Problem with Birthday Parties, need advice - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 22 Old 02-19-2012, 07:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have a four year old who is beginning to get invited to a lot of birthday parties.  While I am happy that she is invited, I have some issue with the parties.  I only have small family celebrations for my children.  We have our immediate family over for dinner and cake. Part of the reason for this is I am really trying to avoid creating little consumers.  The gifts are overwhelming, I have even been to a party where the host requested no gifts and people still brought gifts.  I feel like children are just given so much "stuff" at these parties that will just be played with minimally and end up in a landfill.  I even just recently saw a gift that we had given a friend, in the donation of children's toys at our church.  Long story, but I know this was the gift we gave because it was a pretty unusual toy.  I am not comfortable just buying things to give to these children, sometimes children we barely know, and have them end up unused or in the trash, such a waste.  I also feel that toys are better kept simple and to a minimum.  I actually had a friend comment that she was glad her kids birthdays were in the summer because they get to "restock" their toys. 

I am just so uncomfortable with all of this, it seems wrong for our family and I feel if we are going to these parties we are contributing to this viscious consumerist cycle.  How do I approach this?  Do we decline invitations?  Try to come up with a new gift idea?  My daughter has also been asking why she doesn't have these types of parties and all the presents.  I am not sure how to explain or what to do.  

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#2 of 22 Old 02-19-2012, 09:01 PM
 
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While I applaud your keeping your child's birthday's low-key events (we try to do the same), you just have to understand that other than declining invitations, you don't really have any control over how other parent's celebrate their kid's birthdays.

 

We have a friend who throws a huge, elaborate party for her daughter every year with 20+ kids. Every single year. To me this is just too much. Now her daughter expects that this is way she has her birthday celebrated.  But you know what? I can't control that. I can only control what goes on in my family. My daughter has fun at this particular girl's parties, but doesn't spend too much time thinking about it otherwise, and doesn't expect us to have a similar party for her.  

 

I understand your reluctance to buy gifts that may not get used, or that may end up quickly donated. I always use the gift buying as a way to teach my daughter to be a good gift giver. She enjoys picking out something that the particular child would like, and she enjoys wrapping it and making a card. So, actually that is a good thing.  And, again, once you give someone a gift - it is really out of your control what they do with it. So just do it in good spirit and forget about it after that. (Good gifts that tend to actually get used are: drawing paper, colored pens/pencils/crayons - pretty much any art stuff.)

 

Hope this helps. Cheers.

 

 

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#3 of 22 Old 02-20-2012, 04:55 AM
 
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We just don't go- we are totally in agreement with you and we just decline 90% (that included family)- we cut back on gifts at holidays for most family as well- mainly the over the top stuff is just such a waste- works for us

 

we don't like all the time it takes away from family time as well (we have very little of it) and at age 4----IMO, it's not really that big a deal, they don't miss not going to all the parties


 

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#4 of 22 Old 02-20-2012, 05:13 AM
 
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My almost 4 year old DS has been getting invited to tons of  birthday parties lately. The birthday kid always gets so many plastic toys and just tosses each one in a pile while quickly moving on to open the next gift. That isn't how we celebrate DS's birthday, but like a pp mentioned, there isn't anything i can do to change how other parents throw their kid a party. We don't attend all of the parties we are invited to (especially some of the kids from school that I have never met their parents before), but we always try to attend the parties for DS's close friends and neighbors and we almost always bring a book as a gift instead of a toy. 

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#5 of 22 Old 02-20-2012, 06:05 AM
 
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I never stopped my dd from going to parties, but I also don't feel the need to give extremely lavish gifts. I don't mind the large parties, but luckily my oldest rarely request one.
Once the kids start to realize that you don't spend much time if any with the birthday kid, the better understand one of the benefits of a smaller party.
Now as a preteen, my dd often pick going out with me friend vs a large group. Though I guess there are those that love large parties and maybe this is some innate nurture vs nature thing

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#6 of 22 Old 02-20-2012, 06:31 AM
 
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My children attend a charter--I don't think that many have parties that all or most classmates are invited to, perhaps because they think parents might not be willing to drive from whatever part of town they live in.

 

There have been a few "lavish," by our standards, parties; the only invitation we turned down was due to having to go to the ILs that particular day. Ds did ask why we didn't do it that way and I said that those parties are very expensive and we could either spend money on big parties or on his gifts; however, we do take cupcakes to school on his birthday (which is a lot cheapersmile.gif). Luckily dh's sister lives nearby with her 3 similar aged children so we have built-in child guestslol.gif.  We don't spend a lot on gifts; I try to build on what they already have--for one girl that likes dress-up it was a cupcake shaped purse with gloves, and for a boy that likes Legos it was a small box kit.


