1st Birthday Invitations, RE: Gifts. How do I word this? - Mothering Forums

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Old 09-07-2011, 11:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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DD is having a birthday party at the beginning of November in which both sides of our family will be invited.

 

DH and I have... preferences... about gifting. It is emphasized way too much, and contributes to materialism and consumerism. We hate toys with batteries and would like to steer away from plastic in favor of more diverse, natural materials, books, and real instruments. And really, DD doesn't need anything, nor does she expect it at her age. We have too much stuff as it is and are actually in the process of simplifying. I really, really, REALLY do not want to receive crap, as well-meaning as that crap is given it is just going to end up in a landfill and be total waste of resources and space. I want her to receive things that will be used and that develop her creativity and senses.

 

What we would like ideally is for people to just show up sans gifts, but knowing our family, this won't ever happen even if we spell it out. They are as mainstream and consumer-oriented as it gets, and kid birthdays mean, by tradition and default, a trip to Toys R Us irked.gif

 

So here's our little dilemma:

 

1) How do we word our invitations without offending folks? We'd like to make it clear that gifts are not expected, but extend graciousness nevertheless. We'd also like to, somehow, give some sort of guidance to the kinds of gifts DD receives without appearing pushy or controlling. I'm not sure how to pull this off. Do I say nothing and just grit my teeth and be gracious for them thinking of us? Do I provide a link to an amazon wish list or my pinterest page for gift ideas? Should I make a simple statement about gifts (not expected/preferences? If I state preferences or provide a link for ideas, does this seem like it would cancel out the "gifts not expected" part, and urge people into gifting? Should I just say "gifts not expected" or "gifts discouraged" <--- sounds kind of mean and ungrateful? What would offend you if you were receiving this invitation? 

 

2) The "gift-giving" portion of the party is something we want to totally do away with. Since we aren't expecting gifts, we don't see a reason to make any gift-giving that does take place a public matter. We don't want to isolate people who chose to not give gifts. At the same time, our families both will naturally expect a public gift unwrapping, it being a 1-year old's birthday party and all. They'll "want to see what else she got" and watch her be cute :P.  We were thinking about doing gift exchange on a private person-to-person basis, maybe as people come in or when the party is in a lull go to a bedroom. Am I overthinking this? Is it really that big of a deal? What would you think?

 

 

Any and all input would be sooo helpful! Thanks!

 

 

 


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Old 09-08-2011, 12:19 AM
 
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We tried our best to do this for ds' 1st birthday party.

I asked people to bring donatations of diapers, formula etc for the local food bank. I worded it something like this... "DS" is very fortunate to have everything he needs and much more, there are many babies who are not so lucky , gifts are not expected but if you feel the need to bring a gift to bring a donation of diapers or formula for the local food bank..

 

Many people brought donations, but nearly half still brought a girft for ds, mostly clothes and a few toys.

 

In regards to opening the gifts I was very stressed about what to do. Our party was out side and when people gave gifts they were put straight inside the house and almost no one asked about opening them. My aunt really wanted to see DS open the great big plastic dump truck she bought him so we went inside to open it with her.

 

I really didn't want to open them in front of everyone because I thought it was unfair to the people who didn't bring anything as asked. My mom was not happy with me but I just told her no and put my foot down.

 

We sat later and I opened them after everyone left, I dont think it would have been very exciting to sit and watch me open a bunch of presents, I think people enjoyed hanging out outside relaxing much more!!!!

 

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Old 09-08-2011, 05:39 AM
 
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If you don't think people will respect your "no gifts" request, then don't put it on the invites. It will just make the one or two people who DO respect it feel bad. Speaking from experience here. wink1.gif I don't think it's appropriate to put any sort of 'registry' on the invites, but if people call & ask what she's into, you can point them in the right direction... or if there are a couple of family members you are especially close to, you could communicate this through them & they can spread it through the family grapevine. It sounds like you know you will get lots of (plastic/battery) gifts anyway, so I wouldn't put people in an awkward position by asking them not to do something you know they will end up doing regardless. Just keep them in the packaging and donate or return everything you don't want/need. Keep a small box of a few gifts to pull out when certain people come to visit (you know, the people who will inevitably ask what happened to the doll they got her & be devastated if they found out you donated it). Bonus, that small box of seldom-used toys can come in really handy on a rainy day or long car ride!

