Birthday Party Balance

It's Friday! No serious subjects allowed. So here goes: Earlier this week, I threw our five-year-old's birthday bash. Rented a moonbounce, invited a haphazard bunch of kids a few days in advance, served Goldfish, water, cake and ice cream sandwiches I bought at Safeway that day. No goodie bags. The weather was sunny and 80 degrees. I had as much fun talking to the parents as the kids did jumping around.

Flash back five years before, when I threw my oldest child's fifth birthday party. In a Perfect Madness moment, I invited every kid in the class (with siblings, we had over 40 children). This required renting out an entire gym, which wasn't expensive but required complicated insurance waivers. On the eve of the big day, my husband and I created diagrams of the various simultaneous sport games offered so that every kid would feel included. The huge birthday cake was pre-ordered from a fancy bakery I've since erased from memory. Balloons, goodie bags, signs for the street outside the gym, inside the gym...the details were endless.

The kids had fun, sure. But it took days for all of us to recover, physically and mentally. I don't remember anything about the party itself except for the frenzied mania required to coordinate all the logistics. Looking back, I'm not sure what motivated my excess.

But I've learned. And here is my recipe for a balanced birthday party: Invite the smallest possible number of children. Offer one activity. Make goodie bags optional. Remember that fun -- for the parents as well as the kids -- is the main ingredient.

What is your wisdom about throwing a balanced birthday party or bar mitzvah or sweet sixteen? What are the best -- and worst -- birthday parties you remember?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  April 6, 2007; 6:30 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
Previous: Staying Anonymous in the Balance Battles | Next: It's a Logic Gap, Not a Pay Gap


Add On Balance to Your Site
Keep up with the latest installments of On Balance with an easy-to-use widget. It's simple to add to your Web site, and it will update every time there's a new entry to On Balance.
Get This Widget >>


Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



First!!

Posted by: Mike C | April 6, 2007 6:49 AM

2nd: we try harder!

Posted by: Avis | April 6, 2007 6:52 AM

Hmm, tough question. My daughter's Sweet 16 birthday party is tomorrow. Had this topic been Monday, I could have answered it better.

As for the once before this, I have thrown both big and small, but because my birthday and hers are on the same day, we usually have a birthday week. 2 parties. That has always been an interesting logistics problem.

Posted by: John Q | April 6, 2007 7:10 AM

I think you went a little more basic with the 2nd kid's 5th birthday than the first's because you realized the idiocy of elaborate parties for kids. All they want is pizza and cake and to run around. It's the fun they'll remember, not that they had a moonbounce or that you rented an entire gym (or the fancy cake).

My daughter is inviting 3-4 other girls for a slumber party and make your own sundaes. Can I afford an elaborate blow out? Sure, but it sends the wrong message to the kid and I don't have a need to impress anyone else.

Posted by: anon today (the original) | April 6, 2007 7:16 AM

My oldest turned 10 last month. He invited three boys to spend the night. Two were able to come. It was great. Less is more...

Posted by: Leslie | April 6, 2007 7:24 AM

I think one of my smarter parenting moves thus far was not having a first birthday party for my DD. Sure, we had a cake and balloons at home, but no big hullaballo. Instead, the 14 or so of us in my playgroup all got together and did a group party for our kids, who all have birthdays within a month of each other. Together, we rented one of those kids' gyms, each person brought something to contribute (cake, beverages, etc.), and each kid got one present. It was great -- the kids had a blast, and we all shared the costs equally.

I'm thinking of proposing the same thing for next year.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 6, 2007 7:40 AM

The big hullaballo stuff is news to me.

In my family and neighborhood, until age 16, all parties are strictly family occasions. Kids' friends aren't invited or expected to attend. There is no renting, no hired entertainment, and no storebought cakes. Such things are considered vulgar and wasteful displays.

Gotta wonder how this all started.
The folks who get caught up in this foolishness must be mighty insecure! What are they trying to prove to a bunch of little kids?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 7:54 AM

I'm splurging this year for my daughter's 6th. We always go to the tire park with family and a few close friends. This year, I rented one of the picnic shelters -- two tables and a roof, for $10. :-) It's great, because the kids can run around like crazy, and the parents can tag-team easily, leaving the others free to hang out and talk. No organization and minimal oversight required.

This year was the most I've ever been tempted to throw a big bash, though, because all of her school friends are scattering to different schools next year. And the park has one really cool huge pavilion, with fireplace, built-in stone grill, lots of picnic tables, etc. For $100 (yikes!). Luckily, my decision was made for me: it's already rented out both days on her bday weekend. So I'll just send cupcakes on her school's designated birthday day, and that'll be that.

Posted by: Laura | April 6, 2007 8:00 AM

McDonalds is not a bad option.

In some locations, they provide ice cream, light entertainmant and best of all, clean up, you just go home!

Before the food police jump over me, going to McD's once in a while will not kill your kids!

Posted by: Big Mac | April 6, 2007 8:04 AM

My work is done here. On to a different blog!

Posted by: First Comment | April 6, 2007 8:08 AM

Store bought cakes are vulgar? Maybe someone just can't bake. I only ever had one homemade cake growing up and my parents were far from rich or vulgar.

My daughter has had two birthday parties for the last three years. She has one on Thanksgiving with all my family and one on her birthday. We buy a cake from the local bakery and get some balloons. My family likes to see her celebrate. My daughter and baby number two will probably share a birthday on Thanksgiving.

I don't know what to say about the birthday parties in excess, except to each their own.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 8:09 AM

I think there's a balance between elaborate and basic. For my son's 1st birthday, we just invited some of our friends over (because it is also my birthday) and my parents were in town. The only other kids were my nephews. Worked out great. But I see myself doing more in the future -- I have great memories of having a birthday party (age 6 or 7) with several of my schoolmates (like 12, not 40) at a local kids eatery called Happy Joe's. We had sloppy joes, games, balloons and the pictures my parents took are a reminder of the fun. It was before all the Chuck E Cheese madness, so there was nothing too elaborate, but it was fun nonetheless. I can see myself doing the McDonald's party as a happy medium...

And Big Mac, you are correct, it won't kill your kids to go McD's once in a while :)

Posted by: writing mommy | April 6, 2007 8:12 AM

For the kids' early birthdays, we had only family. For a couple of birthdays, we took a few of their friends to McDonalds, or Dave and Busters, where someone else set up and cleaned up.

For their Bat Mitzvah's, we had the reception in a private room at a restaurant, with a piainist we hired. Invited about 60 people each time. Very low key, no DJ or entertainers. We celebrated the signifigance of the day, and the guest of honor got to talk to every person at the party.

For their eventual weddings, we are thinking of giving them a lump sum of cash. Spend more, and you pay the difference. Spend less, and you keep the difference. A wedding is a day, albeit an important one, but a marriage can be for a lifetime.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 8:23 AM

We had always limited the number of guests to the child's age when they were subteens. When they became teens, they still wanted the birthday cake but also to go elsewhere with their friends!

My most memorable party was when I was 8 or 9. I had a Zorro! cake! It was great! But mom had invited GIRLS. They still had cooties back then.

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 8:24 AM

For my son's first birthday, it was mainly our (grown-up) friends and some family. He had no idea what was going on - he was only 1. It was more a celebration of us - we madeit through the first year of parenthood! :)

This year though, for his 2nd, we will invite a few of his "friends" and their parents (as well as his grandparents) and probably grill burgers and dogs. He doesn't have many friends so we can still keep it simple.

Posted by: mfd | April 6, 2007 8:31 AM

We had 2 parties in the fall. Party for older child was at the paint-your-own-ceramic place. I baked cupcakes. Party for younger child was at home, and we all really enjoyed the planning and the preparation for the simple but fun activities. This birthday is at the very end of summer so it feels like we have time to get creative.

I think what's really important is that your child feels that their birthday is special. You do not want them to feel that the party is a chore for you. Keep it on whatever level makes it pleasant for you regarding guest list, expense, effort during the event, advance planning, etc.

Posted by: Green Mtns | April 6, 2007 8:34 AM

I always had most/all of the girls from my class (when I was in small schools) come over for a sleep over. Mom made spaghetti and whatever kind of cake/dessert I wanted (always this ice cream thing she made) and we watched a movie. Worked perfectly except for my 2nd grade year when a fight broke out between two girls. Story is still told to this day.

The only boy-girl party I had was in 8th grade and it was one of the best. We went to a local park, parents brought kfc and cake, we made up skits and acted out jokes in a little amphitheater, and played hide and go seek. But we were self-entertaining dorks (the best kind).

Posted by: Running | April 6, 2007 8:36 AM

The words "party", "celebrate", and "celebration" have been used by 427 different contributors in a total of 948 posts.

Our top 10 partiers:

10 moxiemom
12 pittypat
13 Chris
13 Megan
14 Laura
18 Emily
18 Scarry
22 CMAC
28 foamgnome
32 Father of 4

Posted by: Blog Stats | April 6, 2007 8:38 AM

If you're looking for an easy b'day party--the Reston Zoo was great! Our 3 YO had three friends and they rode ponies, fed camels, etc. for 15$ a person. We brought cake from Giant. Best of all, no cleanup! www.restonzoo.com

Posted by: ptjobftmom | April 6, 2007 8:41 AM

When I was a kid the 2 lavish parties I got were one playing putt-putt golf, and the other at the skating rink. Nothing super out of the world, but both were lots of fun... I don't know why people spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on something so wasteful. Seriously if you've got gobbs of cash to burn, spend the money on a new computer, or a lot of books for the kid, or put it in a car fund. Even better- send it to me! I need it! :)

Posted by: Chris | April 6, 2007 8:49 AM

Blog Stats, what about plurals (ex: parties)? Do you include those in your statistics? Not trying to create more work for you or anything, mind you... just curious as to what counts and what doesn't. ;-P Also, if someone says Parte (read Partay- as I cannot figure out how to get the accent in the blog), would that count too?

Posted by: Chris | April 6, 2007 8:54 AM

My eldest will turn 5 next month. Up til now, we've always had two parties. One at daycare and one with family (grandparents and cousins). I like the daycare parties because if we had a party at home, these are the same children we would invite. Having it at daycare is easier on the other parents and no one feels they have to buy gifts. My kids get enough from us and relatives. I do make goody bags but they're pretty basic and cheap, bouncy balls, bubble stuff, notepads, etc. No particular games, just big balloons to play with. We just leave work a little early and have the party towards the end of the day. I make cupcakes. The whole party lasts a little over an hour. I've noticed that the other parents do the same thing. Now that my eldest is in school, I'm not quite sure what I'll do. A lot of the other kids in her class have had parties at school with the parents bringing pizza for lunch and goody bags. Her class has around 20 kids so that's a lot of goody bags (daycare was 8). I'm wondering if I can get away with just cupcakes and very limited goody bags. It's amazing how my daughter gets so excited about new pencils... But I do want to do something at her school because I think each child likes to have a day where they feel really special like that.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | April 6, 2007 8:56 AM

I'm with the smaller is better crew. In terms of numbers, I keep roughly to the child's age. I don't pad the number of invitees in case people can't come. One party ended up being only four kids including my child. They had a great time anyway. I do check the dates with the mothers of the two closest friends before sending out invitations.

We've done only parties at home for my young daughter. Last year, I hired a couple of sixth-grade girls as mother's helpers. We had several games, which the girls supervised. This freed me to attend to the refreshments, visit with some of the parents, and keep an eye on the "big picture" so that the party ran smoothly.

The kids had a great time and more fun playing the games with the big girls than they would have had with me supervising. I've found that young girls really look up to the older girls. I was so lucky to have such nice girls as neighbors. I also keep parties to two hours max, 1-1/2 hours for pre-schoolers. I try to schedule all of the time pretty tightly. This cuts down on the crazy running around time. It sounds rigid on the surface, but in practice it seems to make things flow.

I've recommended the Louise Bates Ames books here before. She was affiliated with the Bank Street School and wrote a series of child development books, one for each year (e.g., Your Five-Year-Old: Sunny and Serene). Each book has a chapter on birthday parties, written from the perspective of child development. There's even a sample schedule for the party.

The home parties definitely are work, but I don't like how the party places create pressure to invite more kids because of the pricing structure. I understand that they couldn't make it profitable otherwise. I just don't ever want 10 kids at a party--personal preference.

Posted by: Marian | April 6, 2007 8:57 AM

Damn, the first list that Blogs Stats put out that I WAS NOT ON!

Oh, watch out, I feel one of those 70's songs coming into my head. Legal Eagle where are you?

"Celebration time, come on!"

(must drink massive quantities of adult beverages tonight!)

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 8:58 AM

I would love nothing more then to have a party at the park any other outdoor area but both of my children's birthdays are smack in the middle of winter. We have done in house parties both small (only family when under 3) and medium (3-5 friends over for the morning)and while they are less expensive and can be a blast it definitely involves more work. We have also rented a children's gym which while it was expensive ($225) it was very easy and great fun.

I'm not really sure what I will do next year for either of them.

I'm with you on the goody bags though, they are a pain and the stuff is usually discarded/destroyed (at least at my house) in a day. Last time I just tied a balloon onto some bubbles and they left with that.

Posted by: Centreville Mom | April 6, 2007 8:59 AM

Most of my birthday parties were of the "invite 6-10 friends and play twister and charades" type. Sleepovers once we hit a certain age - once in a tent in the backyard (but only once). The single most memorable was my 9th - my mom went above and beyond the call of duty writing up a treasure hunt and making me a cake shaped like a treasure map (rectangle + 2 cupcakes iced into a cool scroll) for a pirate themed party. I haven't a clue who won or what they won, but we had cheap plastic eyepatches for favors and everyone ran around the yard and had a blast. We always got to choose how Mom would decorate the cake (she's very resourceful) and that really made us feel important. That's what I remember about parties.

I really like the number of friends as the age rule! I'm going to have to remember that one.

Posted by: SPC | April 6, 2007 9:05 AM

Best party for kid: tie between sleep over slumber party for the then 7 yr old girl (it was soooo cute. She is now 24 and remembers that one. I had to wake up in the middle of the night and play tooth fairy because one of the girls lost a tooth and desperately believed) and indoor car racing for the then 7rd old boy (it brought out the inner NASCAR). 7-9 are the best ages for birthday parties. Wait: last year's 15th doing paintball was good....come see the violence inherent in teenagers.

We always limited numbers and did something special. Something we didn't do normally. It made for some good memories.

Posted by: dotted | April 6, 2007 9:07 AM

Green Mtns makes an excellent point:

"I think what's really important is that your child feels that their birthday is special. You do not want them to feel that the party is a chore for you. Keep it on whatever level makes it pleasant for you regarding guest list, expense, effort during the event, advance planning, etc."

One thing I've also done is had pretty generic themes (no characters) so that we can make the decorations ourselves. I'm not at all crafty, so we do things like flowers or ladybugs and just do cut out decorations and color-coordinated baloons. My daughter has really liked helping color and/or cut out the decorations. Keeping the numbers down is crucial for keeping the whole thing pleasant for me, both in terms of prep and at the party itself (pleasant for her too--she gets overwhelmed at the really loud crazy parties).


Posted by: Marian | April 6, 2007 9:08 AM

Centreville Mom
"Last time I just tied a balloon onto some bubbles and they left with that."

I like that.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | April 6, 2007 9:09 AM

What kind of world is it when the MINIMUM standard involves renting a Moon Bounce?!

Posted by: Arlington Dad | April 6, 2007 9:10 AM

SPC,

I will trade you my Zorro party for your Pirate party!

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 9:10 AM

What kind of world is it when the MINIMUM standard involves renting a Moon Bounce?!

Posted by: Arlington Dad | April 6, 2007 09:10 AM

I kind of wondered that myself. But how much does it cost to rent a moon bounce? I have no idea.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | April 6, 2007 9:13 AM

I've done big and small parties depending on what's going on and who dd is currently friends with. This year we went to Medieval Times and let her take 3 friends. Cost a fortune and still she had wanted us to bring more friends (no way!)