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#7 of 22 Old 02-20-2012, 06:32 AM
 
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Either don't go, or find a gift that won't be wasted/discarded. Books probably will get read & art supplies will usually get used... clothes if the kid is growing fast... or how about an experience gift? Gift card to the ice cream shop? A map leading the kid on a treasure hunt (treasure could be something simple like a box of shells & special stones)? A ticket for kid to come over and do a really cool craft with you & DD (call it an 'art lesson')?

If your DD isn't close to the birthday child, there's no reason you can't just decline the invitation. I think often parents don't want anyone left out, so the err on the side of inviting kids that don't even know their child. You don't have to go and I'd personally decline if it wasn't a close friend.

We were pretty intent on low-key birthday celebrations but things have changed a lot for us. DS is only 3... we started out doing only a small family party, but the past 2 years we've skipped the family party & just had one with his friends instead. Our friends have become our family and we don't even have contact with much of our biological family anyway. Yes, there are too many gifts, but they were all given with love, and the love we feel from all of our very close friends when they're at his party is just amazing. So I've rethought things a little & stopped requesting 'no gifts' (which was never heeded anyway) and DH & I don't buy him lots for his birthday (just a few books from the thrift store or something) or Christmas etc. We go to his friends' parties and we bring meaningful homemade gifts or art supplies or unique board games. Maybe a lot of these kids, like my DS, don't have family parties and their parents don't buy them much in the way of toys, so the gifts from friends are the only ones they really get... and maybe some have way too many toys but who cares? That's their family's choice and I think the only way you can lessen your own impact is to give a more creative/experience gift or decline the invitation.

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#8 of 22 Old 02-20-2012, 07:08 AM
 
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If the party is super big, they won't notice if you don't bring a gift at all.  Ds usually makes a card and beads a necklace.

 

 For a closer friend we'll pull something from our gift stash (I buy things on sale or at thrift stores and just store them until I need them, ds doesn't actually know this yet, but I am almost always prepared for a last minute party).  Ds has recently gotten into playmobils and legos and 5below usually has mystery playmobils and minifigs for $3.  That and a card and I feel like I have done my part.  

 

Or we'll make something.  We made heart shaped  rainbow crayons for all of the kids at his preschool for Valentines day.  I don't know if they all liked them (I wasn't there), but ds loved making them.  So for me it was more about the activity with my kid and less about the receiver, we had a blast making them, if the kids like them the crayons get "used up" so it isn't a long term storage issue.  Ikea sells all kinds of silicone ice cube molds that work for making crayons, you use broken crayons you already have, or pick up a box for $1 or less and then you have a cool, unique present, that probably will get added to the kid's art supply stash, you have an activity with your own kid, it is reusing/recycling, and CHEAP!

 

Oh we made "I Spy" jars for a friend once, plastic jar, bunch of tiny things from around our house (dice, barrettte, paper clip, lego, animal bead, etc etc) fill the jar with rice, glue on the lid, bam! Again it was something I made with ds, so it was something for him and I to do together and the message I feel like I am instilling is, it is awesome to make presents for people.

 

Or you don't go. 

 

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#9 of 22 Old 02-20-2012, 08:48 AM
 
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I know some said about books but no way do I give them- I find 90% on my kids books at yard sales - perfect brand new book (NEW because so many people write in them and put the dates!- stickers cover up so much) I hate (but great for me!!) to see expensive books, still most with dust jackets for 50 cents and $1.00- spring is the best time- you find all the books given at Christmas.

 

People re-gift and toss so much- books are often from Grand Ma and three moths later they practically give them away. Gift cards for "places" not stores usually are used.

 

you may try and teach one thing but society is soooooooo disposable 


 

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#10 of 22 Old 02-20-2012, 09:03 AM
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We have three children ages 6, 6 and 8. And  I remember many of the same feelings.  We handled it this way.  Party invitations were and are declined unless it is a close friend.  We explained to our children that our family does not celebrate birthdays with big parties.  We have family dinner (birthday child can pick the menu) and cake.  It helps that they have 3 cousins close in age.  Honestly none of my children have complained - they have just accepted that this is our family tradition.  Now that they are a bit older they are given a choice to receive a special gift (new baseball equipment) or have a special experience with 1-2 close friends (the indoor climbing gym/rock wall).  On another note - I love to get a receive books - we read ours over and over.  But I also like the craft supplies or gift cards for a special experiences. 