As far as opening the gifts at the party, I'd just skip it. If anyone asks, you can just say it would be too overwhelming for her, or that you want to spread it out over a few days, or that she's not into unwrapping yet. Lots of people skip the gift-opening at toddler parties... we planned to skip it for DS's last birthday (put all the gifts locked in our bedroom), but then we hit a lull & every single person had brought a gift despite my request, so we just brought them out & had him open them.

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Old 09-08-2011, 05:52 AM
 
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Yep, you're over thinking. Don't put anything about gifts on the invitation. Let people bring what they want. If they ask you, you can give them some pointers. If you get too much, donate to a shelter. There are plenty of kids out there with no family to buy them things at all, whether from toys r us or the local natural toy store.

 

As far as opening presents, could your family come a little early or stay a little late to open presents?


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Old 09-08-2011, 03:04 PM
 
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I am a fan of small birthday parties for small kids. When DD turned 1, we invited her 3 buddies that we played with on regular basis and their families. We did family stuff separately. This way she was not overwhelmed, and neither were we.

 

I think anytime someone is invited to a birthday party, it is expected that you bring a gift, especially for a child. I don't think there is any way you can get out of that expectation other than having some other kind of party. Maybe a family BBQ that just happens to have some birthday cake?

 

My DS's first birthday just happened to be the day after a big family wedding. Many of us went out to a fun pancake breakfast the next morning and to recognize his day we stuck a candle on his stack. He received a few small gifts, but since it was not specifically a birthday party we were not inundated. It was great that so many family members celebrated with him, and really great that we did not have to deal with a huge birthday fiasco.

 

There is definitely no tactful way to dictate what type of gifts are expected or not appreciated on an invite. As already mentioned, spread the word by sharing your preferences with a close family member or as people ask. Graciously except what your child receives, and after the party do what you want with it.

 

 


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Old 09-08-2011, 03:14 PM
 
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 Do I say nothing and just grit my teeth and be gracious for them thinking of us?



Yes.  That is exactly what you do. 

 

I understand your position.  I hate hate hate DS getting a bunch of presents at every event, especially a bunch of plastic made in China crap.  I am not into gift giving/receiving and think there is such a huge focus on materialism and that isn't something I want my kids to be focused on.  But--there is no way to direct people towards what gifts you find to be acceptable without being totally tacky and rude.  It just is not polite.  When people do ask us what DS might want, I tell them.  Otherwise I keep my mouth shut, smile, and say thank you. 

 

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Old 09-08-2011, 03:42 PM
 
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Yes.  That is exactly what you do. 

 

I understand your position.  I hate hate hate DS getting a bunch of presents at every event, especially a bunch of plastic made in China crap.  I am not into gift giving/receiving and think there is such a huge focus on materialism and that isn't something I want my kids to be focused on.  But--there is no way to direct people towards what gifts you find to be acceptable without being totally tacky and rude.  It just is not polite.  When people do ask us what DS might want, I tell them.  Otherwise I keep my mouth shut, smile, and say thank you. 

 



THere's just no way to talk about what he wants for his birthday without becoming unseemly.  Should someone ask, you could gently suggest some themes:  waldorf-style toys, natural toys, books, or what ever you lean towards.  Hopefully the people who know you know of your wishs in regards to toys, and with any luck will ask.  Remember, the relationship you have with these relatives is much more important than the gift (even if annoying) is.

 


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Old 09-08-2011, 07:50 PM
 
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I think your best bet here is to not mention anything about gifts in the invitation.  Since you *know* that some (many) of the people invited will be bringing gifts it will just make those who don't feel awkward.  I also don't think there's any gracious way to request certain types of toys only. 

 

As for the gift opening... ya know... I'd probably just do it.  It really makes people so happy to see the gift they brought being opened.  They want to see the reaction, yk?  I get you about not wanting to make a big deal about the presents, etc, but in the end I think it's probably better to just open them at the party.

 

Save unopened gifts to donate, or possibly return to a big chain store.  Or, if you have the storage space, keep them in reserve for rainy days.  You never know when a plastic battery-operated toy might save the day (I'm thinking on a long car trip to keep dc occupied, on the plane, when you desperately need to buy just 10 mins to write a really important email, etc).


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Old 09-08-2011, 08:14 PM
 
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I really, really, REALLY do not want to receive crap, as well-meaning as that crap is given it is just going to end up in a landfill and be total waste of resources and space. I want her to receive things that will be used and that develop her creativity and senses.