But certainly in wealthier areas there does seem to be a competitive side to birthday parties.

As for birthday cakes. Unless it's an ice cream cake, my dd definitely prefers homemade (and so do I).

The year she turned 4 she requested a "Cherry Ruby Cinderella Cake". I had a hard time figuring out what she wanted but I got it right because she loved it!

Posted by: librarianmom | April 6, 2007 9:14 AM

Centreville Mom
"Last time I just tied a balloon onto some bubbles and they left with that."

How do you tie a balloon to a bubble?
:-)

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 6, 2007 9:16 AM

I try to keep them small. I had bad luck with "invite everybody" parties. Nobody came!

I liked activity parties. The swim center, duckpin bowling, soccer. I had boys, and they just plain need something to do.

We live in Eastern MC so the parties were never totally over the top. I'm sure in nicer neighborhoods they become more competitive.

Now the year my son was 16 we went to Rome for Spring Break and he had his birthday there, just family. How many kids have had canolli for their birthday cake? Alas, by that time the parents had given up competiting about birthdays and we never got any credit for it, although my son still marks it as his best birthday.

The party that seems to have generated the most parental ire was a 13 year-old event where we let them all stay up all night. It was hard to tell if the parents were mad at us for letting it be, or because their children were all zombies. But the kids loved it. Our basement wasn't ever quite the same again but I did feel like it had been an event that was special!

Posted by: RoseG | April 6, 2007 9:16 AM

We also did the "number of invited guests equals your age" thing; it works well.

Generally, the girls like having sleepovers; these days it's usually about 4-6 friends. We turn the basement of the house over to them (ping-pong table, playstation, TV/DVD player, etc.) and throw food and drinks down once in a while.

DS prefers to invite friends to go play laser tag - we love it, too, because you can take out a lot of frustration that way. (He's 16 now; you do the math.) He's talked about paintball instead, but his birthday's in the middle of the winter.

And oldest DD turns 18 next week. She doesn't want to do anything special; just hang out with her friends - but she did delay the last college exploration trip so she wouldn't be out of town.

Posted by: Army Brat | April 6, 2007 9:18 AM

Rockville Mom -- I had no idea about Moon Bounce cost either. So I looked up Moon bounce rental on the Internet -- seems to be $175 - $230, depending on how long you keep it (3 hours vs. one day).

Posted by: Arlington Dad | April 6, 2007 9:20 AM

"And oldest DD turns 18 next week. She doesn't want to do anything special; just hang out with her friends..."

Trust me, she still wants the cake (and the new car also!)

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 9:21 AM

Wow, this is timely! My daughter's birthday is on Sunday, so we won't have a party that day. She just picked bowling, so we'll have pizza and cake and go bowling with 6 of her friends (and her brother & sister) sometime later in the month. The friends will probably stay over night, and I'll make pancakes in the morning.

I don't know how much moon bounces cost to rent, I won a rental in a raffle when she was 3, and that was a great birthday for her. One of my favorites was when her older sister was 3, we had a storyteller come over, and she told stories and brought puppets. Easy, quiet on the ears and the other parents loved it.

Posted by: pamsdds | April 6, 2007 9:26 AM

Thanks, 7:54: I agree 1000%. What's she trying to prove -- inviting 40 kids, renting a gym, goodie bags. What, no pony rides????!!!!! Good Lord. The most we ever got was a homemade cake. I doubt seriously Leslie knows how to bake a cake. MBAs don't have to, they can hire somebody to do that. There are children starving in Africa -- why wasn't party money put to good use. Send it to CARE next time.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 9:26 AM

Fred, oldest DD's "bestest ever" 18th birthday present will be.. her own checking account!

Seriously, her bank accounts until now are in my name as UTMA/UGMA accounts. In preparation for going to college, we're going to close out the existing account and open new savings and checking accounts in her name. She'll have a debit card and everything! Look out world (oh my aching wallet!)

Yes, she'll still have the cake with family. And probably another one with friends - the group of girls she hangs out with take turns baking each other birthday cakes. (Our kitchen has almost recovered from DD's turn to bake.)

Re: the car - that's the biggest problem for her in going away to college - she won't have access to the now-17 year old Ford Escort with 260,000 miles she's driven for the last year. She's already lecturing younger brother (16) and next sister (15) about how to take care of it, so it'll be there for her when she comes home.

Posted by: Army Brat | April 6, 2007 9:29 AM

While I could never afford a moon walk, I took my three year old to a party at one of the places that rent them (you can also throw parties there). It was a total blast, and the kids had a lot of fun. They could afford it, who am I to judge how they spend their money? And no goodie bags! (read: crap) Each kid got a balloon.

Posted by: Ann Arbor | April 6, 2007 9:34 AM

Blog Stats - glad to hear I can still apparently party even in my old, boring SAHM state! Woo hoo!

My kids have the same birthdate in winter. We invite the neighborhood gang regardless of age and gender and two to three children from school each. I make the cakes (can't cook, love to bake elaborate cakes) and we have homemade games and scavenger hunts. It is total mayhem and so very very much fun!

I hate the invite everybody parties. We don't accept every invitation we recieve. If my kids don't really play with a given child at school, we don't go to the party. Saves me $20! It can get expensive if you go to every party. I'd love to ban gifts all together since we have waaay to much stuff, but some parents just cannot not give a gift and I suppose it introduces the child to the concept of giving.

I'm philosophicaly opposed to gift bags (since when do you get a gift for going to a party? Isn't the party the gift?) but yield to the expectations while trying to keep it reasonable. Final anecdote - at our last party we did have face painting which I counted as part of the favor. Each child got a figurine and a neat wooden top and candy in addition. One little girl said "why isn't there more stuff in our gift bags?" Nice. I'm so troubled by the idea that they would rather have a bag of plastic crap and stickers they will throw away the next day than a couple of pretty good items that will last.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 6, 2007 9:35 AM

we're 10 months new to VA (Fairfax spcifically) and are overwhlemed by how the "I'm important, I'm a big shot, I have a very expensive house, a very important job, etc etc" attitude among the adults here trickles down to the type of bday parties they throw for their toddlers. We've been to the Little Gym ($500!) and had a pool rented out (Cub Run) and gone to Build a Bear with 20 kids (at $25/child!). The gifts I gave on these occassions were maybe about half of what was spent on my child to invite them there!! Our kids are a few days apart and we have always done a joint bday party at home with friends, but I felt very pressured to do something amazing this year just to keep up. However I am going to listen to my gut, and my pocketbook, and keep it simple - a small bowling party with 3 friends per child, in and out in under 2 hours!

Posted by: missing GA | April 6, 2007 9:37 AM

Hey Army Brat,

I am still holding on to the creepy van for when the girls return! Ha ha!

A serious comment about the checking account for college students. When older daughter went to college, we found a bank that had branches in both the college town and the home town. This makes it a lot easier in case of the emergencies which will occur. Don't forget the overdraft protection.

In fact, we made it a joint account between older dau and me.

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 9:37 AM

Great topic today, Leslie -- it's my husband's birthday! No kids so all my energy goes into planning for him . . . got way too many presents this year, and managed to squeeze in enough time between the gym and going to work this morning to run out for bagels/muffins/flowers. I hope he was surprised!

I had so many great parties growing up, even though I wasn't popular. McDonalds, United Skates of America, Ground Round, Pizza Hut . . . but the best one was at a now-defunct pizza chain called Papa Gino's; I must have been 9. They let the birthday person make his or her own pizza. I'm not a center-of-attention girl normally, but it was fun having the spotlight on me, and learning how to make the pizza. (And this was before Kramer came up with the same idea on Seinfeld!)

Best party that wasn't mine: One of the cool girls, who had an uber-creative mom (she always had the best homemade Halloween costumes), had a carnival in her basement. There were different stations set up where you could play games (tic-tac-toe, bingo, beanbag toss, etc.) and win little prizes. The food was of the chips-and-pretzels variety, but the cake was awesome. The thing I remember most is that her mom had made a few of those plywood cutout figures with the face cut out, like you see at boardwalks/amusement parks, so you can stick your face through. Everyone got a picture of himself/herself as a souvenir.

I'm of the keep-it-low-profile mindset myself, especially for little kids, but one of my friends recently threw an over-the-top party for her one-year-old (sorry for all the hyphens) and it was amazing fun. I didn't know anyone else there, but had a great time meeting her other friends, watching the kids run around, admiring the top-notch decorating job she did.

Thanks for prompting my walk down memory lane, Leslie, and giving me another reason to think about my husband as I head into a morning of meetings!

P.S. The zorro & pirate parties sound way cool . . . creative trumps all, in my book!

Posted by: NY Lurker | April 6, 2007 9:45 AM

When I was young and still had standards, I was completely opposed to goodie bags.

But I gottta tell you, that bag of cheap crap and a couple of pieces of candy works magic at the end of a party. Kids who resist leaving the party will behave and head to the door for that magic bag.

I know, that's not how it should be, we should have well-behaved children thankthe host and who curtsey and bow on their way out. But in the real world that goody bag has been the reason for many a calm and pleasant ending to a children's party.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | April 6, 2007 9:45 AM

Fred, we're still debating whether to put one of the parents on her account, "just in case".

Overdraft protection, ABSOLUTELY!

Initially, her account will be in the credit union to which her parents belong. When she decides which one of the (3) colleges that accepted her is the winner (only one is out of state), we may switch. We figure that debit cards are a good cover for now; she can get money from any ATM and as long as she's smart about it the fees aren't too bad. (And my analysis shows it's cheaper overall than most of the big banks, because the CU doesn't charge any fees at all for checks, the account, etc.)

Okay, we'll get the girls together and they can have a contest between the creepy van and the Escort. Considering we got rid of our '96 Grand Caravan 4 years ago because it conked out after only 120,000 miles (and many, many major repairs), I vote for the Escort!

Posted by: Army Brat | April 6, 2007 9:46 AM

Thanks, 7:54: I agree 1000%. What's she trying to prove -- inviting 40 kids, renting a gym, goodie bags. What, no pony rides????!!!!! Good Lord. The most we ever got was a homemade cake. I doubt seriously Leslie knows how to bake a cake. MBAs don't have to, they can hire somebody to do that. There are children starving in Africa -- why wasn't party money put to good use. Send it to CARE next time.

Posted by: | April 6, 2007 09:26 AM

Gee it only took until 9:26am for the class war to get into high gear. If you all hold Leslie in such disdain, why do you read her blog?

And whether you like it or not, getting an excellent education, earning a lot of money, and spending some of it on whatever the h3ll you want doesn't make you inherently evil. Likewise, spending *some* if it on seemingly frivolous things for our kids won't scar them for life.

Get over yourselves!

Posted by: go ahead and flame... | April 6, 2007 9:47 AM

My favorite b-day parties were the scavenger hunts and treasure hunts. We did those a lot. So much so, in fact, that I would help plan months ahead of time.

I also LOVED my 12th birthday party. My parents let me have a "dance" at our house. We invited everyone in my class (easy in parochial school--whole class was 20 people). It was a blast, and I'm pretty sure we snuck to the basement to play spin the bottle at some point.

"Missing GA," my parents rented ponies for my 6th birthday while we were living in Stockbridge GA (south of Macon). I guess some parents just really want to do something special for their kids, regardless of location. But I do agree with you that, in general, people in the DC area are likely to show off their wealth.

Posted by: Meesh | April 6, 2007 9:48 AM

Since my son is an only child we have spent a little more on his birthdays than we might if he had siblings. Still, they have been relatively calm affairs with only the number of children invited that matched his age. His favorites were the swimming parties at the YMCA ($45.00 that includes a helper in the room and no clean up duty for us - we supplied the home made cake) and then for the past two years he has had his party at the Science Museum - a little more pricey but the kids loved it! Here in the midwest the gift bag is still flying high on the must have list but we made it useful by including paper pads and colored pencils that could be used as a car trip distraction.

Posted by: Circle Pines | April 6, 2007 9:48 AM

Instead of buying overdraft protection why not just let her bounce a couple of checks. The consequences of that are the best overdraft protection there is. I promise she will keep a close eye on her cash after doing that onece or twice. Just my 2 cents.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 6, 2007 9:49 AM

To: Arlington Dad

About what age did you start the goody bag thing? Maybe my kid is too young (3) but they just drive me nuts, especially since they usually aren't age-appropriate. Maybe I'm being a pill.

Another question: I went to a party a few weeks ago where the hosts served the parents beer and wine and margaritas. yum. However, one of the other parents there was totally offended and got pretty upset. Since we're all pretty responsible, I didn't think it was a problem, but he thought it was completely inappropriate. What do you think?

Posted by: Ann Arbor | April 6, 2007 9:49 AM

I am happy to share my experiences and thoughts on birthday parties. My biggest pet peeve is the goody bag. WHO INVENTED THIS NONSENSE? When it comes to birthday parties for small children (ages 3-5) my experience has been that without some kind of a fun organized activity the parties are boring and the kids cling to their parents. They are too small at this age to organize themselves. Having said that, I have been to various "gyms" around here where the so-called instructors don't even smile at kids. So, renting an expensive gym is not an answer. I have been to some really great pool parties, to a great clown party, to a few magician parties, to a musical party. My kids (I have small children) usually have a blast when the party is organized and the activities are fun. So, until my kids are old enough to have a birthday party without adult supervision (7-8?) I guess we will continue paying for some sort of an organized activity/theme for them. Within reason, of course. As for competitive parents it's the nature of the beast in this area. But I really hate putting together those goody bags.....

Posted by: bethesda mom | April 6, 2007 9:51 AM

There will always be starving kids somewhere in the world no matter what Leslie or anyone else does with their money. Blame their governments not a lady with an MBA! Sometimes the aid doesn't even get to the poor kids.

My best party was when my mom baked me a smurfette cake, it was great until my brother came home and ate her head. I was a little pissed, but got over it.

Other than that, I always had bakery cakes every year!

Posted by: scarry | April 6, 2007 9:53 AM

Being a December birthday 5 days before Christmas), I always had the birthday "weekend" -- friends party usually fell on a Friday night, dad's side of the family and mom's side of the family on Saturday and Sunday. The house was just too small for all of those people. The two times both families (and friends) got together was my confirmation and HS graudation -- both held outside the home.

My mom always a had a theme for me -- ET, Strawberry Shortcake, Lolly Worm, etc. Once we did Christmas caroling, but it rained! Never a huge amount of kids, either (again, speace issue). As I got older, I got to invite a couple of really close friends and we went to the local theater.

Looking back, I wish I had a Sweet 16. Oh well. Just had some friends over for left over cake (from the family parties, of course). However, having seen Sweet 16's over the last few years, they are out of control (maybe it's a NY thing?) -- my cousin's daughter is wearing a white Vera Wang gown! Yikes.

Posted by: Columbia, MD | April 6, 2007 9:53 AM

Army Brat,

Yea, we have talked about your Escort before. The creepy van has 170,000 miles but a stained and tarnished reputation thanks to Chris.

I bought AF dau a SUV just like her mother's. I am SO happy I will not have to pay for her college.

I gave older dau Dad's car after he died, she is still driving the Golden Bird. It has been 3 years.

Amazing how a child can live without something new when she realizes that she, not the 'rens, will have to pay for it!

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 9:54 AM

To Ann Arbor - We started the goody bag at 3, tried to make it useful stuff vs the throw away dollar store toys.

As for the adults being served alcohol - here in Minnesota it is required! If you are having the grown ups stay, serving alcohol is not only accepted, it's expected! And let's face it, it makes the whole chaotic experience a little less exhausting.

