Feed on

Simon’s birthday is next month, and I’ve been busy making arrangements for his party. As I planned his first three parties without consulting him (with mixed results), I had assumed this would be a parent-planned affair as well.

And it will be, to a point, but Simon has gotten his two cents in on key matters. First, the guest list: After Simon’s too big second birthday party and just right third birthday party, I had assumed we’d repeat last year. Family party one day, two to four friends to the pumpkin patch the next. I ran this plan by him, and then asked if that sounded good to him.

“Yes! We’ll pick pumpkins and have Halloween candy! I’ll invite Baron and Ruby and Caroline, and Jillian, and Braylon, and Gabrielle, and Greta, and Sophia, and Eden Bess!”

That’s nine of his eleven classmates. And I didn’t think he wanted to exclude the other two, either. (Nor would I let him. My rule is less than half the class gets invited, or everyone does.)

“You want your whole class? You want Baron and Ruby and Caroline, and Jillian, and Braylon, and Gabrielle, and Greta, and Sophia, and Eden Bess, and Veronica, and Rachel?”

“Yes! I do I do I do! And Ms. Shana and Ms. Tammy. They’ll ALL come to by birthday party and paint pumpkins and get Halloween candy!”

Right then! I think my little introvert is ready for a class party. So I found a local farm to book, where we can pick pumpkins, decorate them, go on a hay-ride, and run through a corn maze. Then I got to thinking: With all these activities, couldn’t we skip the presents? He doesn’t need all the stuff when you figure in his upcoming birthday and the holidays trailing right behind, and I hate to burden other families. I’d honestly just prefer that everyone come and only bring themselves.

Simon has other plans. After I confirmed the farm booking, I told him about it.

“Won’t it be fun!” I exclaimed. “All your friends and so many fun things to do!”

“It will be fun, mommy, and when my friends see all my presents they are going to FREAK OUT.”

I tried to suggest no presents, and I got a repeat of the freak-out line, a change of subject, and some bewildered stares. Then he went and got some of his toys, put them in a box, and asked Matt to help him wrap it so he’d have a present. It would seem that after three recent birthday parties, he has certain ideas about what a birthday party must include. Presents are on the short-list of non-negotiables.

I was honestly torn for a while. Should I just stick to my guns and keep all the extra stuff out of my house? Is this where I draw a line in the sand and show him that you don’t need stuff to have a good time? Or am I just projecting my own issues onto a young child and thereby sucking the joy out of childhood?

I think it might just be the latter. So I first convinced a reluctant Matt to scrap the no-presents idea he so adored, and then got to work convincing myself. We’ll try again when he’s older and can better understand.

3 Responses to “The No Gifts/Gifts Birthday Party”

  1. Amanda says:

    My .02, let him have the presents. You can always “recycle” some of the older–or newer–ones he doesn’t use/like/play with. You only get to be 4 once.

  2. bethnbobinnc says:

    I agree. I tried the no presents party once and everyone ingnored me anyway. We have a new rule. For every present you get, you pick one of your old toys to donate or sell at a yard sale. It hasn’t been fool proof but it’s a start… Good luck with that!

  3. blg says:

    I agree with Beth’s method and it works in our family.
    We actually do it before birthdays and Christmas, so it is not so much a one-for-one.
    And you are giving Simon a chance to be generous, to do something special for “kids who don’t have as many wonderful friends as he does”. After one year, we stopped saying “for the poor children.”

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