Friday, July 12, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Present

Five Minute Friday

Click the icon above for more information about Lisa Jo Baker's amazing exercise in writing and invitation to community!

This entry will not be a demonstration of any kind of philosophical or existential profundity that the homograph "present" might invite... No, it's a cry for help! I say this facetiously, but no, really... Help me mamas!

Here goes...


In college I took an Intro to Sociology class and one of the assignments was to give two oral presentations to the class over the course of the semester, summarizing an article from this random sociology compilation book we had.  Each student drew articles on which they would deliver their presentations out of a hat.  I pulled "The Sociology and De-sexualization of the Gynecological Exam" and "The Social Norms of Gift Giving."

The former was actually quite thought-provoking [and super awkward to present to the class].  But that's not relevant to today's topic.

The latter was interesting enough... and brings me to this month's insecurity for me:
The expectation of gift giving (or not) at my daughter's upcoming first birthday party.

"Gifts" is not my Love Language, but I for one LOVE giving gifts to other people.  I get excited about it.  I want to tell them what it is before they open it.  I want them to open it right away.  I want to put my heart and soul into each gift whenever I can.

What I don't love is giving a gift to someone because I felt like I just had to.

As a new parent, I've thought about this quite a bit, anticipating party invitations for Penelope's little friends over the years.  What if she has lots of friends and lots of parties... Do I have to spend $20 bucks (or more?) on every kid?  cha-ching!  But I don't want her to be the one who always brings a crappy present.  I'm new at this.  How do you moms manage this in a graceful and loving way without going insane or breaking your bank?


The whole ritual of a child opening presents in front of everyone at his or her birthday party makes my stomach churn.  The materialism, the reactions, the discomfort when the recipient likes one thing more than another, the other kids wishing it would end, the party being centered around "things."  Am I off base here?

So cut to Penny's birthday preparations...

I learned in etiquette that you are never supposed to address the subject of gifts on a formal invitation (whether you don't want them, do want them, or what you want, etc), especially for weddings.


I get it, it's rude to "assume" people want to know if you want them to give you a gift or not.

But am I wrong that there's a little bit of a relief in seeing where someone is registered so you can buy them just what they wanted, or seeing a simple "No Gifts Please" in fine print at the bottom of an invite.

Expanding on that thought, my anxiety is this: I don't want anyone to come or not come to my sweet baby girl's birthday party (or any party I ever throw) with a notion about bringing a gift that makes them uncomfortable.  I don't want to encourage any kind of 'it's my birthday which means I get presents' mentality in my children.  I also don't want to discourage giving birthday gifts to my child to anyone who might want to love on her in that way.  And... we could use a few new things around here...

I didn't address it on the invitation, and I don't know what I would have written if I had.  I'm all over the place about this.

Am I overthinking?

What a ramble, my time is more than up.  Make that ten-minute-Friday.  Sorry, Lisa Jo.  What a hot mess my ratt-a-tatt-typing fingers are.

I'm hoping lots of wise mamas from FMF will rain down some comment wisdom and encouragement on this topic for this birthday-party rookie.  TGIF, and Much Obliged!

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  1. Oh man - I think we all think about this stuff.... So here's my mom-of-3-kids-ages-4-thru-14 totally personal opinion on some of these ideas:
    * We went to a party for a little girl who had said "no gifts please" on the invitation and did NOT take a gift, and um, everyone else did. Soooooo, guess who felt like a total jerk.. that would be me. (This is my fear of doing the no-gifts-please approach, because there'll always be someone who brings one anyway, and then the non-bringers feel kinda crummy. Or maybe it's just me...)
    * I find for little kids, if I think $10 is a good price, that's what I stick to, and my older kids, I do a $20 gift for friends. I've learned to not feel way-guilty about any of the money stuff, just do what's affordable and not-stressful.
    * Sam's Club, TJ Maxx and Marshall's are my go-to bday gift spots. Such money savers. The selection is limited, but while kids are little and your own child doesn't have a high maintenance gift idea (which happens by middle school, so enjoy it while you can), you can totally find something cool.
    I guess that's more than two-cents! But it's such a great topic (although the gynecological exam topic is quite something, too - that had me laughing).

    It's so nice to find your blog and to meet you through Five Minute Friday!

  2. This is a tough one. I try to keep a stockpile of gifts that I've found on sale and such for around $10 so that when a party comes up, my kids go shopping from MY store. I don't like the stress of having to run to the store because there's a party coming, and them feeling stress about how much to spend. When they get older, we'll deal with that, but I don't feel we need to yet.
    When we have parties, I limit the invitees to one child per year we're celebrating. So my 3 year old had 3 friends max. My 9 year old gets 9 max. We do this up to age 10 at least. They actually don't always max out either. Sometimes, they choose smaller, more intimate and longer parties. I would never have the kind of birthday party where we were inviting people I wasn't comfortable having a gift conversation with. It's always close friends who I feel comfortable saying, "You don't need to bother with gifts," or who will ask, "What kind of thing would they enjoy getting?" and I try to have some inexpensive fun ideas ready if those questions come up.
    We never let the party center around gifts, but I also want my children to learn how to both give and receive well and birthday parties provide good teaching times (before), practice (during), and reflection (after) on how we're doing. I don't think we avoid being materialistic by avoiding things. I know some very materialistic poor people! We avoid it by dealing with them well and always putting people first, so that's always my goal.
    So there's my long two cents. :)
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting.
    Have a magnificent weekend!
    Tina @ Mommynificent

  3. Gifts are tricky, I agree. I recently went to a 4 year old boy's party and as a mom of a 7 month old girl, I had no clue what to get as a gift. It was helpful that his mom had some pointers (ie he really loves trains right now). They didn't open the gifts at the party because of the venue and I really missed seeing that part. I love watching kids open presents. :) I agree about not wanting the party to be all about receiving gifts though. I think the best way to handle that is just to teach your child how to be thankful and gracious with every gift.

  4. First what is FMF?

    Also this is what we are doing for Brighton's party - I am asking all our of guests that if they feel the need to bring a gift, bring a book that we can donate to the local children's hospital. Brighton has so much already and I would like to start a tradition where she views the experience of celebrating her day of birth as the ultimate gift - surrounded by family, friends, good food and lots of love. I want to teach her to invest in memories and not in things.

    Maybe that will offend some people and if someone bringing her a gift anyways, we won't refuse it but I don't want to make that the norm. I'm totally in agreement with you!

  5. My oldest is turning 9 and here's what I've learned so far:
    a) when they are younger, they end up inviting everyone they know. By the time they are 8, you can get down to only 6-8 of their closest friends. So when they are little, there are a bunch of gifts. IDK if you have to open them at the party, little ones (under 4) get sick of opening and the guests get sick of watching.
    b) When they hit school, spend the $20 on the gift. It's embarrassing for your kid to give the $5 Barbie when someone (and not a grandparent) clearly went overboard and bought the special edition one. When Cecilia got a little older she became very thoughtful in her gift giving, it's really touching to see.
    c) when they get a bunch of gifts, save most of them for later. My house has always had a toy closet (or top of closet). Just last week I let each kid pick a Christmas gift out of the closet and they had a new toy on a lazy summer day that I didn't have to go get or pay for (woo hoo!).
    d) always keep one non-gender specific, good for a wide age range gift ready to go in your house. I liked the $20 play-do sets. That way if you something springs up last minute or you forgot to get a gift, you aren't late to the party.
    e) (I stink at this one) always write thank you notes.

    Try to have fun with it!


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