Posted by: Circle Pines | April 6, 2007 9:55 AM

My favorite daughter just celebrated her 12th birthday last week. My wife always wants to do something cute with a theme attached, like have a dozen balloons or anything with 12 in it. I just wanted to resort to minimum effort, as usual, and just throw money at her. So we compromised and my daughter got 12 ten dollar bills,
($120.00).

By Wednesday, our checking account was drained and we had to borrow the money back to buy groceries without having to incurr another insuficient funds banking fee. Of course, favorite daughter got to pick out what she wanted, and last night, I literally had to beg her for an Orial cookie for dessert. I'm sure she felt special!

The fridge is still empty, but that's OK because it's Good Friday, a day of fasting and no meat.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 9:58 AM

Why was the parent upset about the alcohol? Was he afraid of drunk drivers, cultural issues, or bad example for the kids?

Posted by: scarry | April 6, 2007 9:59 AM

What I find amazing is the nubmer of parents who don't stay (I'm talking parties for little kids 4, 5,6) especially when they don't know me and have never been to our home. I'm always surprised at these strangers (parents of school friends) who just drop their kids at the door of a stranger. Am I the only one who stays? For the kids we know well, I always stay because I enjoy the company of the parents and enjoy seeing the kids I know having a fun time.

We had beer at our last party for the parents. I think as long as people are responsible and well behaved it is fine.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 6, 2007 10:00 AM

I don't have kids but have been invited to my friend's kids birthday parties because most of the other parents stay for the parts and the adult beverages and snacks. Nobody gets drunk and it makes it nice for everybody.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 6, 2007 10:00 AM

Ann Arbor -- you hit on my other favorite children's birthday topic! I'll all for adult beverages at kids parties! If I have to spend my Saturday at a kids' party, I want to have a beer while I make small talk with the other parents. Most parents I know can responsibly handle a drink at party. Parents can have fun too!

Heck, for my daughters 4th birthday, we did the party complete crafts, scavenger hunt, pizza and cake. Then we let the kids watch Cinderella and had a quick dinner party for the parents -- meatballs and wine! Everyone was happy.

I finally relented on the goody bags when the oldest was 3 or 4. After they had helped me make quick and peaceful exits from other kids' bithday parties, I saw the magic.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | April 6, 2007 10:00 AM

Halleluh Fred!
The 26 year old still has the Mazda he 'borrowed' from me 7 years ago. It is now 23 years old and still going. He won't buy another car since it will be on his dime.

Circle Pines: interesting take on serving alcohol at kids parties. Here there is something called 'safe house.' where you pledge there will be no alcohol served to anyone during a kid's party. There is pressure to be on the internet available 'safe house' list. I resist the pressure to be on this list.

Posted by: dotted | April 6, 2007 10:01 AM

Blatant conspicuous consumption. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 10:02 AM

Blatant conspicuous consumption. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Yippe! Blatent, conspicuous consumption!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 10:03 AM

I think when parents host big parties for kids, they should definitely include the other parents and serve alcohol :)

If you ask my kids, the best party to date was the picnic/cook out at a nearby open space. It was pretty nice weather for February and the kids ran, played, climbed, and hiked and then had burgers, dogs, veggies and cake. This was for about 25 9 and 10 year old boys and they loved it. The worst birthday incident, my 13 year old would say, was the year I baked a bundt cake rather than a traditional cake and he STILL complains about the "birthday donut." Funny what they focus on.

We often do "themes" such as a lego party, or an art party, to make the activities easier. Instead of the "goodie bag" we then give each child a small lego to build or a few art supplies. When asked, the kids have all preferred to have their party at home rather than a destination - with the exception of the open space party. However, our weather hasn't been good enough for an outdoor winter birthday since then. Our biggest problem is that 2 of the kids have December birthdays so it's hard to coordinate with school stuff, holiday stuff, and family stuff.

As a child, my birthday (summer) always seemed to fall on a swim meet day, so I rarely had parties but nearly always got a bunch of birthday wishes from my team. That was okay too - especially if I'd had a good meet.

Posted by: Stacey | April 6, 2007 10:04 AM

I almost forgot. A good idea for making your child feel special is to write "Happy Birthday Jonney #8" or something like that on your car windows When you pick them up from school, all his / her friends will know. Also, random drivers will honk, wave and cheer your kid on while you wait in traffic. Trust me, that always makes your child feel special!

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 10:04 AM

My son's 6th birthday is in 2 weeks and we have yet decided on the "forum" for his party. I'd rather pay a little money and not have kids at our house. Having kids at the house requires some creativity and organization and the dreaded clean-up.

I am ready to say yes to Chuck E Cheese - but putting the other parents through that makes me cringe. Please...talk...me.... out .....of ....it......

Posted by: cmac | April 6, 2007 10:05 AM

Moxiemom,

I understand what you are saying but will respectfully disagree. The way some banks calculate overdraft is near criminal. If several checks and/or atm are presented the same day, some banks will debit the largest amount first. This may cause lesser amounts to be over drafted and result in 6 overdraft charges rather than 1. Beside overdraft does not cost money (at least down here) until it is used.

The issue about using the ATM card at college is that the ATM may charge for its use but not your CU. This is one of the reasons that we opted for a local bank. BTW, most banks in college towns do have special accounts and rates for college students that have much lower fees that regular accounts.

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 10:05 AM

Hey missing GA - hang in there. Fairfax is definitely crazy compared to back home, but you'll find pockets of sanity, too. It just takes a while around here. Don't give in to it!

Posted by: another GA native | April 6, 2007 10:10 AM

cmac-resist chuckecheese. resist you must. resist you must.

If you say yes, you will have a headache for at least the following 24 hours. It is loud, which wouldn't be so bad, if it weren't so clangingly loud. The food is terrible. Kids fight over the games. The tickets are a big ripoff.

build a bear is expensive, but if she does it with one or two special friends, it is just so much more memorable and satisfying. Or maybe those paint the pottery places.

Posted by: dotted | April 6, 2007 10:10 AM

One year I went with a friend as a chaperone to one of those Arcade places where the kids go nuts for an hour then have cake and ice cream. Talk about noisy! They have a quiet adult room with glass windows in the middle so you didn't have to hear the insanity but could watch. I laughed so hard at one poor kid who had the nerve to walk in there. All heads swiveled and every adult, in unison, asked "What are you doing in here?"

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 6, 2007 10:11 AM

For my AF dau 21th birthday, we went to Vegas. (talk about poor old fred spending money!)

Her sister bought her a crown and sash that said "I am 21 today!"

AF dau wore it all day in the casinos, restaurants etc.

When we were walking down LV Blvd, more people noticed her and said hello than if a show girl in costume had been there!

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 10:12 AM

Go onto thenest.com Parenting board sometime and you will see how crazy people are about birthdays for one year olds nowadays! Custom invitations, goody bags, crazy decorations and private room rentals, not to mention all kinds of discussion of your "menu" for the party, etc. RIDICULOUS!

Unfortunately, we fell into the family pressure trap and had a bigger party than we intended for our one year old. My older cousin had a party at his nice big house for his daughter, who is just 5 days older than ours. I felt that I couldn't tell people at that party that we were having something the following week, but they weren't going to be invited. So we had to revise our plans for an intimate gathering at home (a tiny TH) to a rented room at our local community center. We did our best not to go overboard with decorations or treats, though-our daughter isn't going to remember this anyway!

I remember a few birthdays from when I was young-mostly family celebrations until I got a little older, and then a few girls from school for either a saturday afternoon or a sleepover. My favorite birthday was my big slumber party at 15-I told my mom I felt it was the last year I could do something like that, so we had 15 or so girls over and we watched saturday night live and 80s movies. It was fun and didn't cost my parents much at all.

Yeah, I honestly think people have gone crazy with birthdays these days, and I already feel I gave in a little because of family obligation. But a moonbounce rental is NOT the minimum in most people's worlds-unfortunately, in some neighborhoods, it has become the norm!

Posted by: HilsMom | April 6, 2007 10:13 AM

Fred - point taken. we can agree to disagree! Glad you are back!

CMAC - don't do Chuck E. Cheese - you may as well sign the parents up for a colonoscopy, at least you get sedated for that! I like the parties at home even though they are more work because when it is over there is still the feeling of the party. We leave the streamers up for a few days and the pinata stays out, we use any extra cups or napkins until they are gone. I always think its kind of sad that there is the party at the venue and then everyone gets in their car and its all back to normal. Also, they will only be content with at home parties for so long, then you will never have to do it again.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 6, 2007 10:13 AM

CMAC what about a party at the zoo or other location?

Posted by: scarry | April 6, 2007 10:15 AM

(Uh oh, we're ignoring Leslie's instructions and straying in to a serious topic - teaching your kids/young adults about money :-)

Moxiemom, I agree with Fred. Unfortunately, the way overdrafts are handled makes it the worst possible situation for the overdrafter - you usually get hit with the maximum penalties by the bank, AND by the store or wherever you bounced the check, and more importantly you live with the "stain" forever.

(True story: we refinanced our mortgage about 2 years ago when we could drop our rate one percentage point. During the refinance process, we got a credit hit asking us to explain the one bounced check we've ever had in our lives - from 1989! Man, is that a pain.)

Also, the way our CU works, you have to have a savings account (to be a member) before you can have a checking account. Any time a transaction comes in that would overrun your checking account, they automatically transfer funds from your savings account to cover it - no overdraft, no fee. It's only when a transaction would wipe out both your savings and checking accounts that you start incurring fees. So there's really nothing to "buy".

And you make a good point about banks having special "college student accounts", Fred. If she decides to go for the out-of-state school, I may have to look into what banks/accounts are available there. I do like the thought of her having a branch local to us, too, so that we can help take care of any issues.

Posted by: Army Brat | April 6, 2007 10:17 AM

"Blatant conspicuous consumption. You should be ashamed of yourselves."

The Disney vacations/shows are pretty much the same thing.

Not sure why, but a lot of Americans think that STUFF = happiness.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 10:20 AM

The fellow who objected to alcohol probably wonders why he isn't invited to many parties.

All of our kids have their birthdays in the summer, so the parties were phased out over the years in favor of cake and presents on the porch or, more fun and more memorable, whatever we could find in the wake of our travels to various places. One year, the daughter had donuts on the top of Alhambra in Andalucia. How cool is that? For her 16th, we flew her to South Beach, gave her a cell phone and let her brag to her friends. (Yes, we waited until a child could drive before getting them a cell phone. Another subject, I know.)

The best thing about kids parties are the pictures years later. It's great fun to see all of these, now grown, people as children again.

Posted by: dave | April 6, 2007 10:20 AM

We're fans of low key parties. My kids (including my first, who set the standard ;o) ) have their first party with friends when they turn 5 and it's a very small affair at our house. We even went the "no gifts please" route with my third child on that birthday and did a book exchange where each child brought a book and got to take home a different book. They have their "big" party at age 6 at a local pizza place (not CEC, but with a big play area). Then it's usually small home parties or a sleepover with a friend or invite a friend to a movie/dinner with our family or something like that.

However - I do admit that I'm actually willing to do more now than I used to do. Maybe it's the SAHM Perfect Madness thing coming out in me, maybe it's because I'm getting soft in my old age, who knows. We're having my daughter's (child #3) 7th birthday party here at our house next Thursday. I ordered two craft kits from Oriental Trading for each girl to make a bracelet and a keychain, we have several games planned (no prizes so if it turns out they're not in the mood for games no big deal), I'm going to take a picture of each girl with my daughter to use on their thank you note, and we're having homemade cupcakes, pretzels, juice, and raisins. We invited 11 so I should have anywhere from 9-12 girls with my daughter - a friend and my older daughter (12) are going to help. It's still pretty low key compared to renting a place or equipment or taking everyone bowling/skating/etc. but since my other kids had things like "a playdate at our house with 3 friends" when they turned 7, it's big for us!

Posted by: momof4 | April 6, 2007 10:21 AM

It is sometimes very hard to keep parties small. We live a neighborhood FULL of children around my 5 year old son's age and they all invite him to their parties. All the parents are quite good friends we meet in the neighborhood playground and are in and out of each others houses with our kids all the time. We'd feel awful and it would seem quite odd not doing the same when we celebrate his especially as it is very obvious when someone is having a party where we live. My son also invites a few of his really close friends from school - usually about 5-6 (who would also have invited him to their parties). We then have very good family friends and relatives in the metro area with whom we have a tradition of using our children's birthday parties to party ourselves. We end up with about 25-30 kids minimum who are all good friends with my son. Also, my son's birthday falls in February which makes it difficult to have anything outdoors and I like having my parties at home. I'd give anything to just throw a moon bounce outside in the yard and let them go for it but it is usually snowing and/or very cold. With all those kids to entertain indoors, we need to outsource for sanity's sake and an entertainer of some sort is called in. The food is always the basic pizza, juice, and birthday cake and I also provide some more grown-up food for the parents.
My point is that having a large party and an entertainer is not to necessarily show off and that should not be the automatic assumption. It means that while the 25 kids are being entertained, the parents are free to chat and catch up with each other. Everyone always have a great time. I don't see it as a chore and I LOVE entertaining. I would be interested to hear though, what others with winter birthdays do to entertain their little guests.

Posted by: ladyjanegray | April 6, 2007 10:21 AM

"CMAC - don't do Chuck E. Cheese - you may as well sign the parents up for a colonoscopy, at least you get sedated for that!"

Ditto. Please, please, please, do - not - go - towards - the - light.

Or take the colonoscopy approach and provide a nice pre-party valium to all of the parents.

Posted by: Laura | April 6, 2007 10:23 AM

Childless, but can I offer an observation from my own life (both as a child and an adult)? Only have the birthday party if your child wants it.

My immediate family has our birthdays mostly clustered in June, and mine is the last one. This phenomenon has only gotten worse as my siblings and I got married - all but one of us married people with June birthdays.

So by the time we hit my birthday, I am birthday-ed out. And it's not just as an adult - I felt the same way when I was a child. Basically, I'm naturally introverted (not shy, I just need my space - a by-product of being the youngest, I think) and I hate being the center of attention. All the separate hubbub for my other family members parties just put me out of sorts. Too many people, many of them trying to ramp me up a birthday party of my own. I spent most of my childhood under the radar of more flamboyant and/or problematic siblings - I simply preferred to keep it that way.

I'm sure I had birthday parties when I was little, but honestly, I can't remember anything but family get-togethers from the time I was 7 or so, except for one sleepover in my tween years. My family was enough for me in the way we dealt with birthdays. We got to sleep in. My Mom made specials meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we each got to pick out one of the ice-cream cakes from Baskin Robbins (looking back, I don't know how we fit overlapping birthday cakes in the freezer), and there were presents. It wasn't like the day wasn't marked. But my Mom knew better than to force a party on me, because it just wasn't my thing. I'm sure part of her was relieved to not have to throw another party, too, now that I'm writing this.

It has taken my in-laws years to realize that I'm not age-sensitive - I really just don't make a huge fuss about my birthday. (My husband and family had to confirm it to them several times .) My family now holds one big communal party - We call it Christmas in June - and that's absolutely fine for me. And I think it probably would have suited me down to the ground as a child, too ;)

Posted by: Chasmosaur | April 6, 2007 10:23 AM

Ladyjanegray - we are winter bdays too. We are considering a half birthday party so we can have the slip 'n slid, BBQ party and then just have quiet dinner w/parents on actual birthday. I haven't heard of anyone else doing this, but I too would like to know others experiences.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 6, 2007 10:25 AM

Moxie - 2 thoughts on dropping the kids (4,5,6) off at parties. How big is the party and how good will your kid be alone vs. while you are there? Some kids are complete brats when their parents stay, so I'd rather have them leave. If the party has 10-12 kids and there are also 10-12 parents - to me that is a lot of people. If you don't know the parents all that well then it is awkward and you feel like you have to cater to the parents as well as the kids.

