Thursday 13 June 2019

Birthday Party Etiquette

I’ve found that after college, it’s hard to make friends as an adult. People become comfortable with the groups they have and don’t really look to add new members. I had somewhat been promised that once we had a baby, I could gain some Mom Friends. Shortly after Kate was born, I started attending a weekly Moms group and the group would go out for lunch after then session. I would enjoy chatting with these other women, but we never exchanged numbers or made plans on our own. I didn’t see myself having much in common with these women other than our babies. So that didn’t really work out. I would recognize some moms during the Day Care drop off, but I never had the time to start a conversation as I had to rush off to work. Then Kate started to get invited to birthday parties for her classmates. At last, I was chatting with other moms and making play dates with her school friends

I started buying gifts for these parties. I felt like it was the price of admission to the Moms Club. Once I bought a gift even though I had no idea who the kid was. I went gender neutral as I wasn’t sure by the name if the child was a boy or girl. As Kate became older, I started involving her to select a gift and explained how we give gifts as birthday presents. Then just days before Kate’s second birthday party we received an invite for a party and the Mom wrote “No gifts, please” at the bottom of the announcement. I some what questioned she can’t really mean no gifts? What if I was the only one who didn’t bring a gift? I figured it was better to error on the side of commission than omission and selected a gift to bring. When we arrived, there was a small pile of presents, so I added ours. *

A few days later, it was time for Kate’s party. I didn’t make any mention about gift on the invite, but directed those who brought a gift to set them at a designated table. We decided not to have Kate open her presents at her party and we would stretch it out by having her open one or two a night. As I was keeping track of who gave which gifts to write thank you notes, I noticed that the mom who requested no gifts at her daughter’s party did not give a gift to Kate (even though we had brought one for her daughter’s party and for the record, we never received any kind of a thank you). Suddenly, it hit me. She really did mean no gifts! (Kate was later invited to the party for their older child and this time she capitalized NO GIFTS on the invite, just to make it really clear.)

It started to make sense to me. I could understand why a mom might not want birthday gifts. More stuff in the house, maybe the grandparents and other family members go overboard and they don’t need any extra gifts. Maybe they consider the party experience is enough of a birthday gift. Whatever their reason, if the mom writes ‘no gifts, please’ she means no gifts and to bring a gift would be violating the Mom Code. However, I noticed we received some other invites that were a little less clear…  ‘in lieu of gifts, please bring a book’… um that is a gift, you’re just specifying what you want. Or ‘your presence is the only present we need’. That is not exactly the same thing as ‘no gifts, please’. Thinking it was; I didn’t bring a gift to a party and was one of the few who didn’t bring a gift, and I felt a bit awkward. Although I did note that others who attended were much longer term friends and I has only started hanging out with this mom and her kids (friends from the gym) so maybe her message was just to make sure no one felt obligated to bring a gift. 

Then this really got me thinking; should I be requesting ‘no gifts, please’ for Kate’s party? Is this the thing that is done now? Am I going to be shunned for accepting gifts? While it has not been the intention or purpose of Kate’s birthday parties, I’ve appreciated the gifts we’ve received. Firstly, Kate doesn’t get gifts from her grandparents or any other family members, other than my aunt and uncle and cousins, who we invite to the party. Secondly, as her birthday and Christmas are about six months apart, I can get her to have a good clear out of toys she no longer plays with, so she can make room for incoming new things. I’ve also started having her participate in writing thank you notes. (My mom used to withhold my gifts until I had completed my thank you notes, and I’ll probably start doing this with Kate in a year or two). I also like getting new ideas for toys and games from other parents sharing what their kids enjoy. Additionally, when we’ve need to buy a gift for someone’s party, I’ll have Kate help with the shopping and wrapping, as I explain how we give gifts when it’s someone’s birthday. 

Then there is the issue of reciprocity. There is a brilliant episode of The Big Bang Theory where Penny informs Sheldon that she has a Christmas present for him. He is resentful,  as now he has to get something for her. “You’ve not given me a gift, you’ve given me an obligation!” His plan was to get a bunch of Bath and Bodyworks gift baskets of differing values, determine how much her gift cost, give her the basket that corresponds to that amount and return the rest. When Penny’s gift turns out to be a napkin used by Leonard Nimoy; Sheldon brings out all his gift baskets to give to Penny, although he admits “It’s not enough!” If Kate is invited to a kid’s party, are we obligated to return an invitation? Does the same thing follow with gifts? For Kate’s party last year, I really wanted to write on the invitation ‘no gifts if you’re a no gifts mom’. Instead I came up with ‘gifts appreciated, but not expected’. I found that we received gifts from most, but not all guests. I also notices that some of the simplest gifts (sidewalk chalk, WaterWOW books) were some of the biggest hits. (Interestingly, one of the moms who did not bring a gift to Kate’s party, used my phrasing on the invite for her child’s party) 

My good friend Amy, is a no gifts mom, so I might ask her why she is a no gifts mom and get some of her thoughts, but I’d also love to hear from you. 

*I started (but never finished) a post about the mess at this person’s house. The grass in the front yard wasn’t cut, but there was a weed whacked lying on the ground. I don’t know if their model is as easy as ours for a kid to use. They had a small playhouse that had slats and shingles falling off. It was hazardous. Kate and I ventured inside to go to the bathroom and we encountered a very dusty treadmill in the front hall, that obviously hadn’t been used in sometime, but there was a turquoise bra on the floor, which I imagine was left during the last use. The kitchen looked like it had been renovated recently, not that you could tell as every inch of the counter was covered in some kind of junk. I took a peek on their outside deck and saw their charcoal grill was right next to the kids water table and there were ash flakes in the water table, because who doesn’t want their kids to play with carcinogenic materials? I was trying to describe this mess to Myrtle by referencing the episode of Friends where Ross dates a messy woman, but after seeing that episode recently, I have to say this place was worse. Anyway,  the gist of my post was going to be -is a messy house a dealbreaker for a play date?