Friday, May 15th, 2009
Thoughts on birthday gifts, regifting and no-gifting
My daughter’s fifth birthday is rapidly approaching and it has me thinking about what I’ve learned from her first four birthdays — I really don’t like gifts.
My wife and I put a good deal of thought into the types of products we do and don’t surround our kids with. Birthday parties are a big gamble, sure to produce a few gifts we don’t want in our home no matter how much they excite our kids.
In those cases, if the parent slips in a gift receipt, it’s much appreciated. If not, the present is re-gifted to another child whose parents don’t have the hangups we do. Or we donate it to our local Toys for Tots toy drive each December. That sort of thing works, but soon our daughter won’t be so quick to forget the toys that mysteriously never make the journey from her party to her bedroom.
Daddytypes had an excellent post yesterday on The Case for Regifting.
For our part, we try our best to avoid giving inappropriate presents. We call parents to find out the types of toys we should be considering while still remaining within our comfort zone.
Oh, your 3-year-old boy likes books and Transformers? Uhh, okay, let’s look for a book. Your daughter is very girly and loves Disney princesses and whatever pink thing we give her will not be girly enough? Okay, here’s a fairy book with a read-along CD, and a gift receipt.
On our most recent gift, Scrabble Junior, my wife checked with the other mother beforehand to be sure it was a good fit for her 5-year-old. Does he play board games? Is he interested in spelling? Do you have Scrabble Junior yet? Yes, yes and no.
So, anyhow, here I am at a crossroads. You know I’m a book hoarder. Writing a sometimes-product-blog, I also love acquiring things. But on my off days, I rail against conspicuous consumption. Yes, I’m conflicted.
“We attended a birthday party recently that was also a book exchange — no presents, no goodie-bags — everyone brought a wrapped book and had the opportunity to trade it in for one someone else had brought. There was a little bit of book envy, but the hosts had provided a few extras and everyone went home happy.”
I asked her for a few more party details:
- Party for 5-year-olds
- Held at a gymnastics place
- Wrapped books were opened by everyone after cake
- Books seemed carefully chosen and were fairly gender-neutral
- No serious arguments over who received a better book
- Some kids wanted their book read to them pronto. Several reading circles broke out.
- Upon departure, a few kids lamented not receiving a goodie bag.
It sounds wonderful, right? I had a similar idea for my daughter’s party, but with a greedy difference. We will accept gifts as per usual, but request they be books. The implication is, parents will buy her a new book. We’ll have a book-shaped cake. Our party favors will be gently used books with the kids picking one from a table.
I bet my idea would have sounded cool if you hadn’t read NRBP’s version first. And there you see my conflict. Either approach is so much better than every party I’ve ever attended, but deep down my version makes me feel dirty for still wanting a piece of the gifting scene that all of my daughter’s friends partake in at their parties.
On the flip side, because we own so many books, there’s a good chance some of the new books would be duplicates.
So I guess it’s untrue what I said at the top of the page. I really do like gifts, but only appropriate gifts. At the same time, I know in my head the ideals I should be striving for — non-materialism, sharing, selflessness, and so forth.
And by writing all of this here I suppose I’ve forced my hand because a few of the mothers will read it and think so very less of me if I turn around and expect them to buy a spiffy new book for my daughter.
A brief tangent
Now, the thing to know about my daughter is that she is preoccupied with making her friends gifts with what she can manage using colored pencils, paper, scissors and tape. On her last day of preschool, all of her classmates received a picture of a flower addressed to them individually by name (she copied their names from a class list).
On our recent vacation, she made “finger warmers” for Gramma and Grampa, although we forgot to give the gifts. A finger warmer is what it sounds like… two finger-shaped pieces of paper taped together with your name written on the outside. You stick your finger inside to keep it warm.
Ohhh, so now the photo at the top of this page makes sense. I like to include a little prize for the people who read an entire article. There you go.
And as for what my daughter thinks of the birthday situation, she says, “I don’t need presents. I need friends.” I guess I need to be as big a human being as my daughter.
So, the only thing left for me is to solicit your opinion on NRBP’s version of the party. Should each kid bring a used book, or should we state up front we want no gifts at all? Should books be wrapped or unwrapped? How does the communal book sharing process go down? I’ve been collecting duplicate picture books for this giveaway, so if they bring their own to share, I could very well send kids home with more books than they brought.