I have pretty much always dropped off and there have only been 1-2 parents over the years that have wanted to stay at our house from 4 years old on and they are usually the parents that you don't want to stay. We normally know the parents through pre-school, or elementary so it is not like they are strangers.

When my kids were little 1,2,3 yo we always had the neighborhood kids, their parents, and our grandparents and had an adult/kid party with adult beverages and activities. The kids just ran around the house and the parents yucked it up in the kitchen. From 4 on I think they can handle being away from parents for a couple hours.

Again - it is a comfort level.

Posted by: cmac | April 6, 2007 10:30 AM

I guess the parties I had as a child would be described as "big" in this neck of the woods - almost always 10+ kids, but we lived in a very small town and that was the norm. I have a summer birthday, so we usually played outside - water balloons, squirt guns, and yes, scavenger hunts (that was always my favorite part!) My mom made homemade cakes, in a different design each year - a frog, a telephone, a car, etc. That is the one tradition I have tried to continue for my son, although I am not as good as my mom was. I tried to make him a manta ray two years ago, and didn't realize how difficult it would be to turn the frosting gray! It wasn't my finest moment. Family Fun magazine online has a great section on kids' birthday cake designs.
Adults never stayed at my birthday parties, and I never stay at my son's friends' parties. I am not great at making chit-chat, unfortunately.

Full disclosure statement (while cringing with embarrassment): my mom's name is still on one of my checking accounts - it's not a joint account, she just had to sign on in order for me to open it when I was 18 - and then we just never followed through with taking her off. Some day.

Posted by: TakomaMom | April 6, 2007 10:31 AM

My favorite birthday to this day is my 16th - sleepover for four friends at my grandparents house (much nicer than my parents house, and had better space for sleepovers). Mom was a caterer at the time, so she made petit-fours, fancy hors d'ouvres, and a two tier fancy looking cake. I think she spent maybe $50 for the whole food bill (making that stuff is easier than it looks, and cheaper too). Lit candles in the whole house (even floating candles in the bathroom) and we watched "Sunset Boulevard" and talked all night.

DD has had three birthdays since I've been in her life. One was before I moved to Arkansas, and DD and my partner came to see me in Florida and we took DD to Sea World. Last two have involved taking two or three friends to a movie and then pizza and video games. This year she's going to be 14, so I'm thinking she'll want something a bit bigger, but she's getting a homemade cake regardless (I love making them, she loves my homemade icing - and I have an MBA and somehow manage to make them anyway).

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | April 6, 2007 10:33 AM

Moxiemom,
My college roommate had a friend whose daughter had a late December birthday - so she and her husband decided they would celebrate the daughter's birthday in June, and they have been doing it since she was 1. The other kids probably don't even realize it's not her birthday - works great for them.

Posted by: TakomaMom | April 6, 2007 10:36 AM

CMAC - I don't mind parents who stay or those who don't stay. I just think it is odd that parents to whom I have never spoken more than a few words and have never been in my home would trust me with their 4 year old. I don't leave my children at homes that I haven't been to before. For a first playdate, I always stay and chat with the mom to get a sense of who she is a at least visually check to see that the household is safe. I know its not a guarantee but I feel its important to check out. So I'm not offended or bothered that they don't stay, I just am surprised at the level of trust.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 6, 2007 10:38 AM

When i was growing up we always did a craft, ie friendship bracelets, paint an ornament, make a something (mom was a hero, totally awesome). For my high school graduation we did just a dessert party, Costco at Pentagon City has better desserts than the other Costcos do, so we got a bunch of cakes/pies there and invited the gang over, the weather held and people hung out inside and outside (Parents dropped in and out) and it was a nice day to just spend with people talking. Much easier than trying to serve "food" but desserts were spread on the dining room table with small paper plates, and then plastic cups and sharpies so you could claim your cup and it worked out really well. (Plus generally you can clean frosting out of anything if its not too colored!)

For Prom, we did a pot luck (made our parents serve us, but each brought a family specialty) at a friends house (we live in Northern VA, we all eat at nice restaurants with our families not infrequently, this was more fun) and then our parents made double the amount and ate a second meal afterwards. It was fun because we had aprons over our dresses so we wouldn't mess stuff up, and there was no "oh god" if we begged for a glass of milk with dessert, and the food was sumptuous because our parents were excellent cooks--i got many of the recipes from that event and I still make them today with a smile. That night we went to another friend's house changed into street clothes and his mother feed us quiche and other yummies and we hung out (well supervised) all night. We didn't take it too seriously and had a blast for a fraction of the price. One friend took his parents mini-van and turned it into a limo for the evening (went out and bought a limo driver hat, added mini-drinks and a small TV) and drove most of the group, my boyfriend drove us b/c there wasn't enough room, it was way more fun, and creative. I can only begin to imagine how incredibly happy our parents were with the whole deal.

Then again, I guess I still don't take life too seriously, my 24th or 25th birthday party was Barbie themed.

Posted by: ljb | April 6, 2007 10:38 AM

I hate to admit, but I'm one of the moms that tries to come up with uber-creative ideas for my 4 kids' birthdays. All of them had a huge 1st birthday party (more like a kegger for the parents....wooohooo we survived the first year!). After that, we had parties at home where they get as many friends as they are old. Lunch, homemade cake and lots of planned activities. Turns out, they're not into the 'planned activities'. I've definitely learned that while it's nice to have a 'theme', the kids prefer having pizza, cake & icecream and just running around. The best party so far was my 6yoDS' Knight Party. Bought blow up swords, made shields out of poster board and let them duel in the back yard...they loved it. The kids expect goody bags and I've had some partygoers specifically ask 'Where's my goody bag?' Now we always do a pinata and the loot goes in a bag. I also try to give gifts to other birthday children that aren't going to end up as clutter. We give 'coupons' for a day at the movies, a night out for pizza, bowling...whatever is consumable and gives the birthday child a special date with my child.

Posted by: 2girls2boys | April 6, 2007 10:40 AM

We have two kids with summer birthdays, and one with a spring birthday - I have had three parties, two at home and one at the public library (rented upstairs room, had an entertainer). When they were in daycare I invited everyone in their class (not a big class)- prevented any hurt feelings, and when they were in school I invited every kid in class (ditto hurt feelings - most schools you cant send invites to school unless every kid is invited) and some outside friends. I just made sure the events were affordable/not a per child cost so that I could make sure everyone was invited. Not every kid comes - and if you make sure you have an activities (esp. physical activities) the kids will behave. Most parents stayed, and all of us daycare parents knew each other anyway.

My birthdays - I remember going with some of my friends and my parents to eat at Reeves downtown and to see Grease at Warner Theater (at 10 or 11) and at 13 or 14 my best friend and I went shopping at Woodies downtown and then had lunch by ourselves at the Woodies restaurant - we felt very grown up.)

Posted by: jessker | April 6, 2007 10:40 AM

I have given several different types of birthday parties but nothing that I felt overwhelmed. What I do like is the great pictures I have from them. I like to give each child something that is the same like a cowboy hat or when we had a train party a bandana around their neck. When my son was three he liked blues music (influenced by his grandfather) so we had a blues brothers party and each child had a black fedora and dark sunglasses. The picture with all the kids together is great. The picture documents who was there and what type of party it was. My kids love to go back and look at those pictures.

Posted by: Not Busy | April 6, 2007 10:41 AM

Fred, I do try, really I do. ;-)
In any case,speaking of vehicles, when I was growing up we had an old rusted out green volvo station wagon. Not exactly creepy, but the bondo certainly did not make it cool either... a lot of fun and not so fun memories attached to that car from strapping surf-boards to the roof, to being homeless for a little bit. Whatever you do for your kids 7th b-day, try to top bean-dip sandwiches. ;-) Again, I'm not saying go all out and rent a bouncy castle, but the most meaningful of birthday memories are the times when my mom would tell me how much I meant to her and how happy she was that I was her son. So have fun, but don't get so wrapped up in the material things that you forget to say something sweet to your child that will stay with them long after the toys break and they grow up and move out.

Posted by: Chris | April 6, 2007 10:41 AM

Chuck E Friggin' Cheese! OK - I knew it was a bad idea, I can't do it.

Yes, we have parks/shelters/zoos but then everything depends on weather. Bowling is expensive. We also have community rooms that are expensive, so that is out. Build a bear just closed here - strangely enough they were right next to Victoria's Secret in the mall.

Son has about 12-13 kids to invite, half neighborhood half school. He is being wishy-washy so I will have to guide him to his decision. Looking more and more like a house party. He loves scooby-doo so we could do a scooby clue game to find treasures, you know how scooby is always involved in mysterious capers......

Posted by: cmac | April 6, 2007 10:42 AM

Checking accounts for kids to college--leave a joint checking account at the same bank for you and child for one really good reason--if you ever need to deposit money into your kids account in a hurry you'll be able to do so a lot faster. My mom and I still have one joint account for me from college with both our names on it for a just in case type thing. Sometimes cash just needs to get there not plastic.

Posted by: ljb | April 6, 2007 10:43 AM

Well, that was enough sentimental mushy crap from me. The world is ending soon after all, so go out there and blow your ill-gotten fortunes on the little bratts who won't appreciate you no matter how much money you blow on them. ;-P

Posted by: Chris | April 6, 2007 10:45 AM

cmac - scooby doo will be awesome! You can be Daphne or Velma! One thing we do that the kids love is to hide candy in balloons and then instead of a pinata they have to pop the balloons to get the candy! It is crazy and they love it. We also throw in a magic ticket in a couple of the balloons for a special prize. A scavenger hunt would be perfect.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 6, 2007 10:47 AM

The other parent thought that it gave the impression to the kids that parties had to include alcohol to be fun for the parents, and thus start a 'culture of drinking.' His words. I was enjoying beer at the time, so I was suprised he said anything to me.

We have provided wine and beer (and mojitos at a BBQ last summer) for parents when we have parent/kid parties. I was wondering if that should change as my son gets older.

Posted by: Ann Arbor | April 6, 2007 10:48 AM

A local school is having a fundraiser to raise money to be able to have a moon bounce at their school carnival.

Leslie rented a moon bounce for her child's balanced 5th birthday party.

Posted by: oh, the irony | April 6, 2007 10:48 AM

Moxie - I always to the "check out" on the first play date too. Funny story - my son was invited to play with a preschool friend when he was 4. Nice kid, nice parents but their house was a disaster. The basement looked like a junk yard and smelled almost as bad, my son took one look and told me he wanted to leave. I stayed for about an hour and even I couldn't take it anymore so I made a polite excuse to leave. Of course 2 weeks later we got a b-day party invitation for the same kid and my son cried about going. I went and stayed again (even though they scheduled the party during NFL playoffs!). They cleaned up slightly for the party but I just could not leave him there alone.

Posted by: cmac | April 6, 2007 10:49 AM

cmac, PLEASE resist ChuckE Cheese. It's so awful watching all the kids run around and only care about how many tickets they get - not playing the games - all so they can wait in line to trade 175 tickets in for a lousy mood ring. It's loud. It's germ-infested. It's expensive with no redeeming value other than they are enclosed. Just say no:>)

General comment:

We only do parties from ages 5 - 9. Before and after those ages we do home parties, but we have no family in the area, so it's little more than blow out the candles and go to bed. I am not crafty or creative and have neither the time nor the talent to hang crepe paper and balloons over my house. (some of you think this requires no talent - that's because, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, - you have the requisite talent!) If my kids think that their birthday is causing me stress, that's making them feel bad about a birthday - no thanks. We had one birthday party at home, the clean-up was just awful, and we swore, "never again". We had insufficient containment. We've not done the moonbounce thing, but what it is is a containment mechanism, a really fun one, nonetheless, a containment mechanism is so that the parents know they haven't lost a guest, LOL. A cake from Wal-Mart costs $6.99. Please. Where's the conspicuous consumption in that?

What we do love, and what it's all about for us, is providing a fun activity - could be ice or roller skating, could be gymnastics, whatever, as long as it's active -- and providing it to all the kids in our child's class. We see the joy on the faces of the less popular kids each year because we invite everyone to each of our son's and daughter's parties, and so many others only invite 2 or 3. It costs us about $7 - $10 per kid, depending on the activity - skating's the least expensive - and makes them feel special. That $120 Father of 4 handed to his daughter? We spend it on the party and emphasize having fun with your friends instead of giving our kids a material gift(s). Some of these kids don't get invited to anyone else's party because they're not the first or second best friend of the popular kids. Not that there's anything wrong with limiting guests, but please do know that there are implications for the less cool. We've had "no gifts please" parties and "bring a gift to donate" parties and both have gone over well.

re: adult beverages, if a parent made alcoholic beverages available during a kids party to the other adults, it would constitute a major faux pas for about 10% of the parents, e.g., they'd not let their kids socialize at our house in the future and would shake their heads at our depravity. At least where we've lived, a fair number of parents feel strongly about their kids not being in an environment where alcohol is available to the adults, so my advice would be to know your parent crowd well before doing what may make absolute sense to you.

moxiemom, on parents staying for the party. I've only once been invited to stay at a house-party. In my experience, many parents don't have the space or the interest in stepping around 14 extra adults, plus it's either expressly or implicitly understood that it's 2 p.m. on a gorgeous Saturday so enjoy yourself. We all take one for the team when it's our child's turn, LOL. Of course, the parents have all met at school and know each other so there's no security risk here. Your mileage may vary.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 6, 2007 10:49 AM

TO: NY Lurker

Papa Gino's is alive and well in Massachusetts...just one more reason that Boston Rocks and NY SUCKS!

Posted by: Boston Babe | April 6, 2007 10:50 AM

He loves scooby-doo so we could do a scooby clue game to find treasures, you know how scooby is always involved in mysterious capers......

Posted by: cmac | April 6, 2007 10:42 AM

I remember one party where the mom hid the presents while we were all occupied and then wrote out "clues" to where they were and we had to go find them. The clues led to other clues and so on until we found the present. It was pretty fun. 12-13 presents might be kind of hard but you could try hiding them together or something like that.

Posted by: Centreville Mom | April 6, 2007 10:50 AM

2 words: party sharing.

My 2 year old doesn't have a huge circle of friends, but the thought of inviting even four of them into our home (as we did for his 1st birthday) filled us with dread. So we're combining resources with 2 of his best friends (who would've been invited to his party anyway) and throwing a combined bash at one of those Gymboree-type places. The trained staff will keep the kids happy with activities, the three sets of parents are dividing the cake/food/supply responsibilities, and the best part: no cleanup!

Also part of the deal: guests are being told to NOT bring presents. We don't want them to feel obligated to bring presents for kids they may not know so well, and besides, the birthday boys are getting plenty of swag from their respective grandparents. Instead, each set of parents will bring one gift for their child, just so there's something for them to open at the party.

Posted by: taupecat | April 6, 2007 10:51 AM

I've been to an adult party at Chuck E.'s (years ago) when one of my friends turned 25 - it was one in Virginia with a stage and they served beer and wine and a whole bunch of us went - one friend nearly got kicked out for cheating at skeeball.

I've been now for kids parties - overwhelming, not as much fun for me, but the kids have a great time.

Posted by: jessker | April 6, 2007 10:52 AM

"My 2 year old doesn't have a huge circle of friends"

LMAO when your child is 15 you might realize how funny this sounds. 2 year olds don't have "circles of friends", they have "kids they go to daycare with" or "kids who are children of their parents' friends."

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 10:54 AM

Oh, the irony- that wasn't really ironic, don't cha think? Too much alannis morisette for you. She really distorted the meaning of that word with her stupid- yet-catchy song. Irony would be washing your car only to have it rain. Nope, her renting a moon bounce, while a school is raising money to rent one, is just crappy.

It would be ironic if the school had just raised enough money to rent the moon bounce, only to find out that Leslie had already rented it out for that day.

