I recently decided that birthdays, especially ones with big parties and lots of kids, shouldn’t be a big special event for everyone. Sure they should be fun and yes everyone should get cake but why are we giving gifts to all the kids that attend? Is it their birthday? Do we go to baby showers as adults and expect to walk out of there with some loot? NO! That’s absurd! We go to support and celebrate someone else…and that’s a good skill to learn. By the time our kids are throwing bridal showers and baby showers, will they have to get a gift for everyone who attends? Because that’s what we’re teaching them. We aren’t teaching them the valuable skill of celebrating others, we’re teaching them that by going to someone else’s party, they should get something more than the joy of attendance.
I am writing this now because I don’t know of anyone even having a birthday and I’m definitely not trying to point any fingers here. I want to draw attention to what we are teaching our kids in the long run, not pick on any particular individual or family. I also need to say that my children have thus far been too little for any birthday parties so this isn’t even coming from personal experience, only observation.
When I was a kid, we went to someone’s party with a gift. We got to play their games and eat some treats and watch them open their presents. Then we went home, with a great experience under our belts and nothing in our hands. And it was fun! We had a great time. No one thought we should get a party favor. I remember the first time someone gave me one in fact. I thought it was really weird. I tried to tell them that I didn’t need it. They gave it anyway. I asked my mom, “Why did they give me this? It wasn’t my party?” She didn’t understand it any better than I did. How did we let such strange behavior become the new normal? I am still baffled.
And isn’t this more stressful on the person throwing the party? They are already planning games and food and decorations. They want to make sure their kid has a great time…because that is the whole point! And now they have to come up with some little gift for EVERY child who attends? It can’t be too big or nice or fancy (wouldn’t want to outdo the actual gifts) but can’t be cheapy or noisy or heck, even have gluten or any of the other offensive allergens anymore. I don’t even know what gets passed out now. But things do!
Here is what I propose: Let’s all go back to thanking people for coming to our parties with our words. Let the good time they had be enough. Let’s look at more than birthdays when we change this mindset. Let’s teach our children the value of celebrating someone else without receiving a “favor” in return. Because life is better when you can learn to be a little more selfless and content. Because maybe if we can do this, our kids will learn to look at others as equals, as friends, instead of as targets or competition. Because life is already too complicated, let’s calm it back down.