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No-present party a new parent trap

Submitted by on Wednesday, 7 January 2009 No Comment

First thing Big Guy wanted to know after he came home with a coveted party invitation in his backpack was what we were going to buy Birthday Girl.

“It says not to bring presents,” I told  him.


I’m not surprised the kid who mortified me over the holidays by walking up to a guest and demanding his present was surprised. I try to raise him right. Really, I do. I’m chalking it up to the fact that we always exchange gifts with this person and hoping he’s not turning into a boy Veruca Salt.

Plus I’ve always made a big deal out of picking presents for others. He learned it from a young age, at parties for cousins, and agonized for days over choosing the perfect gift for a friend’s party last spring.

And now the rules are changing on him. Big Guy’s not one to deal well with change.

I applaud Birthday Girl’s parents for their empathetic effort.

I know of at least two kids in that kindergarten class whose families have lost their homes since school started. Another’s father is working five hours away, seeing his wife and three children only on weekends. And those are just the cases I’m aware of . An untold number of additional families could well be dancing barefoot on razor blades.

With the birthday coming on the heels of Christmas, I also can appreciate the practicality of the plan. We’ve purged toys twice since Halloween, and that’s not counting the Crappy Meal stuff I buried deep in the garbage can this morning. I’m probably losing a fortune in future eBay earnings, but I just want the stuff out of my life.

Miss Manners might frown on no-gift gatherings, but I’m all for them.

My fear, though, is that other parents won’t stick to the plan. “It’s the kid’s birthday,” the New York Times quoted one woman as writing on a community bulletin board. “Let them get gifts — that’s kind of the fun of being a kid.”

And nothing would embarrass Big Guy more than being the only kid to show up empty-handed.

“Are you sure we’re not supposed to take a present? It’s her birthday! She wants presents.”

For now, he’s accepting that all she wants is to have pizza and cake with her friends. He does want to make her a card, though, and that’s a fair request that we’ll tackle after school today.

But if one kid shows up with a wrapped package, it’s going to blow my credibility for months.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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