Posted by: Chris | April 6, 2007 10:55 AM

Sounds like that parent you mentioned is opposed to drinking whether or not it's a kids party -- you can't change his opinion. (Of course, sounds like Mr. Uptight would benefit from a drink...)

As far as the "culture of drinking," my kids know that adults get to drink adult beverages, and kids don't.

It also sounds like a lot of the parents on this board see nothing wrong with responsible drinking at kids parties.

Posted by: Ann Arbor | April 6, 2007 10:56 AM

It's ironic that Leslie's idea of balance is paying for something for a dozen kids to enjoy that a school with 300 families has to fundraise to provide for hundreds of people.

Or maybe Allanis would just say so.

But in any case, if that's balance, then balance is obviously easier to have when you can afford to buy it.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 10:58 AM

I am not necessarily against adults drinking alcohol at kids parties, but I woulnd't serve it. As far as I am concerned, the party is for my child and her kid guests. I am on a limited budget and I don't feel obligated to provide alcohol and food to the parents who are staying rather than dropping off the children. I don't mind them staying and they can have juice or punch and any food left over after the children have been served. I just don't feel like they are guests - they are parents who are hanging around because their children are guests.

Posted by: lmn | April 6, 2007 10:59 AM

Rent a moon bounce. Heck, we own one. Great for weekend fun.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 11:01 AM

'Instead of buying overdraft protection why not just let her bounce a couple of checks. The consequences of that are the best overdraft protection there is.'

what a waste of cash! My son's checking account overdraft protection deducts the funds directly from his savings account for a $10 fee. Stops him every time!

Posted by: experienced mom | April 6, 2007 11:02 AM

Re: parents staying - the only time it really happened I completely understood. Oldest DD was 7; she wanted a pizza party where they all made their own pizzas (I'm a whiz at pizza dough, so I had made a whole bunch and created "personal pizza" crusts; then we laid out a whole bunch of toppings.) Two hours before the party started, DW got called in to work in a crisis (she was a Fed in those days), and I ran the party. A number of the Moms came by with their daughters - 7 invitees, remember - realized I was there without DW, and promptly stayed. Now, these were women who had known us for a couple of years. I don't honestly know whether they were afraid their daughters might get molested, or whether they just figured I'd let the kids burn the house down, but four of the 7 Moms stayed and I think the others didn't only because they knew those 4 were. DW thought it was hilarious when she got home and found out about it. (I think the younger kids were at Grandma's house that day; I don't remember them being there.)

Posted by: Army Brat | April 6, 2007 11:02 AM

With the drinking, we think its important to model appropriate use of alcohol around our children. We don't drink frequently, but when we have friends over we do and everyone does so in moderation. I think we are showing the children how to use it properly as opposed to the media images they receive. That said, I can absolutely respect any family that chooses not to drink in front of their children.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 6, 2007 11:03 AM

When did this convention of parents staying at birthday parties start? For 1-2 year olds, of course, because it's not really a party for the kid. But for a kid 4+? Can your kid really not be away from you for two hours? And it makes it so that the parents giving the party have to give two parties, one for the kids and one for the adults. Part of the beauty of birthday parties when I was a kid was the two hours of free babysitting they provided. I do not ever remember a party where any parent stayed.

As for the trust issue, does your kid have a lot of friends who seem so screwed up that you wouldn't trust their parents for two hours? Are your kids so screwed up that you think other parents shouldn't trust you for two hours?

Posted by: Kathrina | April 6, 2007 11:03 AM

experienced mom: "what a waste of cash! My son's checking account overdraft protection deducts the funds directly from his savings account for a $10 fee. Stops him every time!"

_____________________________

Really, they charge for that? Seriously? I'll have to keep an eye on that, because my CU does that for free, and I'd just assumed that's the way most places would work.

Posted by: Army Brat | April 6, 2007 11:03 AM

Here's a question -- at what age do you drop off kids at a party? And is age the only factor here?

Posted by: Arlington Dad | April 6, 2007 11:05 AM

'With the drinking, we think its important to model appropriate use of alcohol around our children'

right! We adults drink, we tell the kids how easy it is to drink too much by mistake (we try not to model that behavior!), and we adults always have a designated driver.

My experience, way back when it was legal to drink at 18, was that the kids with the anti-drinking parents were the kids that went wild and drank way too much in college.

Posted by: experienced mom | April 6, 2007 11:07 AM

It being Friday, I feel compelled to say that I see no harm in consuming adult beverages (by adults) regardless of kid's parties. Let the "fun-sucker" (my kids term) tilt at windmills. As I said before, he won't be invited out much.

I kind of like the old notion of a garden party only loosely tied to a kids birthday. Maybe invite a bunch of adults, some relatives and their kids over for a weekend afternoon, play some badminton or volleyball, jump in the pool and towards the end of the day, light a few candles on a cake.

BTW, did you ever come across the the video of the teenage girl throwing a tantrum because the Dad got the color wrong on her car? I can't help but wonder if that all started with elaborate parties when she was younger.

Posted by: dave | April 6, 2007 11:08 AM

Two of my children have birthdays in the same month, so we actually have 3 parties in a month - one kid party for each child and one family party for grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends, etc. to celebrate the kids' birthdays. I do serve alcohol at the family party. In my mind, I see adults who are family or friends with whom we normally socialize in a different category than parents of school and daycare friends who are mere acquaintances.

There are several reasons we have 3 parties.

First, I grew up having combined B-day parties with my brother and I hated it. I think each child is entitled to have one day a year to be in the spotlight without sharing.

Second, my house is to small to have more than 8 children, including my own, especially if parents are staying. They are each limited to 5 friends until they reach the age when parents are not staying - then they can each invite 8 friends, and we pray it is nice enough to be outside.

Third, we enjoy having the family party without the other children around.

Question, why is it that people don't have the children open their gifts at the party? so many take the gifts home still wrapped. I find it disappointing not to see their reaction to the gift we gave.

Posted by: lmn | April 6, 2007 11:08 AM

As for the trust issue, does your kid have a lot of friends who seem so screwed up that you wouldn't trust their parents for two hours? Are your kids so screwed up that you think other parents shouldn't trust you for two hours?

Posted by: Kathrina | April 6, 2007 11:03 AM

The point isn't that the kids are screwed up, the point is that I don't know who the parents are. Would you drop your kid at a house selected at random? I wouldn't expect people who don't know me to trust me any more than I would trust them. Going to the same school is simply an indicator of living in the same zip code. Living in a nice neighborhood is not an indicator of nice people. I'm not doing background checks, but I think it is important to know the people with whom I trust my children. I expect to know the parents of my children's friends as long as they are under my roof.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 6, 2007 11:13 AM

I completely understand why parents may stay at parties. When DD was in daycare in the 4-year-old group, she was invited to at least 10 birthday parties for children whose parents we had never seen because our work schedules were different. We never dropped off or picked up our children at the same time. I wasn't about to let DD go to someone's house at age 4 by herself when I didn't know the family.

Posted by: anon this time | April 6, 2007 11:15 AM

Army Brat,

I will tell you and everyone else reading to look at fee schedule carefully. What fees banks charge for what services vary greatly.

The other issue is when banks credit your account for checks AND cash. One of my banks closes its books at 2 pm, another at 3 pm and another at the closing time of the bank that day. So, even if you are depositing cash, it may not be credited until the next business day. Think putting money in late Friday and not having it available until Monday.

Some banks will credit the first $50 or $100 of a large check and then the balance later (2-5 days). But in a very nice way (thanks Check 21) they will take the money out of your account for a check that you have written the first night it processes.

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 11:15 AM

Hey Columbia, we have the same birthday! (december 20). With December break always starting at that point, I never had a chance to have the huge party.

I'm not at the parent stage yet, but in terms of the best parties I remember, it was the ones at the friend's house, instead of at the Chuck E Cheese type places.

Also, RE: checking account: Check what fees your bank charges for using the debit card at stores. If there is no fee for using PIN transaction, you can use your home CU, and whenever she needs cash, she can go to the local grocery/drug store, buy something she needs (tissues, snack, etc) and then get the amount she needs cash back. Voila! NO ATM fees! (I've done this multiple times, and it is amazing)

Posted by: transplant from Conn | April 6, 2007 11:17 AM

Question, why is it that people don't have the children open their gifts at the party? so many take the gifts home still wrapped. I find it disappointing not to see their reaction to the gift we gave.

Posted by: lmn | April 6, 2007 11:08 AM

If it's at home, the gifts get opened. If it's at another place then we leave them to be opened at home. However, I do take a photo of them opening it and cheesing really big and include it in the thank-you note.

We don't open them at out of home parties because it's just to much of a hassle.

I know some people don't open them at house parties because of possible bad reactions but my daughter can fake excitement really well and my son is excited by everything at this point (he's 3).

Posted by: Centreville Mom | April 6, 2007 11:18 AM

10:58, you got me there! It is much easier to buy balance- or at least an illusion of one- if you have money.
Let them eat cake!

Posted by: Chris | April 6, 2007 11:18 AM

"It's Friday! No serious subjects allowed." I will quote you and hold you to that next Friday when you post another daycare blog. :-P

Posted by: Chris | April 6, 2007 11:20 AM

For DD's 6th birthday party she had about 8 little girls over. We gave each little girl a sheet of paper dolls to color and cut out & play with, they were given lots balloons and got to squash them out in the backyard, we had a pinata and they played Twister, Magical Chairs and Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey. They also had a good time looking and playing with the presents. It was the longest two hours of my life but they had a fabulous time! DD does not like storebought cakes so we always make one, ditto for DS. One year DS had a lopsided chocolate cake that was decorated with candles and his army of Play-Mobile knights. He loved that cake.

Posted by: Pink Plate | April 6, 2007 11:22 AM

Now that our kids are older, we try to open gifts at the party. Its about teaching them some grace and courtesy. How to smile and say thank you for somehting you don't want or for something you do want. I like my kids watching others open gifts and learning how to enjoy someone else's happiness. It is a rarity though.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 6, 2007 11:22 AM

moxiemom, your 11:13 comment was spot on.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 6, 2007 11:22 AM

I have an every-other year party plan. One year the kids gets a wiz-bang, super-duper party, the next year something simple and small. For instance, one year we had a pan for gold party in our backyard for our son. The next year was the most expensive party I ever did -- surf lessons. The kids had a great time at both but the surf party was a special event that my son will always remember.

Two years ago we had my DD's party at a party place with several types of bouncies and she invited the entire team and some kids from the class. It was a great way for her to expand her friend base and she came away with a couple of new friends who are still important to her. This year we kept it small and simple.

Again, both are fun but sometimes doesn't everyone want to have a rip-roaring great time with lots of people and noise and to feel totally special.

Posted by: soccermom | April 6, 2007 11:23 AM

About a year and a half ago, I moved into an apartment with probably the best roommate in the world. We're great friends, but we're moving out at the end of May. We live across from a Chuck E. Cheese. He keeps saying, "We HAVE to go there before we move out!" I keep saying, "Why?! Dave and Buster's is the same thing, only they serve alcohol, and they make the kids leave after midnight!"

So, I'm voting "nay" for Chuck E. Cheese, cmac!

Posted by: Mona | April 6, 2007 11:24 AM

ok, I'm not saying that you just tell them to jump out of the car as you drive by the house of someone you don't know. But if you bring them in, introduce yourself, isn't 15 minutes enough to see that everything looks ok, the kids are having fun, etc, and they will survive without you for an hour and a half? It definitely changes the dynamic of the party to have everyone's parents there too.

Posted by: Kathrina | April 6, 2007 11:24 AM

Now that our kids are older, we try to open gifts at the party. Its about teaching them some grace and courtesy. How to smile and say thank you for somehting you don't want or for something you do want. I like my kids watching others open gifts and learning how to enjoy someone else's happiness. It is a rarity though.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 6, 2007 11:22 AM

to each his own. I'd rather have them running around, raising heck, enjoying the sunshine than standing around ooohing and aahhing over material possessions. It's about a much fun as a single-sex bridal shower and the emphasis is on the haul.

If you permit gifts, prompt thank-you notes written by the recipient are required. If you are comfortable skipping the gifts, even better, in my opinion.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 11:26 AM

"Papa Gino's is alive and well in Massachusetts...just one more reason that Boston Rocks and NY SUCKS!"

Boston ALSO rocks because they thought a few lightboards in the form of a cartoon character was a terrorist act and arrested the cartoon's originator. HOORAY FOR OVERREACTING!

Posted by: Mona | April 6, 2007 11:27 AM

transplant from Conn: gee, I just went and looked at my CU's web site, and there it says about debit cards:

Use the cash back option when making purchases to avoid ATM surcharges.

D'oh!! I'm embarrassed to admit that I hadn't thought of that. Of course, most stores I've seen will only let you get $50 cash back at once, so I might have to swing through several stores if I need more cash than that, but still

Gee, this blog was useful to me again today - just in a different way than before. :-)

Posted by: Army Brat | April 6, 2007 11:28 AM

Army Brat,

Oh yea about the cash back option. Between direct deposit and ATM plus cash back at Wal Mart ($100.00) I seldom go to the bank or write a check anymore.

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 11:30 AM

Great Friday topic! I've got to send out invitations for my daughter's birthday; she turns 11 on May 1. We are inviting about a dozen kids for a pool party in the back yard.

One of the worst parties (not ours): our first year in Arizona, my daughter was invited to a birthday party at a local park. Outdoor events are usually pretty safe to plan in Arizona as it only rains about two dozen days out of the year. Well, we had a monsoon roll in while we were in the park...complete with lightening, dust devils, and high winds. We started grabbing the kids and running for the bathrooms...there were dozens of tumbleweeds chasing us down.

The birthday girl lived in an apartment that could not accommodate the large number of guests, so a friend volunteered the use of her home, and we moved the party there.

Posted by: single western mom | April 6, 2007 11:31 AM

"If you permit gifts, prompt thank-you notes written by the recipient are required. If you are comfortable skipping the gifts, even better, in my opinion"

I would say a thank you note is required in both cases. DS & DD each get a set of thank-you notes every year for their birthdays and for Christmas.

Posted by: Pink Plate | April 6, 2007 11:31 AM

Check out your local fire station. If they offer it, it's a great place to throw a birthday party, especially if your kid has a birthday in the winter months. The kids also learn about fire safety which is very, very important.

BTW: The time changed to DST. Have you changed the battery in your fire alarm yet?

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 11:36 AM

What I meant to say was its a good idea to write thank-you notes regardless of whether the gifts are opened in the presense of guests or not...either way...

Posted by: Pink Plate | April 6, 2007 11:36 AM

Pink Plate - I don't disagree that a thank-you note for attending the party is required, as well as for any gift given I was limiting my comment to the topic of opening gifts at the party and suggesting that gifts are not essential.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 11:37 AM

"We don't open them at out of home parties because it's just to much of a hassle."

Ok, but I guess it depends. We have never had an invite-the-entire-class party, so the time it takes to open 8 gifts is not that big of a deal. We do it right after they have cake since they are all seated in one place.

Personally, I would rather not have a picture of the birthday child opening the gift. I already have boxes of pictures that need to be organized :).

Posted by: lmn | April 6, 2007 11:43 AM

Fred, I'm the same way. When I'm around home, I just use an ATM belonging to my CU and there's no fee. The issue is when I'm traveling and need cash, for whatever reason. I normally just find some other ATM and pay the 2 dollars (or whatever it is) fee. I just realized thanks to "transplanted" that I don't have to pay the fee; I can just go to a store, buy something I need (say, a bottle of aspirin), get the cash back and not have to pay the darned fee! Cool.

And to get back to our already off-topic thread, I can tell DD to do the same at college - she can have the CU account, which makes it easy for me to deposit cash into it for whatever reason, and not have to worry about a 2 dollar fee every time she wants cash.