 

 

*********

 

please, consider donating the stuff you receive that you don't want. a homeless shelter, etc. would love to redistribute the things to people, to whom they would be valuable.

 

i see these types of threads all the time on MDC. 

 

IMHO the thing to do is leave the whole gift thing alone. let things happen as they will happen. this way you will offend none of your well meaning mainstream family and friends.

 

as your LOs grow older, you can teach the importance of all the values you cherish... including i hope thinking of others in all that you do.

 

 


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Old 09-08-2011, 08:39 PM
 
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I agree with the previous suggestions that if asked, you can mention the types of gifts you think are appropriate for him (and hope the word spreads through the family grapevine) but otherwise you can't really call it out. 

 

We're about to be in the same position when our little boy is born - we already received some things for him at the baby shower that we'd knew we'd never need or want. Remember, you can always exchange/return things that you find especially objectionable. 


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Old 09-08-2011, 10:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the replies. You ladies are awesome. Being on the socially inept side, I've been so conflicted about this, but seeing your unanimous thoughts really put it into perspective---- especially Red Pajama's point about our relationships being much more important than whatever gift we may receive. So true. We will not mention anything at all about gifts on the invite, and will gently make suggestions if asked.

 

crunchy_mommy, DH and I loved your idea of putting the low quality toys away and getting them out for the gifter when they visit, and those desperate rainy days. We're going to do that. While I love the idea of donating, most of our family are rather attached to the gifts they choose to give, and WILL ask about them so I don't see how that will work out without hurting feelings.

 

As for the gift unwrapping, still not sure how we'll go about it. Maybe we'll just go with the flow. If nothing else, DH wants to do a private gift unwrapping with his side of the family (which is much smaller than mine) after the party is over. The party will be at his sister's house, so his siblings and mother will all there throughout the weekend. Makes sense to me.


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Old 09-09-2011, 09:02 AM
 
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Just wanted to put out there that I don't agree that you should never put preferences on a birthday invite for "no gifts".  I think it's different with very young children (when, let's face it, the party is kind of all about the adults--the 1 or 2 year old couldn't care less, and probably most are more stressed than happy with gigantic birthday party experience).  But as the kids get older, I think it's important to empower them if they want to do a "donations only" party.  My daughter and her best friend (birthdays 1 week apart) did a joint birthday party raising donations (both $$ and items) for a local animal shelter, my sons (twins) did one later for a local food bank.  They wanted to do this, pretty much everyone respected their wishes, and they all want to do it again this year--partially so they can invite all the people that they want, but also because they LOVED going to the organization with the donations (all three of my kids got special tours of the site when we took in the donations).  I didn't have any fussing directed towards me (at least my face), we took a big picture with all the kids at the parties with all the donated stuff and a sign with the amount raised to send out with a big thank you, and the "charity party" idea has been replicated more than once amongst people we know *because* their kids loved that experience and wanted to do it too.

 

However, it's easier when it's your kid that's the genesis, so that when people ask "you're going to do what?!?" when people see their passion/excitement, most will respect it.  Vs. thinking you're just a mom with a tight sphincter.  At least, to your face.  For all I know people were tantruming out of sight for not getting to do whatever they wanted at someone else's party.  :D

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Old 09-09-2011, 09:58 AM
 
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I agree with everyone above. Re. the gift opening: we've been to several dozen children's birthday parties over the last few years and I have NEVER seen anyone do gift opening at the party. It's boring for the other kids and can cause hurt feelings and other problems. For a one year old, it can be incredibly overwhelming to open a stack of gifts with an audience and it will also be incredibly SLOW. Skip it, and don't feel bad for a moment.

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Old 09-09-2011, 01:20 PM
 
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Totally agree with everyone else to avoid saying anything about the gifts on the invitations. People generally like giving gifts, they like seeing the kid open up the gift to see what's inside. As for whether you should open them up in front of everyone at the party or not, I don't think it matters so much for a 1 year old but I do think as the kid gets older opening up a gift while the person who gave it to them is still there is really important. It connects the receiver with the giver and is a teachable moment for a child to learn gratitude and appreciation. DD's birthday parties are on the small side (we separate family and friends events) so it might be different if there's a lot of people there. But I love that she gets to open a gift from a friend while they're sitting beside her watching her excitement and then she connects the generosity of her friend and can say thank you. I think if the gift opening was removed from who gave it to her it would be more difficult for her at her age (she's 2) to understand that someone who cares about her picked out something special for her and gave it to her. To me making the gift opening something that happens separate from the party and the 'givers' means it's actually more emphasis on the materialism because there's less room for making that connection between giver and receiver that really is what the gift is all about anyway.

