying "I'm not sending any thank you notes. I've already done enough work for this party!"

So I guess perhaps it is that there are some PARENTS out there whose kids should not open gifts in public! :-)