Posted by: Army Brat | April 6, 2007 11:44 AM

What's everyone's opinion of the generic, pre-printed "Thank you for your gift," instead of a handwritten, personalized thank you?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 11:45 AM

Growing up I was never able to have friends over for my Bday b/c it was a holiday and a day for families to spend with eachother (July 4th) Occasionally I might get 1 friend to stop by our family picnic on their way to their own family festivities. I do remember cakes (but not if they were store bought or home made) and I remember birthday kisses and "spankings" from my loving family (I could not however remember any gifts I got prior to age 18)

There was a part of me that always held on to a little bit of "poor me... I have to share my birthday with the country".... That is until I met my now husband. He was born on Christmas. Being holiday babies I think we both know how important it is to make the other feel special and remembered.... and that is all you need to do. I make sure I wrap one gift for him in birthday (non christmas) paper, and there is always birthday cake.

Posted by: Holiday Baby | April 6, 2007 11:48 AM

I don't have kids yet (preggo with #1 right now), but this has made me think about my worst birthday ever... When I turned 17, my parents tried to throw a surprise party for me, but my best friend was sick and my whole "clique" had just had a huge blow out, so only 2 people showed. My boyfriend and his best friend. By the end of the night, the two were no longer best friends and I had switched boyfriends.

Whoops. LOL

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 11:49 AM

Moxiemom, I say ixna to the iftsgas. By 8 years old, kids really don't care about another $15 piece of junk that will clutter their room and half the time they open a cd or dbd, they already have it anyway.

And besides, if you open the gifts while the parents aren't there, you can save it in the shrink-wrap, still new, and give it away when your kid gets invited to the next party. It's called regifting.

And the thankyou notes. Who cares? Have your kid write an email, just like all the adults do nowadays.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 11:55 AM

Father of 4, not sure who you're hanging out with, but all of my adult friends still send hand-written thank you notes. Kids should, too.

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 11:56 AM

re: thank you notes. If I am there when the kid opens the gift, I don't care so much about the note. If I am not, I like to get a thank you card, which I never do from my husband's side of the family.

Posted by: scarry | April 6, 2007 11:57 AM

Thank you cards should always be personalized to include the gift. I've never gotten a preprinted thank you note, so I'm pretty sure I would think they're rude. Minimal effort usually means minimal thought.

For more reasons to write thank you notes, check out EHell.com. It's an etiquette site with tons of stories about ettiquette faux pas.

Posted by: Meesh | April 6, 2007 11:59 AM

The last wedding I went to, as well as baby shower was done by e-vite.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 11:59 AM

Father of 4 - someone sent you and e-vite to a WEDDING?? Ok, Miss Manners I'm not, but that's just crazy. Did you go?

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 12:02 PM

Yes, you went. You said that. Ignore me. Pregnant brain.

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 12:02 PM

"What's everyone's opinion of the generic, pre-printed "Thank you for your gift," instead of a handwritten, personalized thank you?"

AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!

Head spinning, it's the end of the cilvilized world, what's wrong with these people

I'm not a fan of the fill in the blank thank you note.

Posted by: Arligton Dad | April 6, 2007 12:04 PM

Holiday baby,
But you got fireworks and sparklers for your birthday! My b-day is two days after Valentines day. Can you say left-over candy?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 6, 2007 12:05 PM

Meesh, nope- I just tried to go to that site... it was a "search" site with a pop-up.

Posted by: Chris | April 6, 2007 12:06 PM

Yes, a barnyard wedding of all things. The kids had great fun and so did I.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 12:06 PM

A barnyard wedding? Ok, that just put all kinds of pictures into my head. Don't get me wrong, my dad was raised on a farm and at heart, I'm no city girl, but my first thought was "Were the bride and groom human or equine?"

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 12:09 PM

dlm79, did you just say you were pregnant???

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 12:09 PM

I have no problem with e-vites, in principal, but birthday parties for kids are a great way to teach both host/ess and guest skills. Greeting your guests at the door, thanking your guests for attending your party and saying goodbye, and writing hand-written thank you notes are the duties of a host. Whether kids slide into that great casual beyond at a later date is one thing, but while they are under our roof, we require our kids to write handwritten, personalized thank-you notes because that's just the right thing to do. At 4 and 5, when their knowledge of ABCs was pretty limited, the pre-printed cards give them a head-start and they signed their names and wrote a short sentence about the gift. I didn't have a problem with that.

The one practical issue we have with our son is that we don't have addresses for all of his friends. He's great at delivering the invites, great at writing the thank-you notes, but delivering the thank-you notes can be a little bit of a struggle, LOL.

They may stop writing thank you notes later, just like they might stop attending church, but we will have done our utmost to start both kids off on the path of etiquette righteousness.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 6, 2007 12:12 PM

When I was preggo with our little girl I firmly told my hubby that I was NOT throwing some obnoxious b-day party each year for her. We are always stuck going to these elaborate snotty kid parties that are only thrown b/c the parents want to impress one another and get free presents for their kids. What a waste.

Growing up we usually had a few friends and immediate family celebrate these events and it was always a total blast. The b-day person in question was also deemed king or queen for the day by my parents. Of course when it was my turn I TORTURED my brother and sister. Not for very long but it was just Too Much Fun!!!!

Posted by: Nutty Mama | April 6, 2007 12:13 PM

"I guess it depends"

Agreed, we have only had two parties not in the house. We had one at a little kids gym and actually said "no presents please" but people still brought them, I think it would have been tacky in that instance to open them when not all kids had brought them. The other was at build-a-bear, and although four presents wouldn't of been much there was just no opportunity or room to do it. If we had had an opportunity to do it then we would have.

"Personally, I would rather not have a picture of the birthday child opening the gift. I already have boxes of pictures that need to be organized :)"

I know what you mean but I don't actually expect them to have kept it, just wanted to personalize the note a bit.

Posted by: Centreville Mom | April 6, 2007 12:17 PM

Father of 4 - Yes.... something wrong?

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 12:18 PM

I like the idea of inviting one child for each of your child's years. That makes sense. I don't invite all the kids in my son's class (except last year, when he was four and there were 7 kids in the class - and many didn't come). I think that inviting 19 kids from school, in addition to neighborhood kids and cousins is way too many kids. So I have made a list for DS's fifth bday with some of his friends from class. He shouldn't be forced to be friends with everyone, and it doesn't work anyway.

Growing up, my mom had found someone who baked cakes in her home and so I could have any themed birthday cake I wanted. That was the coolest thing, since it wasn't in vogue then and my friends rarely had cakes like that. I always had several birthdays. I was born on passover, so for both seders, I would have a (five pound) cake (made of lead) so I got to celebrate my birthdays with extended family. If my birthday did not fall on passover, we would also have a family celebration (just parents and sibs) - so we'd have cake for dessert after dinner.

Then I'd usually have some sort of party - when we were younger, we would have them in our basement. One year bowling, one year a few friends at a chinese restaurant. Never extravagant. I had a sweet 16 at home, my parents wouldn't pay for us to have it elswhere, but all of my friends who had one had one elsewhere.

As for checking accounts for college students - wow, you guys are WAY involved. My mom gave me a check when she left me. I had a place to live (dorm) and a food plan, she knew I wouldn't starve. I, being me, went to each and every bank to figure out which one would cost me the least and opened a checking account there. No parental involvement whatsoever. Be careful what you wish for - when the kid graduates from college, they may want you to do more and more stuff for them.

Just a though...

Posted by: atlmom | April 6, 2007 12:20 PM

Number one rule is no presents from guests. DH and I along with GD and GM give DS enough, he doesn't need stuff from people. I want him to remember his birthday as a time he celebrated with his friends not as a time when they all gave him presents. We have friends who would suggest a non-profit org for donations if people felt compelled to give something for thier child's birthday.

Posted by: late to the party | April 6, 2007 12:21 PM

Growing up in my house with 7 brothers was great fun on birthdays! It gave us a legitimate excuse to beat up on the birthday boy (rather than the normal daily beating!)

You know, birthday spanks with a "pinch to grow an inch"

Birthdays were about the only time a younger brother could get over on an older one!

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 12:21 PM

pet peeve alert! It annoys me when parents ask for no gifts and people bring them anyway. It is akward for the people who respected their wishes.

Posted by: scarry | April 6, 2007 12:21 PM

dlm79, I'm send you my utmost e-congratulations! Alright, another Onbalanced Blog Baby!!!

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 12:22 PM

"At 4 and 5, when their knowledge of ABCs was pretty limited, the pre-printed cards give"

ALL of my kids could read & write by age 4 - no pre-printed cards for them.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 12:22 PM

Thank you notes: I keep a stack in my desk, all blank, usually with smiley faces or adorable kittens on them. I write them all myself, immediately after I return home from the party/vacation/whatever. I'm one of those few strange people who love writing thank-yous. If my grandparents buy me socks for Xmas, they get a thank-you. If someone goes out of their way to do something nice for me, I go to Hallmark and buy a special thank-you instead of taking them out of my stash. My handwriting is terrible, but I get my point across.

On the other hand, I do not like receiving thank-you notes. They seem superfluous; I'd rather just see the smile on their face when I do/give something nice to them. I wonder why that is? Maybe because I'm a packrat and can't stand throwing anything away, so everything gets very cluttered?

Posted by: Mona | April 6, 2007 12:22 PM

ALL of my kids could read & write by age 4 - no pre-printed cards for them.

Your kids must have went to daycare.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 12:23 PM

If you have a two high-power career couple time is much scarcer than money. Renting a moon bounce is a low effort enterprise, the kids can be energetic without getting in trouble, etc.

So what that a school is having a fundraiser to rent one? Other schools are having fundraisers to fund true academic needs like books and science lab materials. Perhaps the school with the carnival should recognize the foolishness as well?

Everyone here is nicely sheltered, typing on their computer, etc. Jealousy and sniping comments about other people's birthdays seems foolish when you think globally and remember that you are part of the crowd that is "eating cake".

Posted by: don't get it | April 6, 2007 12:23 PM

To: Boston Babe

Do they still let you make your own pizza at Papa Gino's? That was the best. I don't think there are any in R.I., though, I went to school there and we had Papa John's but it's not even a comparison.

Mona -- I am so jonesing for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie. I may even break my rule about not going on opening weekends.

Happy Peeps weekend, everyone!

Posted by: NY Lurker | April 6, 2007 12:23 PM

Thanks, Father of 4. I thought for a second I had broken some unwritten blog rule. Like, no redheads, and no pregnant women. Which, actually, would mean I'd broken two rules, but how would you know I was a redhead?

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 12:25 PM

Ahah. Try this http://www.etiquettehell.com/content/eh_main/gen/eh_index.shtml

Posted by: Meesh | April 6, 2007 12:28 PM

"pet peeve alert! It annoys me when parents ask for no gifts and people bring them anyway. It is awkward for the people who respected their wishes."

Could not agree with you more, in fact we debated whether to ever do it again because we don't know what's worse, the unspoken "requirement" that they bring one, or the feeling of not having brought one when others did.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 12:28 PM

"Your presence is the best and only present"

"Your presence is our present"

Maybe by making it cute people will comply?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 6, 2007 12:31 PM

Today's posts are surely setting a record for a new low for this blog, which is already uber low.

Stats Meister?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 12:31 PM

A friend of mine has a son that's turning 1 next week and the party invitation said "No gifts." I was totally gonna get him something, but after reading all these posts....

Thanks for saving me, folks.

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 12:33 PM

At 4 and 5, when their knowledge of ABCs was pretty limited, the pre-printed cards give"

ALL of my kids could read & write by age 4 - no pre-printed cards for them.

Posted by: | April 6, 2007 12:22 PM

goody for you.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 12:33 PM

"As for checking accounts for college students - wow, you guys are WAY involved..."

A bit of a different situation as dau paid for her monthly living expenses. I did not want to put a slab of money into her account at once for the whole semester. Both of them were very aware that the "daddy fund" ran out when they went out into the big cold cruel world. They still ask occasionally but dad still says no.

Funny story about that. Older dau car insurance was due and she knew that if she asked I would say no. So, she had her younger sister "suggest" to me that it would be nice if I paid it. I told younger dau that daddy was not paying and if she did not have the premium in full, she would just have to pay on the monthly plan like most everyone else in the world. Younger dau already had told older dau that this ploy would not work but she asked anyway.

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 12:34 PM

Fred,
Do you find that when one of the kids (ok, one of the girls) wants something you become "daaaddy" vs dad?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 6, 2007 12:36 PM

In my family, the one splurge item with regards to our birthdays was the cake (and even that was not an every year occurrence). Whether it was getting a fancy torte from our favorite bakery or Mom baking a three-layer confectionary masterpiece with colorful fondant icing, it was a big highlight.

Posted by: 215 | April 6, 2007 12:40 PM

Even worse are the adults who don't send thank you notes for handknit baby gifts. It takes a lot longer to knit a baby blanket than it does to write a thank you note. I've made a promise to myself -- no thank you notes for baby gifts, no more gifts of any kind to that parent.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 12:41 PM

Fred

You really must engage a ghostwriter!

Your stories continue to be mediocre at best! How much reading have you done??

How many adult conversations have you had with someone other than your wife?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 12:41 PM

A friend of mine has a son that's turning 1 next week and the party invitation said "No gifts." I was totally gonna get him something, but after reading all these posts....

Thanks for saving me, folks.

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 12:33 PM

Please don't. No gifts should be respected in the same way that you don't bring your children to a wedding to which they have not expressly been invited. and, psssst, what does a 1 year old need, anyway?

For us, we've sent a consistent message that the birthday party is a chance to share your day by enjoying the company of your friends and family, not an opportunity to compete for who can fill the nearest landfill with packaging. We have no problem with those who determine otherwise.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 6, 2007 12:42 PM

Fred

You really must engage a ghostwriter!

Your stories continue to be mediocre at best! How much reading have you done??

How many adult conversations have you had with someone other than your wife?

Posted by: | April 6, 2007 12:41 PM

12:41, for the sake of those reading this blog, take your best shot at an on-topic post next time.

Posted by: anon for now | April 6, 2007 12:45 PM

April 6, 2007 12:41 PM,


I like Fred's stories. I think that hearing about how he handles his adult children is good for parents who have small children. Let's me know what to expect.

Do you have a story you'd like to share? I would love to hear it.

Posted by: scarry | April 6, 2007 12:46 PM

Scarry, you're amazing. I was just sitting here wondering what had crawled up some people's butts today and here you are being nice and polite. However do you do it? ;-)

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 12:50 PM

Moxie - Love the balloon idea with candy and special tickets. I guess they would have to stomp on them? I don't want 6 year olds with pointed objects.

Posted by: cmac | April 6, 2007 12:50 PM

dlm79,

ha, I usually don't. I am a real hot head sometimes, but I have been trying to be nicer. :)

Posted by: scarry | April 6, 2007 12:55 PM

Scarry,
Is it the new baby making you say nice things?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 6, 2007 12:57 PM

the worst parties? that's easy. Invite 20 4 year olds to your backyard with no activities, no crafts, no equipment, not even a ball, and then expect them to sit still while the Star of the Show opens 20 presents. As most parents know, opening presents can require scissors, involve lots of metallic twisties and hard, uncuttable plastic shells. It's a birthday party killer to occupy 30 - 45 minutes with this process.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 1:01 PM

Megan's Neighbor, I so agree with your idea that "your gift is your time". I wunder how many kids have received a bat, ball and glove from their uncle, yet never got a single pitch from him.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 1:04 PM

We threw a party for my stepdaughter when she turned 15 that involved borrowing a projection screen and a projector. We hooked up the laptop and popped in a DVD (I think it was Pirates of the Carribean, but I'm not really sure) and it was movie night in the back yard. We set out lawn chairs and had popcorn and soda and other junk food. After the movie, we had a campfire and made s'mores and then the girls played Ghosts in the Graveyard and other fun outdoor nighttime games. The girls slept in a tent and although I doubt they got much sleep at all, they all said it was a great time.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 6, 2007 1:05 PM

Scarry, I think it's a boy. Definitely getting a male vibe. Am I right?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 6, 2007 1:06 PM

Movie night sounds like a great idea for a party! I will have to steal that if we ever get a yard big enough.

