If you looked up the definition of “child’s birthday party” it would say “fun, games and tears” – and that’s just for the parents.
There’s the fun of planning a party that your beloved offspring is excited about. But then there’s the ‘games’ played by parents; all the unspoken rules and birthday politics.
Do you invite the whole class? Do you insist on inviting a child your kid doesn’t want there, because you went to their party? Should you serve alcohol if you’re having it at home? (FYI, the answer is always yes to the last question.)
Then there’s the gift etiquette to consider. You know your child has so much stuff, so do you politely write “no gift please” on the invitation – knowing that will guarantee seven truckloads of unnecessary goodies? No point in that.
Increasingly common these days is the request for cash, for either charity donation or for the child to put towards something they really want.
That topic is discussed on Mamamia‘s parenting podcast, This Glorious Mess, this week, where hosts Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo share their perspectives.
Andrew Daddo and Holly Wainwright discuss, on our podcast for imperfect parents. Post continues after.
Holly tells the story of how her child has recently been invited to a twin boys’ 5th birthday party. The invitation read: “In lieu of a present, please give $10 cash each, half of which the boys will donate to a charity, and spend the other half on something they will save up for.”
Andrew admits he was initially shocked by the directness of the request.
“After I got up off the floor, I did think it was a good idea. It’s only $10. And you don’t have to put any thought into it.”
Holly also concedes that asking for something directly takes the guess work out of gift giving, and her first reaction was; “Thank you for making it simple.”
But upon reflection, she also considers whether, “We are taking a away a lot of the magic of [kids] just getting to open a whole pile of crap.”
Andrew agrees with that, and points out that whilst he can see the appeal in the simplicity of the concept, he also recalls that getting surprised gifts as a kid “was absolutely epic.”
Whilst tearing open over-priced wrapping paper with unadulterated excitement is certainly a childhood rite of passage, I think it might be worth considering that most children do have plenty of other chances to do that at other times. At their family birthday dinner, for example, at Christmas, even at Easter, these days.
I should make a full disclosure at this point: my own son has asked for cash presents of $20 maximum to donate to a charity that is meaningful to him, for most of his recent birthdays. For example, a couple of times he’s donated his birthday money to The Clown Doctors, who’ve entertained him in hospital on a number of occasions.