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Old 09-09-2011, 01:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree with everyone above. Re. the gift opening: we've been to several dozen children's birthday parties over the last few years and I have NEVER seen anyone do gift opening at the party. It's boring for the other kids and can cause hurt feelings and other problems. For a one year old, it can be incredibly overwhelming to open a stack of gifts with an audience and it will also be incredibly SLOW. Skip it, and don't feel bad for a moment.



On both sides of the family, a time for public gift unwrapping is tradition and expected. It's just how our families do things. I totally agree that it can be boring and slow, and with other kids around--- cause hurt feelings (fortunately, DD is pretty much the only LO on both sides!). If we do choose to do this, DD will have the freedom to move about and commit her attention to whatever or whomever she pleases. Opening them will be done by DH and I, naturally. But the family will want to see us receive them, whether in private or public. In our case, saving gifts to unwrap at another time w/o the giver present would cause confusion and hurt feelings, so our dilemma is whether to do gift unwrapping all at once in front of everybody, or try to unwrap on a case-by-case private basis. We'll see how it goes. Either way, I think it will turn out fine. As DD gets older, being extremely mindful about how gift-exchanging takes place will be much more necessary. For now, it is still between DH and I, and the giver. 


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Old 09-10-2011, 09:11 AM
 
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I think it's important to empower them if they want to do a "donations only" party.

 

A "donations only" party would be an exception to the rule, I think.  "Please take what you would spend on me and give it to a homeless shelter" is a far cry from, "we only like handmade wooden toys."

 

Theme parties might be a borderline acceptable go-around.  If your theme is storybooks or cooking or gardening or art, a lot of people will follow that with books, cookie cutters, flower pots, and art supplies.

 

I understand why "no gift" parties are popular with adults - we don't want or need anymore toys in our house either (my daughter's birthday falls about half a month after Christmas, so we do a HUGE PURGE right after Halloween. Anything nice with all the working parts goes to consignment or gets donated).  It's hard to figure out what to help my daughter give to children from her class that we hardly know and whose parents I've never met.  At the same time, most kids think of this as a special time when they get surprises.  My daughter enjoys the picking-out process.  She's learning about choosing a gift for someone else, budgeting, and she helps wrap and make the card.  She is learning about sitting still and being polite while someone else is the center of attention so she's  learning about being a good guest.  She enjoys seeing her gift opened.  There's a lot going on on both sides of the gift giving equation.  I hate to see so many childhood rituals done away with because adults a. want to control every aspect of everything and b. children must never ever be bored not even for one second, it's better to just keep them entertained than to expect them to sit still and be polite for a few minutes. I think we should expect a little more from our kids and try to demand a little less from other people.

 

This whole "not opening the gift thing" is extending to showers and I find it so rude.  I don't particularly enjoy sitting through two hours of "oh yay, another onesie" BUT it seems SO darn rude to let your friends invite everyone you know to bring you a gift and then not bother to open it or demand that it be brought unwrapped so none of your precious time is wasted getting to the loot.  If your best friend from college and your second cousins from two states away can drive all that time to bring you a gift, you can damn well open it in front of them and pretend to be pleased with it.  Rant rant rant.

 

 

 

 

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Old 09-10-2011, 09:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I understand why "no gift" parties are popular with adults - we don't want or need anymore toys in our house either (my daughter's birthday falls about half a month after Christmas, so we do a HUGE PURGE right after Halloween. Anything nice with all the working parts goes to consignment or gets donated).  It's hard to figure out what to help my daughter give to children from her class that we hardly know and whose parents I've never met.  At the same time, most kids think of this as a special time when they get surprises.  My daughter enjoys the picking-out process.  She's learning about choosing a gift for someone else, budgeting, and she helps wrap and make the card.  She is learning about sitting still and being polite while someone else is the center of attention so she's  learning about being a good guest.  She enjoys seeing her gift opened.  There's a lot going on on both sides of the gift giving equation.  I hate to see so many childhood rituals done away with because adults a. want to control every aspect of everything and b. children must never ever be bored not even for one second, it's better to just keep them entertained than to expect them to sit still and be polite for a few minutes. I think we should expect a little more from our kids and try to demand a little less from other people.

