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Are Birthday Gifts Bad?

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Guest blogger Jessica Katz: As my daughter's first birthday approaches next month, the invites for other first birthdays are coming in as well. We have gotten a few invitations that have said "no gifts"; in lieu of gifts, they are taking donations for a charity of their choice. One was collecting diapers for moms who can't afford diapers. If they can't afford diapers, should they be having kids? I mean, diapers are sort of a basic. If they can't afford those, how will they afford food and medicine?

baby with birthday gift
I felt bad for the little kids who will be turning one without a single gift to unwrap. And then I felt a sudden anxiety: Was I being politically incorrect by letting people give my daughter presents? Was I being greedy? Who knew there were so many rules when celebrating a baby's birthday? I was already worried that people would frown that I was serving a non-organic, sugar-laden cake. 

I asked one of the "PC" moms why she was banning gifts from the soiree. The answer? "I felt like people will think that I am asking for gifts by throwing a party. My son already has a lot of toys, and I really have nowhere to put them." 

Another mom told me, "It is the right way to teach your children not to be greedy and materialistic." Now, when I was a child, I was never asked to bring a donation rather than a birthday gift. Everyone knows you have parties to get gifts. And of course, gifts are good. If people don't bring my daughter birthday gifts, she won't have toys: My husband has banned toy-buying. But would she be seen as a greedy monster because she opened presents at her party? 

What happened to the excitement of picking out a birthday gift for your best friend? To proudly taking it with you to the birthday party, hoping she opens it first and it is her favorite? To going through your birthday loot after the party is over? To the fine art of writing thank-you cards and mailing them after the festivities? In short, what happened to the birthday traditions we always knew?  

Asking for donations gets awkward. How much am I supposed to ask people to donate? What's the appropriate amount? I find joy in picking out a gift for someone; the donating thing robs me of that joy, too. And children need toys. Toys age with your children, and therefore new toys are needed. A birthday is a great time to get them, even if you need to store them for a while. 

As far as I am concerned, bring on the presents -- and let them eat cake!

next: Are Mental Health Days for Kids OK?
24 comments so far | Post a comment now
KS November 23, 2010, 4:48 PM

Do all of you going back and forth think the blogger wouldn’t have a problem with other charities? Ones you felt were acceptable.

I mean lets be real here. At the end of the day you are simply refusing to give to children who need diapers. who does that hurt? the children are already here and having a generous heart is better for society in the long run. Sit down with one of the women accepting these diapers for ten minutes THEN judge them.

Until you know the reasons each and every parent is so destitute they can not afford to put pampers on their child you are in no position to judge them. I for one would love to see this program go to donating the items needed to cloth diaper children because it is a fairly self sustaining solution. That’s just my opinion though.

We should all be mindful of the glass house theory and the fact that some day each and every one of us may be dependant on the kindness of strangers to meet our most basic need.

Nicole December 16, 2010, 11:36 AM

Leah- When my husband and I had our daughter we could afford to buy all the things she needed. Now my husband’s job is slow and barely paying our bills, should we get rid of our daughter cause we can’t “afford” her? What gives you the right to judge other people on an issue like that? I agree some people take advantage of the govt. but there are hard working people in the world who still can barely keep their heads above water. I have a friend who has a sick child, he is in the hospital once a month at least. Has had multiple surgery’s there are weeks she said when they can’t buy diapers for their other son. Should they have had not had kids, because they had a sick baby and couldn’t afford him? They didn’t know that when they had twins one would be sick and one would be healthy. Maybe if we stopped judging one another and helped each other out the world would be a better place and our kids would be more grateful for things.

Emily December 19, 2010, 6:39 AM

We live in a tiny little house. Our soon-to-be-one son prefers the wrapping paper to the toys themselves. A toy per person for a birthday party is just not realistic for us.
Why not donate the money that would have been spent on toys to a charity?
When he’s a little older and has moved from the wrapping paper to the toys themselves THEN bring on the toys. Until then, we will politely request donations.
Maybe that’s selfish, but again, it’s realistic for our needs.

topsail beach vacation rentals January 12, 2011, 4:08 PM

Hi Jackie,

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