 

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#11 of 22 Old 02-20-2012, 10:13 AM
 
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Originally Posted by serenbat View Post

I know some said about books but no way do I give them- I find 90% on my kids books at yard sales - perfect brand new book (NEW because so many people write in them and put the dates!- stickers cover up so much) I hate (but great for me!!) to see expensive books, still most with dust jackets for 50 cents and $1.00- spring is the best time- you find all the books given at Christmas.

 

People re-gift and toss so much- books are often from Grand Ma and three moths later they practically give them away. Gift cards for "places" not stores usually are used.

 

you may try and teach one thing but society is soooooooo disposable 


But you can buy the book at a yard sale for 50cents and then make a little handmade sticker/bookplate to cover up the inscription and then gift the book!

 

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#12 of 22 Old 02-20-2012, 10:40 AM
 
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But you can buy the book at a yard sale for 50cents and then make a little handmade sticker/bookplate to cover up the inscription and then gift the book!

when a book is not valued what difference does it make?

 

I don't give just because of an invite, I give thinking the recipient might enjoy it and use it and not just toss it at the first chance they get, if they are like that- chances are we are not friends to begin with.

 

I clearly see when you several of the same item- I'm not talking about that- I see lots of $$$ and thoughtful books (not to mentions tons of other stuff) and it clearly is just because it is disposable mentality going on.

 

 

 

to me, this is just so much more about values- at the OP's child age, if I saw that a gift I just gave was in the donate box, those would not be people that shared my values- and at the young age you can (and I feel) should have your child sharing parties with those who respect and value you and your child

 

you can still control/regulate who your child interact with - next time just say you are busy and don't go 


 

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#13 of 22 Old 02-20-2012, 12:03 PM
 
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Originally Posted by serenbat View Post

 

 

when a book is not valued what difference does it make?

 

I don't give just because of an invite, I give thinking the recipient might enjoy it and use it and not just toss it at the first chance they get, if they are like that- chances are we are not friends to begin with.

 

I clearly see when you several of the same item- I'm not talking about that- I see lots of $$$ and thoughtful books (not to mentions tons of other stuff) and it clearly is just because it is disposable mentality going on.

 

 

 

to me, this is just so much more about values- at the OP's child age, if I saw that a gift I just gave was in the donate box, those would not be people that shared my values- and at the young age you can (and I feel) should have your child sharing parties with those who respect and value you and your child

 

you can still control/regulate who your child interact with - next time just say you are busy and don't go 



Well, see I don't know that I could say "oh they donated my gift we can't be friends."  Because they may have lots of reasons for donating the gift: multiples, didn't like it, wanted declutter/downsize, were concerned about having too many things, saw a real need for the toy at place donated, care about being a gracious receiver and therefore said "thanks" but didn't keep it, kid was freaked out by it.  Donating something is WAY different from throwing it away.  So if I saw something in the trash that wasn't broken I might have feelings about it.  But donating, the family may have a policy, every time we get new, we donate to those who may not get to have new things, that sounds okay, value-wise.

 

And to the issue of gifting a book, even if the family might not like it, the OP was concerned about what to give as gifts, spending tons of money, having things go unused.  Hypothetically, if it was someone's and you bought it used, and then give it away, and then maybe they donate it = a lot of use from one item!

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#14 of 22 Old 02-20-2012, 04:55 PM
 
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If you don't agree with parties then don't go. You can turn down the invitation without telling them their party goes against your beliefs, generally you can just turn it down by not rsvping. If you want to celebrate with the friend that is also fine. Not all families have a party so the parents won't expect you to reciprocate.

As for the donated toy, it was probably donated because it wasn't a common thing that the child had an interest in. I always ask what the child is into when I rsvp so we get a gift with the receiver in mind. Markers and paper are always big hits and many kids love the Crayola art kits.
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#15 of 22 Old 02-20-2012, 07:44 PM
 
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to me, this is just so much more about values- at the OP's child age, if I saw that a gift I just gave was in the donate box, those would not be people that shared my values- and at the young age you can (and I feel) should have your child sharing parties with those who respect and value you and your child

 

you can still control/regulate who your child interact with - next time just say you are busy and don't go 



I guess I don't really understand this way of thinking.  Are you saying that people who - for whatever reason donate something you gave as a gift - do not share your values? There could be many reasons why they chose to donate it. It doesn't take away from the significance of the gift, and really, once you give a gift, you don't really have a say in how it is used. 