 

This whole "not opening the gift thing" is extending to showers and I find it so rude.  I don't particularly enjoy sitting through two hours of "oh yay, another onesie" BUT it seems SO darn rude to let your friends invite everyone you know to bring you a gift and then not bother to open it or demand that it be brought unwrapped so none of your precious time is wasted getting to the loot.  If your best friend from college and your second cousins from two states away can drive all that time to bring you a gift, you can damn well open it in front of them and pretend to be pleased with it.  Rant rant rant.

 

 

 

 


I'm not sure if you were addressing my particular situation with my soon-to-be-1-year-old, or not. I totally agree there are many valuable social/ettiquette lessons to be learned from the gift exchange and other rituals that lately we parents are questioning and doing away with. However, at my DD's age, she is not old enough to garner the social lessons that you have outlined. All of that would just go over her head. The interactions would be between us and the gift-givers only, so doing this for the sake of my child is moot. And as a one-year old, yes, she will be free to seek other entertainment while we take care of the gift exchange, should her attention wander. I do agree that I would feel rather hurt to pick out a gift, drive the (in our family's case) 1-2 hours to get to the party, and then not see the gift opened. Whether to hold a public unwrapping with everybody, or just sit intimately with the gift-giver is the question we are asking ourselves.

 


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Old 09-10-2011, 03:00 PM
 
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Really? I've only been to one party (in four years) in which presents were not opened. And it's never been a big deal. The kids like seeing what their friends get and there's been no drama.

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I agree with everyone above. Re. the gift opening: we've been to several dozen children's birthday parties over the last few years and I have NEVER seen anyone do gift opening at the party. It's boring for the other kids and can cause hurt feelings and other problems. For a one year old, it can be incredibly overwhelming to open a stack of gifts with an audience and it will also be incredibly SLOW. Skip it, and don't feel bad for a moment.



 

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Old 09-11-2011, 02:18 PM
 
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Really? I've only been to one party (in four years) in which presents were not opened. And it's never been a big deal. The kids like seeing what their friends get and there's been no drama.



We have also only been to one party in which presents were not opened.  Especially with family parties, it is just expected.

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Old 09-11-2011, 03:37 PM
 
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I haven't read the other responses, but--while I generally think requesting no gifts is at worst, tacky and, at best, pointless--I think a first birthday is a particularly sensible time to request no gifts (the child has no expectations of gifts, will probably lose interest in opening the gifts and, if you're considering this issue, doesn't *need* any gifts).  

When my 3rd was turning 1, I tried something that worked out really well--in the invitation I said something to the effect of, "As our third child, Fiona is not lacking in things to read, play with or wear.  If you're feeling generous, though, I will be putting together a little 'time capsule' of sorts for her to open on her twelfth birthday.  So if you'd like to bring a card, picture, mix-tape or anything else for 12-year-old Fiona to enjoy, we think she'll appreciate it.  In eleven years."

Everyone who came to the party participated (and seemed to really enjoy coming up with creative things to put in the box--she got burnt CDs of popular music, letters, cards, photographs, newspaper clippings, drawings from the younger kids, a pack of "silly bandz," and a "Teen Bop" magazine.  I wrapped a shoebox in white paper and had all the guests decorate/sign the outside, and so it's all set and just waiting for her to turn 12 now. =)  

 

Our family was recently invited to a little birthday gathering for my son's friend (turning 6), and his mom's note simply said, "No need to bring anything but yourselves."  Even though we (and every other guest at the party) still brought him a gift, I thought it was a really casual and unoffensive way to word it.  So, still pointless, but not at all rude.

I guess my bottom-line advice would probably be to just lighten up and let people do what they want to do.  But if you *are* going to address it, I would either come up with an alternative to gift giving (charity, et cetera) or just keep it light, like my friend did (and accept that you're probably going to get gifts anyway).

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Old 09-12-2011, 06:45 AM
 
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Yup, really. I don't know, maybe this is a regional thing. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Polliwog View Post


Really? I've only been to one party (in four years) in which presents were not opened. And it's never been a big deal. The kids like seeing what their friends get and there's been no drama.



 



 

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Old 09-12-2011, 07:37 AM
 
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Here too it is really rare for people not to open presents at the party (I can think of one friend of dd's who's parents didn't have him open presents when he was a toddler).


Kate, mom to 7 year old Djuna and 4 yr old Alden. Missing our good friend Hal the cat who died June 2, 2010

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