Sunday, May 5, 2013

To gift or not to gift... wait, what's the question?

Humans are a funny bunch. We adamantly believe certain things to be the absolute truth until we learn another way and very easily and willingly change our minds. The past month made me do a complete 180 on requesting no gifts for your child's birthday.

It all started a few weeks back when we received an invitation to one of my daughter's friend's birthday party. I was very excited to go. I don't have many new mom friends, so when the kid gets an invite, I feel like less of a loser too. I posted the invite on the fridge under a magnet. After I purchased a gift for the birthday girl I noticed the bottom line on the invite said: No Gifts Please. 

I instantly took exception to this request because A-I had already bought a gift, and let's face it, I'm not usually that prepared (Note to self: keep leaving things until the last minute), B-I didn't think it was fair to the child. Obviously the parents had made this decision on behalf of the two year old child, who, I truly believed, would wholeheartedly object to that request.

My own objection turned into full on confusion as I debated whether to honor the child and get her a gift, thereby ignoring the parents request and looking like a very rude person, or to honor the parents request and not get a gift and then feel weird about it because it's her birthday and it seems so mean to not get a kid a gift, regardless of what the invite said.

In the end I decided to scale back the gift and just give her a book. I figured that if the request was made in the interest of preserving precious New York City apartment space, one more book would not hurt. I thought it was a lovely book that the little girl would enjoy. And I believed this decision would exempt me from my usual self-loathing when I inevitably make the wrong call, one way or another... a happy medium, of sorts. But of course I was wrong about that. 

As we walked into the party, I noticed a completely full table welcoming us in to the space. It was a table full of presents, just so we're clear. I instantly hated myself. Why did I have to be such a cheapskate? Why didn't I just keep the whole present and give it to her (like everyone else obviously did)? Now it just looks like we gave a crappy gift. Which then makes me ponder whether we would have been better off giving nothing. What an annoying situation. I feel like I didn't do what was asked of us, and yet I didn't do what I would have normally done out of some internal negotiated middle ground where I didn't totally deprive the child and didn't completely disrespect the parents wishes.

For the entire fortnight following that party I had a very colorful internal monologue going about how terrible the request for no gifts was.

Two full weeks I grappled with the feeling of being viewed as cheap and yet somehow also undisciplined and disrespectful. Two weeks I struggled with what the right decision was, and hated being put in the situation where I had to make a choice. Two weeks I cursed the other attendees for not listening either, and therefore making us all look bad. Two weeks... and then came my own daughter's birthday party.

I had fielded several inquiries of what to purchase for my child for her birthday. As we don't really buy her many toys, I just said whatever these fellow parents believed was a good fit for a two year old. What I didn't realize is that there is a lot of stuff out there and most of it can be enjoyed by a two year old. Now, don't get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful for these very generous gifts. I am just now in a complete panic as there are simply too many to allow one child to have at once. It's excessive. It's unnecessary. It's messy. It's more than we can fit comfortably in our apartment. (Aha!)

So, one month later I have had a complete change of heart on the cold, brutal No Gifts request. It is actually OK for the child. It is definitely OK for the parents. And as I learned first hand, there are still plenty of people who will ignore it, so you will get stuff to tuck away in the closet and dole out each month for the next few months regardless.

Maybe we could all agree to not buy presents for each others kids and just buy a bunch of gifts around our own kids birthday to shower them with during their birthday month. We can all save a little money, sanity, internal grappling and pride. At least, that's what I believe to be the answer today. Ask me again in an undisclosed amount of time and I will probably have changed my mind. 
                           Can you ask for cake as a gift? That's all she wants anyway.


  1. We went through the gift debate for Avery's second birthday and we ended-up asking people to donate children's clothes for us to give to a local charity. Very few people actually brought Avery gifts. If they did, it was something small, like your book ;-) The clothes had to have the tags on them to be donated so people actually did have to buy something. We ended-up with lots of clothes to donate and Avery certainly didn't know the difference. Not sure what we'll do as she gets older....

  2. I really like that idea AnnL. Like most things "mommy," I'm learning as I go. Too late for this year, but will work for her 3rd birthday (or for any other little nuggets in the future).
    Can also do a book drive, as Laura suggested on my Facebook page.
    I like the charitable ideas and really appreciate the suggestions!

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  4. Love that idea too. And LOVE the pink icing lips. She is ridonk! Sooooooo cute! Also love your tags for this post..."bad mommy"!! You are anything but!


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