 

Personally, I'd be glad if a gift that wasn't wanted was donated - rather than being thrown away. Someone else will use it.

 

Oh, and I just thought of another great idea for a gift: a ceramic pot, potting soil, and seeds. It's hard to go wrong with this: most kids love to watch something grow. 

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#16 of 22 Old 02-20-2012, 09:53 PM
 
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Seriously?? Now I have to be worried that I offend people because I invite them to a party??? That what the rsvp is for. Say sorry, we have another engagement if you don't want to go. We love big parties and don't want to feel anyone left out. We restrict the guest list, so it fits the bday person, but otherwise....And we always unwrap at home, so it is not that crazy more,more , more mentality and we can take our time. And if someone can't bring a gift, their presence is enough....or make a card.

 

oh,and it is nice that you have small family celebrations, but we only have us, no family around, so we see our friends as family.


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#17 of 22 Old 02-21-2012, 07:22 AM
 
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I guess I don't really understand this way of thinking.

 

 

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 I even just recently saw a gift that we had given a friend, in the donation of children's toys at our church.  Long story, but I know this was the gift we gave because it was a pretty unusual toy. 

 

 

If I just gave a gift and it was just donated-yea, it would not sit well with me, seeing how little it was appreciated shows disrespect IMO, not being discrete  and tossing it- we probably don't share the same values - very simple don't want gifts- say so. 

 

What would you tell your child that took the time to pick out the gift and give it? Oh, that's ok, money just grows on trees and they have too many so all is fine. 


 

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#18 of 22 Old 02-21-2012, 07:27 AM
 
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oh,and it is nice that you have small family celebrations, but we only have us, no family around, so we see our friends as family

 

 

having close friends that are LIKE family is different from wanting to re-stock your kids toys - apples and oranges

 

wanting to share a celebration and having it be appreciated is different from just meaningless extravaganza some do - IMO 


 

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#19 of 22 Old 02-21-2012, 11:46 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the input.  I realize I can't change the way other people celebrate, to each their own.  I just feel like attending these types of events is sending mixed messages to my daughter.  I think I will start declining all invitations with the exception of those of close friends.  My four year old is the oldest of three and I see how this could get out of control.  I was glad to see the gift donated actually, but I suppose it just stirred up my feelings that birthday parties have become so consumer driven and some of these children seem to be unappreciative and just expect tons of things for their birthday.  I love to give gifts, especially something we have made, although we haven't had as much time to make gifts lately, I also love the idea of books or art/craft supplies.  Another issue that has risen since I have had children is that I feel that I am becoming distant from my friends since we don't seem to share the same values.  I just feel a little disconnected and like I haven't found other families with similar values and it makes parenting a little lonely.  

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#20 of 22 Old 02-21-2012, 11:52 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I also keep getting asked by people, you don't do a kid party?  Some people seem to scoff at the idea when I say we just celebrate small.  I have even had someone tell me, well I am sure your daughter wants to have a party with her friends.  Why should I feel guilty, like I am depriving her of something?  Another person also responded when I said I just have a small celebrations that they also like to celebrate small too, but once they invite their friends to their children's parties it is a big party, as if we don't have any friends so we can keep our party small.  Thanks for letting me vent about this subject.

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#21 of 22 Old 02-23-2012, 01:14 PM
 
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I just had a party for my dd's 5th birthday.  I requested no gifts on the invitation because I didn't want the crazy gift opening and pile of toys that would never be played with.  Every one of her friends brought a gift anyway.  And I was pleasantly surprised that all of the gifts were thoughtful and appeared to be tailored to my dd's interests!  She's been in school with these kids for two years and it was really heartwarming that the kids and parents seem to have really made an effort to get to know her.  We opened the gifts at home, and my dd was genuinely grateful and cheerfully wrote thank you cards.  So, even though I tried to avoid the gift orgy, it turned out to be a positive experience.  And I do think it's good for children to learn how to give and receive gifts graciously from a variety of people who are more or less close to them.  Just some thoughts.


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#22 of 22 Old 02-25-2012, 10:29 AM
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Quote:
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oh,and it is nice that you have small family celebrations, but we only have us, no family around, so we see our friends as family.

 
     I agree 100% that friends can absolutely be seen as family. We have several close friends whom we consider family.  In fact my children consider our friend and neighbor to be a     grandmother - so of course she is included in the "family celebrations."  I'm simply stating that there are other meaningful  ways to celebrate a child's birthday than inviting an entire  classroom of playmates. Or feeling obligated to attend each of the parties to which your child receives an invite.  

 

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