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 1:08 PM

Megan's Neighbor, I so agree with your idea that "your gift is your time". I wunder how many kids have received a bat, ball and glove from their uncle, yet never got a single pitch from him.


Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 01:04 PM

You're so right. What kids really want is for the uncles, cousins, and parents to play with them. We can spend all of Friday night and Saturday morning decorating the house for a party and baking a homemade cake, or we can all walk over to the park and go fishing. Friday night AND Saturday morning. I'm glad everyone in our family is on the same page that fishing, or anything else done together outdoors, wins that contest, hands-down.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 6, 2007 1:10 PM

"We are always stuck going to these elaborate snotty kid parties"

Just say NO.

Posted by: to nutty mama | April 6, 2007 1:10 PM

ha guys! The baby is making me nice. workingmomX I don't know if it is a boy or not. I have my fingers crossed for a healthy baby!

Posted by: scarry | April 6, 2007 1:11 PM

Oh, I guess I forgot one thing. Mom gave me checks monthly, so the 'one check' I got at the beginning of the semester was supposed to last one month. I would just receive checks in the mail. it was great. I did get a job as a junior on campus (easy easy - math tutor and no one ever came to the math center).
Even though I had it easy (and so did DH - his parents paid for college all the way) I'm finding it harder to think that I will pay 100% for my kids' college educations. Maybe because it is so much more expensive. Maybe because I know they will not earn after they graduate what I would pay for one year's tuition/room/board...

Posted by: atlmom | April 6, 2007 1:12 PM

"Whether it was getting a fancy torte from our favorite bakery or Mom baking a three-layer confectionary masterpiece with colorful fondant icing, it was a big highlight."


yuuu -uum. between the easter candy comments yesterday and this cake description, you guys are he** on my diet.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 1:13 PM

another pet peeve - It annoys me when parents ask for no gifts.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 1:14 PM

For my sixteenth birthday, I went bowling with a few of my closest friends. Had a cake, a few gifts, but it was small, casual, and a lot more fun than some huge, stressful Sweet Sixteen bash (both for me and my parents).

Posted by: 215 | April 6, 2007 1:14 PM

Scarry - I'm having a boy and I've been told that pregnancy has made me nicer. Then again, that was coming from a coworker and not my husband! LOL

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 1:18 PM

Scarry, DLM, are any of you at the point where you are crying at silly stuff?

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 1:22 PM

"Even worse are the adults who don't send thank you notes for handknit baby gifts"

So, is not sending a thank you note less offensive if the gift was storebought?

Posted by: huh? | April 6, 2007 1:22 PM

another pet peeve - It annoys me when parents ask for no gifts.

Posted by: | April 6, 2007 01:14 PM

I'm annoyed when I am invited to a party where the dress is defined as "Creative Black-Tie", but I respect the host/ess's right to make that call.

I also respect parents' right to set boundaries and rules for their own kids. You don't like it? Set different rules when it's your kids party.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 1:22 PM

Fred

"You really must engage a ghostwriter!..."

Posted by: | April 6, 2007 12:41 PM

As I have said before all my posts are under my name. Feel free to skip them. And since you apparently know me so well, maybe you can be my ghost writer?

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 1:24 PM

Father of 4 - Before I got pregnant, I cried at the sappiest things. Now? Ooh, boy. I'm a total freak. LOL

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 1:24 PM

When I was little, my mom & dad threw pool parties for me - it was free to reserve the neighborhood pool's pavilion (which we decorated with balloons and crepe paper), we'd order pizza, Mom baked a cake, and Dad would lead pool and land games like sharks & minnows, pin-the-tail on the donkey, and once (with a disastrous temper tantrum meltdown by me, the birthday girl) that donut-on-a-string game. As I got a little older, I opted for smaller event-focused birthday parties...I remember taking friends to see "Free Willy" for my 9th or 10th birthday...and for my 12th, my mom and I and 4 of my friends had tea at the Ritz. In high school, I had friends over to grill out for a couple of birthdays (15 & 17)...we ate a ton, hung out on the deck, and I collected school supplies for a needy elementary school in lieu of gifts. The one constant over the years was that Mom always baked a cake (ok, sometimes it was a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake)...even delivering it to my place of employment once I was older.

My little brother (6 years younger) always had theme parties, and I was usually the "mother's helper"...memorably pressed into service to dress [in no particular order] as Ms. Frizzle for a magic school bus party (Dad & I covered a dining table+box with yellow paper to look like the bus...the guests made paper-plate "faces" for the windows and spent most of the party playing "inside" the bus), an alien for an outer-space party (where the guests made 5 gallon ice-cream tub "space helmets" and played pin-the-star-on-the-constellation), and a construction worker for a truck party (the key activity there being a card table covered with shaving cream through which the guests could drive plastic cars).

My baby sister (11 years younger), who just turned 11, has a birthday smack in between Christmas and New Year's, so her party (if she has one) tends to be verrrrry small...in past years I think she's had friends over to make homemade gingerbread houses or gone ice skating or to lunch and a movie with two or three girlfriends.

Long story short - my parents always respected the importance of birthdays to their kids (witness: Mom getting up at 5 AM to bake cupcakes for me to take with me to my internship at a major consulting firm on my 21st birthday), but never felt compelled to go over the top, money-wise...I think they realized that creativity and thoughtfulness made for a more successful birthday party. Do I feel like I missed out not having a "sweet 16"? Nah...the snorkler cake my mom brought to the pool where I was lifeguarding was pretty sweet instead :D

Posted by: Arlington YP | April 6, 2007 1:27 PM

Even worse are the adults who don't send thank you notes for handknit baby gifts. It takes a lot longer to knit a baby blanket than it does to write a thank you note. I've made a promise to myself -- no thank you notes for baby gifts, no more gifts of any kind to that parent.

Posted by: | April 6, 2007 12:41 PM

You know, I understand where you are coming from, and respect your right to make that call. At some point, however, you might want to separate how you feel about parents, in particular, parents who do not teach their kids common courtesies like thank-you notes, and kids -- the recipients. In a couple of years, if you continue to nonetheless gift this child, you may find yourself the recipient of a sweet 4-year old child thank-you bear-hug, accompanied by a big smile and a kiss that makes you feel like the center of the universe. It may well make your day and make up for the fact that her parents are lacking in the appreciation department. Or maybe they just don't know any better. Many folks simply don't.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 6, 2007 1:32 PM

Megan's Neighbor ~

You've got a very valid point, but in defense of the other poster, he/she did say no gifts to the PARENT. Didn't say anything about the child.

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 1:36 PM

Meesh, thanks for the new url! bunch of good rants!

Posted by: Chris | April 6, 2007 1:38 PM

Megan's Neighbor ~

You've got a very valid point, but in defense of the other poster, he/she did say no gifts to the PARENT. Didn't say anything about the child.

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 01:36 PM

I read that, dlm79, but in light of the fact that the child is a newborn, it's difficult to bypass the parents and give a gift directly for the next couple of years. The original poster needs no defense. I'm not at all critical of her. It was just a thought.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 6, 2007 1:40 PM

Father of 4 -
I cry at silly things all the time - and I haven't been pregnant for years! :)

I'm getting all kinds of great future party ideas, guys - thanks!

Posted by: TakomaMom | April 6, 2007 1:40 PM

Megan's Neighbor, my question is, how important is a handwritten thank you note over an email thankyou? Is it all about the ink on the paper or the acknowledgement of gratitude?

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 1:41 PM

Under age six, I really never wanted parents to drop off. IMO, kids need help with any craft activities, and some need help/can be rather demanding about refreshments. If it was a child from pre-school, and I didn't know the child, I was reluctant to take on a child who might turn out to be high-maintenance or get upset at being left by his/her parent. Kids' moods can change quickly, and the kid who might have been fine alone at the last three parties could suddenly feel clingy for a parent.

I recently was one of only a few parents to stay at a party for a girl turning seven. There were about fourteen kids. It was a pretend sleep-over from 5pm to 7pm, and the mom served pancakes. You'd be surprised at how many kids needed help with syrup, cutting up pancakes. Because it was a large group, the moms who stayed helped a lot with the games too. I was very happy to help out the mom, a lovely neighbor. Most of the kids were fun to be around and very polite.

I did resent it when one of the dads came to pick up his daughter (who happened to have really poor manners, was aggressive with other kids). We had been making s'mores for the kids, and the birthday girl's dad offered him one. He declined and said he had just had a great steak at a neighborhood restaurant. He had no clue that it might be crass to be so blatant about using a party as a babysitting service. Certainly, age-wise, his kid was old enough to be left, and I don't see anything wrong with enjoying the couple hours with his wife. He shouldn't have thrown it in the faces of the complete strangers (to him) who had been helping the host and hostess though. Generally, I don't think anyone should leave a child at a party who still requires any help with utensils, managing for herself/himself at the table or in the bathroom. Most hosts don't have the time to give such individual attention.

I would never leave my daughter at a party place before age 8. I don't trust the security of these places. The staff aren't paid well. If there are a lot of kids, I don't see how it's possible for even the most conscientious hosts to keep an eye on everyone. I am super cautious, but the one Chuck E. Cheese party I attended was pretty chaotic. I wouldn't trust their security procedures to prevent a kid from "escaping."

A lot does depend on community norms though. In my old community, many parents did try to make it pleasant for the parents who stayed (and most did for kids 5 and under). I was pleased to provide lunch for the adults with iced tea and lemonade. I thought about offering wine but sensed that it really wasn't done. I love wine at lunch on social occasions!
I think most of the parents enjoyed the chance to get to know each other a little too as their kids were mostly in the same pre-school, then kindergarten.

I thought about offering wine but sensed that it really wasn't done. I love wine at lunch on social occasions!

Posted by: Marian | April 6, 2007 1:43 PM

I definitely understand the wanting of thank you notes, or acknowledgements or whatever. But I will always give gifts, because I like to give gifts. So sometimes people are rude or whatever, but in reality, I don't get as bent out of shape as I used to. I just think: oh, we've all gone to H3ll. that's just the way it is. Because while I want to participate and give people gifts, I definitely understand that some people don't act like adults. I guess I might not give those people gifts in the future, but I might. It would all depend.

Of course, I don't like the assumption that because i am the DW, that I have to send out all the thank you notes. So my DHs family complained to *me* about thank you notes for the wedding - when they were for his family and DH was supposed to write them. So his aunt - who moved aroudn the time of the wedding - apparently didn't receive a note, and still TO THIS DAY will mention it. Of course, HER SON *Still* has not replied to the wedding invitation. But I'm not bitter.

Posted by: atlmom | April 6, 2007 1:43 PM

My daughter turned 1 year old 2 weeks ago and because of illness we just kept it to my husband (who was still sick and not eating), me, and my daughter (who had just gotten over the same bug). It was quiet and sweet and she really enjoyed her first taste of cake.

Posted by: MaryB | April 6, 2007 1:46 PM

I am not really a crier, but I did cry a few weeks ago over the moview flipper about the dolphin. I like animals.

Posted by: scarry | April 6, 2007 1:47 PM

"I love wine at lunch on social occasions!"

So do I when I am trapped with a bunch of bratty kids!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 1:47 PM

Hey, lay off Fred. A lot of people like him and what he has to say. Sure some don't but what is your beef with him anyway? Besides the fact that you think his writing is mediocre?

Posted by: to 12:41 | April 6, 2007 1:48 PM

Can't we all just get along? ;-)

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 1:49 PM

For no.1, we had a party with friends and family, but not for no. 2. He just wasn't going to be able to handle it in the same way. So I made cupcakes and we went to grandma and grandpa's and had DH's sib and kids there too.

For second birthday - for no.1, I did nothing. He didn't care, and it seemed like a lot of trouble. I bought him a balloon and we went to lunch. He was THRILLED by the balloon. With no. 2's second bday coming up, we're not going to do anything special either. I may make some cake and have a few (as in 2-3) of *our* friends over. No2 doesn't like balloons, so i guess he doesn't get any presents. But he couldn't care less, I'm sure. The place is jam packed - and he'll get enough presents from GM and GP.

Posted by: atlmom | April 6, 2007 1:50 PM

Oops - first paragraph refers to first birthday.

Gotta get those numbers up...

Posted by: atlmom | April 6, 2007 1:52 PM

To HUH? --- Handmade gifts obviously take longer to make than dashing into a store and whipping out the credit card. If someone spends weeks or months creating a handmade gift it's an insult not to be thanked for it. Anyone who does needlework knows you spend a lot of time making them, as well as money for the yarn/thread/material to make it. My father used to make handmade wooden toys, furniture and bookcases -- involved a lot of time and money for materials. I make afghans, sweaters, baby blankets, and layette sets, and only very special people get them. Any gift should be followed up with a handwritten thank you note -- storebought or handmade. It's only common courtesy. If adults don't know it by the time they're producing their own children, they are hopeless cases and no gifts from me.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 1:53 PM

Sorry, atlmom. Writing the thankyou notes for the wedding is the bride's responsibility. In fact, it's something you should look forward to doing because the wedding gifts are for the bride, unless the couple are church mice and it's acceptable to give them a lawn mower or something.

Besides, most dudes just aren't grateful for the matching gravy boat, and writing a thankyou note, in that case, is well, um, lying.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 1:58 PM

Father of 4, I whole-heartedly disagree!! A wedding is about TWO people, why should only one be responsible for the thank you notes for gifts that they both recieve?

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 1:59 PM

Obviously, a gift for a newborn should be acknowledged by the parents. DUH!!! The handknit gift is for the baby not the parents. I don't think 12:41 expects a handwritten note from a newborn, except, of course, from On Balance posters whose kids could read, write, decipher algebraic formulas, and speak 3 languages at birth.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 2:01 PM

u forgot silver candle snuffers

Posted by: to Fo4 | April 6, 2007 2:02 PM

If you really want to get picky here, the blanket is a gift for the parents, not the baby. An infant has no idea, what does he/she care what gets spit up on?

Ya'll are making me cranky. It's Friday. LIGHTEN UP! (and I will, too)

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 2:04 PM

"Besides, most dudes just aren't grateful for the matching gravy boat, and writing a thankyou note, in that case, is well, um, lying."

My husband and I split the list down the middle each wrote roughly the same number of thank you notes. This was his idea, not mine. We wrote them together during a movie-fest one snowy afternoon. The ones we didn't write personally, we then signed our own names at the end.

He is grateful for the gifts we received. He uses the plush towels. He sleeps on the 600 thread count sheets. He makes smoothies in the blender.

He may not use ever pot and pan, but he benefits from their use, each day.

Posted by: JRS | April 6, 2007 2:04 PM

Good call on the water, Leslie. Kids consume too much sugar as it is. They need to hydrate more than they need to bounce off the walls.

Posted by: JRS | April 6, 2007 2:07 PM

"Besides, most dudes just aren't grateful for the matching gravy boat, and writing a thank you note, in that case, is well, um, lying."

I bet he's grateful for the gravy he eats out of it! If he's not, he should be. As he should be for the protein shakes that come out of that blender, the dishes cleaned by those towels, and the newlywed sex on those sheets.

If I ever marry, husband will write his own thank-yous in a timely manner, even if I have to *itch at him every day for it. Though I doubt I'd marry an ungrateful jerk who can't even thank his own grandmother properly for a gift she gave.

Posted by: Mona | April 6, 2007 2:08 PM

OK now I'm a little paniced-- my son is 3 and a half and he isn't reading and writing-- I mean he can read a little bit, but he doesn't write his name yet. sometimes he'll write letters but they are pretty HUGE versions of letters so I would think having him write thank you notes when he turns four would be like a novel! I thought he was pretty normal-- even a bit advanced-- but now you got me worried. Reading and writing at your 4 year old birthday party-- really? is that typical?

Posted by: Jen | April 6, 2007 2:08 PM

Father of 4

"Besides, most dudes just aren't grateful for the matching gravy boat, and writing a thank you note, in that case, is well, um, lying.

Your ingratitude might account for your feelings of worthlessness ...

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 2:10 PM

Reading and writing at your 4 year old birthday party-- really? is that typical?

Jen: it seems to depend on where you live and what you and spouse do for a living. If you live in the Dc area your child should be performing a Shakespeare play for their 4th birthday party - in latin or french or spanish - after making their own costumes.

Posted by: DC lurker | April 6, 2007 2:12 PM

Father of 4, only since you asked, if I am the recipient, I couldn't care less whether I receive an ink or ink-jet thank you note as long as it's from the giftee and not a parent sending a thank-you note or e-mail on behalf of the giftee (exclusion for giftees under 5, IMHO). But I don't treat other gift-givers as though they think as I do, and my policy is to do what I think the gift-giver would prefer. If there's any question, I use ink.

Because ink on the paper is very important to a great many people, and is absolutely expected in certain contexts as a grown-up (thank-yous for job interviews, references for college, etc.), I'd prefer to err on the side of caution, send hand-written thank-yous, and encourage my children to do the same. It's difficult to learn etiquette habits as an adult if they are not instilled in you as a child.

Please note that I am so not the etiquette police. I constantly disappoint myself on that score, and then set the bar higher on a daily basis, to ensure continued disappointment. Your approach may be more sane.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 6, 2007 2:12 PM

"Reading and writing at your 4 year old birthday party-- really? is that typical?"

Yes, in certain zip codes.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 2:12 PM

"I bet he's grateful for the gravy he eats out of it! If he's not, he should be. As he should be for the protein shakes that come out of that blender, the dishes cleaned by those towels, and the newlywed sex on those sheets."

Was this directed to me? I was originally quoting Father of 4. My husband is quite grateful for the items we received at our wedding.

Posted by: JRS | April 6, 2007 2:13 PM

The worst wedding gift "we" received was from one of my wife's artsy fartsy friends. It was 2 wine bottles with diferent colored melted crayons down the side. I guess they were supposed to be candle holders, but they looked more like one of their kid's 2nd grade art projects that they stuffed in a box and wrapped.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 2:14 PM

PLEASE don't compare kids! Some 4 year olds can read and write, some are still learning. Everyone does things at their own pace! Someone's bound to feel like a crappy parent if we keep this up.

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 2:15 PM

Father of 4

"The worst wedding gift "we" received was from one of my wife's artsy fartsy friends. It was 2 wine bottles with diferent colored melted crayons down the side. I guess they were supposed to be candle holders, but they looked more like one of their kid's 2nd grade art projects that they stuffed in a box and wrapped.

Class act as usual! What a guy!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 2:16 PM

Father of 4,
If the wine bottles were straw covered chianti bottles then those weren't crayons, they were special drip candles. My parents had them when I was a kid. I was given a bottle of chianti a while ago and tried to recreate the look. For some reason it didn't come out like I thought it would.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 6, 2007 2:17 PM

We're all fairly anonymous on this site, so why is it that people who leave snarky-a$$ comments feel the need to leave no name at all?

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 2:18 PM

Class act as usual! What a guy!

Oh my talking about a gift he received on an anon blog is horrible. Give me a break, do you like every gift you receive?

My worst gift was an Irish flag that said "kiss my shamrocks" on it. I smiled nicely at the people who gave it to me and then went home and burned it.

Posted by: scarry | April 6, 2007 2:19 PM

So father of 4 when I send a check as a wedding present should I only make it out to the wife, because the wedding presents are only for her? I hope you are only trying to stir thinks up and aren't this hopelessly back in the 1950's

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | April 6, 2007 2:22 PM

Wedding gifts are for the bride, huh? You just love to try to get our hackles up, don't you? :)

My husband wrote half the thank you notes for our wedding because you both us ALL of the gifts. I'm having fun trying to imagine a guy not using the gifts (he's using leaves to dry himself off and making coffee over an open flame in the backyard).

I tried making hubby write thank you notes for our last round of Christmas gifts, but I don't know if he ever did. I wonder how his parents felt after getting a note from me thanking them for my gifts but not getting a note from their own son. In my imagination, they're kicking themselves for not teaching him better manners. In reality, they're probably thinking "I wonder why she didn't thank us for his gifts...that's odd"

Posted by: Meesh | April 6, 2007 2:24 PM

Scarry, you crack me up. You burned it? Classic. ;-)

I think the worst gift DH and I ever got was from his grandmother, god bless her. She bought a whole nativity set and painted it herself, and it was just scary. I think some of the wise men actually had red eyes.

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 2:24 PM

"So father of 4 when I send a check as a wedding present should I only make it out to the wife, because the wedding presents are only for her? I hope you are only trying to stir thinks up and aren't this hopelessly back in the 1950's"

of course he is! that's what he does best! well, second best. first is proving he doesn't shoot blanks. (unfortunately)

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 2:26 PM

My parents made us write notes if we didn't thank the giver in person.
What is frustrating is that if you don't get a note you can never really be sure the gift arrived (especially if you do it via the internet or have the store wrap and ship). I find it difficult to call someone and ask if they received their gift.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 6, 2007 2:26 PM

what zip codes? Seriously, I was under the impression that it was unusual to read and write at three-- is it really normal? We don't have anouther peditrician "well-child" check up until he turns 4 in november, but maybe there is something worng-- or something we should be doing that we aren't. I read every day, but I don't have him practice writing letters-- am I suppposed to be doing that? I think he could "write" a thank you note by his fourth birthday on a computer keyboard, but I just can't imagine that he could write normal sized letters to even fit his name on the bottom of a thank you note card. If I'm not pushing something that I should be, please let me know-- or is there a child reading book I should read? I thought it would just let nature take its course with him and let him do whatever he wanted, as long as there were at least a few mintues of me reading with him at the end of the day, but maybe I'm really screwing this up.

(eyes welling up with tears-- oh . . yes . . I'm pregnant with #2 . . )

Posted by: Jen | April 6, 2007 2:28 PM

I remember sending thank you cards after our wedding, and we had one gift with no card on it, and a couple who had given us a card but no gift. We didn't want to thank them for the gift unless we were SURE they had given it to us, but didn't want to ask "So, did you give us a present or not? Cuz we just need to know if we should say thank you."

Ugh.

Looking back, though, I can't remember how we handled the situation. I think we just thanked them for coming to the wedding. I don't recall getting yelled at for being ungrateful, so either we have a mystery gifter, or they didn't even care that we sent a thank you note and didn't mention the gift.

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 2:30 PM

Jen! It's ok! (See, people, I told you that someone was going to get freaked out!)

You're not screwing up! Lots of kids don't get any practice at all with reading and writing until they're in preschool or kindergarten. It's wonderful that you read to him. You're doing a great job, I'm sure!

Congrats on your current pregnancy! I'm knocked up, too! ;-)

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 2:32 PM

"when I send a check as a wedding present..."

Writing a check is very, very tacky. Give cash! Nobody wants to wait for a check to clear on their honeymoon, not to mention they probably can't get to the bank if they got married on Saturday. But if you must, yes, make it out to the wife.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 2:32 PM

We had a mystery gift this past Christmas that was left on our doorstep while we were away. The housesitter brought it inside. The note mentioned our baby daughter and had our names on it, so it wasn't a mistake, but we didn't know anyone with their last name who would give us a gift. Family members and neighbors and church members and club members - never did figure it out.

Bummer was that it included a glass jar full of Belgian chocolates and my husband refused to let us eat them since we didn't know who they came from!

Posted by: MaryB | April 6, 2007 2:33 PM

dlm79,
Did people bring the gifts to your wedding location or send to your house? I never really thought about it but when my best friend got married I was in charge of helping with transportation for her elderly aunt and stepfather. I ended up taking a carload of gifts home too which was a real pain. I will forever send the gift to someone's home or parents home. And put the card inside the box.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 6, 2007 2:35 PM

Ugh dlm79 scary nativity scenes are no fun. Yes, I burned the flag. It was desecrated and I had to do it.

I don't agree with father of 4 on the thank you note thing, but saying it is unfortunate that he can have children is really low. What are you 13? Now, I said I don't agree but my husband has never written a thank you note in his life, so it also shows you how much I care about the issue. I have also never changed my own oil!

Posted by: scarry | April 6, 2007 2:35 PM

Sorry, atlmom. Writing the thankyou notes for the wedding is the bride's responsibility. In fact, it's something you should look forward to doing because the wedding gifts are for the bride, unless the couple are church mice and it's acceptable to give them a lawn mower or something.

Besides, most dudes just aren't grateful for the matching gravy boat, and writing a thankyou note, in that case, is well, um, lying.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 01:58 PM

I assume you're joking.

I wrote the thank-yous to his family members. He wrote the thank-yous to mine. We both dreaded the task, bought appropriate beverages, knocked them all out the Saturday after we got back from our 4 day Honeymoon, and rewarded ourself with a trip to our favorite jazz bar after we stopped by the post office to mail them. I wasn't thrilled with the collection of gifts we received, most of which I recognized as being on sale in the gift department at Hecht's that week, but I was very, very grateful that so many people traveled from out of town for our wedding. Their time and the resources they spent on traveling to our wedding was what I really was grateful for. Several families spent their vacation time and money to attend our wedding. The $14.99 glass bowl provided an excuse to write a thank-you note for the most special gifts they gave.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 6, 2007 2:36 PM

KLB - some sent the gifts to the house, which was nice. But I'd say 80% brought them to the wedding, which wasn't a picnic, but fortunately my mother and godmother handled getting them from the reception hall to the hotel where we were all staying, then back to my mother's house.

It did take me 2 or 3 trips to get them all back to my house, though.

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 2:39 PM

How do people feel about getting a gift that ISN'T on their registry?
A good friend is getting married in June and I find the registry uninspiring. Do I suck it up and pick something or be daring and buy something else I think they would like (but can return)?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 6, 2007 2:39 PM

Jen,

None of my children read and wrote by 4 or 5, and are doing fine in school (and they were in pre-school where they practiced letters/reading). AT 4 and 5 I wrote their thank you notes (we discussed what they wanted to say so they linked the person with the gift in their mind) and they signed it to the best of their abilities.
Dont give in to the idea of judging your child by others - you are not "screwing up" if he cant read/write by 4 or 5. Once you start on that path, you will drive yourself (and your child - he will pick up that you are stressed about reading/writing and not enjoy learning)crazy.
Just enjoy reading with him - the gift of loving books is prabably the best educational gift of all.

Posted by: jessker | April 6, 2007 2:39 PM

"Writing a check is very, very tacky."

hm. like your contributions to the gene pool?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 2:41 PM

On second thought, I recall reading somewhere that there is a school of thought (Waldorf perhaps) that it is actually HARMFUL for children to be taught to read and write before they are five (I think that was the right age) because thier minds are not truly "ready" yet. so if you push them before they are developmenatlly ready, then their brain will not work as effectively and will not be a true reflection of the individual nature of the child if they are reading at four.

So who knows-- maybe being a neglectful parent regarding taughing my son how to write thank you notes will actually benefit him in the long run. as long as I have him doing it by 6. and yes, my child is in a pre-school program, but he is the youngest in the class so I guess sometimes I worry that what the teacher could be chalking up to him just being the youngest could cover up a larger problem.

No more tears!

Posted by: Jen | April 6, 2007 2:41 PM

KLB - The way I see it, even if you don't like what's on the registry, the recipient obviously does, so you can't go wrong with just getting something on the list. On the other hand, some of the nicest presents I've gotten have been things that I never would have thought to ask for. I would say to include a gift receipt, though. Some people are just picky. ;-)

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 2:42 PM

ALL of my kids could read & write by age 4 - no pre-printed cards for them.

Posted by: | April 6, 2007 12:22 PM

Jen, it's not a race, and anon at 12:22 is anonymous because she or he is either a braggart or trying to start something. As your children age, you will meet more and more of these people. Whenever you do, or whenever one says something akin to this that makes your heart race, take your kids for a long walk, point out the caterpillars and birds nest, and enjoy the moment. Smile knowing that you will have won the competition.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 6, 2007 2:43 PM

DC lurker wrote: "If you live in the Dc area your child should be performing a Shakespeare play for their 4th birthday party - in latin or french or spanish - after making their own costumes."

Oh, lurker, you've MADE my afternoon. Thank you so much!

Posted by: catlady | April 6, 2007 2:44 PM

"Writing a check is very, very tacky."

hm. like your contributions to the gene pool?

Is this the best you got? You suck. Worst joke ever.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 2:45 PM

dlm79,
It isn't that I don't like what is on the registry. I know,it isn't all about me. I have always been the kind of person who likes to individualize gift giving. Buying from a list is easy but boring. I will get over it.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 6, 2007 2:45 PM

"Writing a check is very, very tacky."

Since Father of 4 consider checks to be tacky, feel free to send all your checks to me! me! me! c/o Fred. My DH and I will promptly send you a hand-written thank you note and tell all your friends and acquaintances how gracious and tasteful and wonderful you are.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 6, 2007 2:46 PM

Is a thank you note really necessary if you opened the gift and thanked the giver in person? We had Christmas with my in-laws, and I thanked them in person for the lovely gifts (and they thanked us). Then, a week or two later, my MIL send a written thank-you note. I took this as a bit of a rebuke that I should have sent them a note. But I'd already thanked them. I always thought of thank you notes as for people who didn't get to see you open the gift, and to let people know that you did get the gift. Or am I totally wrong, and I should have send them an additional written note?

Posted by: Kathrina | April 6, 2007 2:47 PM

Kathrina ~ I've noticed that people do this, too. I always thought an in person thank you was enough. I wonder what Miss Manners would say?

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 2:48 PM

Oh, and another story.

A friend of mine is from Mexico, her DH is American. In Mexico, they just don't send thank you notes. It's just not done (nor is RSVPing for parties - so the week before the wedding, her dad was calling all the guests who were invited who were from Mexico - that is the funniest thing...).

So her now MIL was hounding her after the wedding about thank you notes - when she was told over and over that it's not something bride will be doing since all the thank you notes were only expected from groom's side - and he is the biggest procrastinator ever - even though he said that he would write them. So my friend was about to say to MIL: well, *he's* supposed to write the notes to *your* family members, since it's not my custom - and *you* raised him - why didn't you teach him about manners? She didn't, of course, but SO wanted to....

Posted by: atlmom | April 6, 2007 2:49 PM

I'm not a fan of gift registries, but that's just me. I'll use it if I don't know the people that well or can't think of something cool AND appropriate.

We've never used a registry and got an odd mishmash of gifts for our wedding and for the baby. All were promptly and whole-heartedly thanked. Many gifts were donated to my church or its thrift shop since we have a 900 sq. ft. house with no attic, no basement and 4 tiny closets. It really is the thought that counts.

Posted by: MaryB | April 6, 2007 2:50 PM

ALL of my kids could read & write by age 4 - no pre-printed cards for them.

Your kids must have went to daycare.

Posted by: | April 6, 2007 12:23 PM

Couldn't resist responding to this one.

Anon Poster -- bad grammar. You should have written "Your kids must have GONE to daycare."

Where were you educated?

Posted by: Anontoo | April 6, 2007 2:50 PM

"Writing a check is very, very tacky."

hm. like your contributions to the gene pool?

I think you are just mad because you can't get it up.There are drugs for it you know.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 2:50 PM

"If you live in the Dc area your child should be performing a Shakespeare play for their 4th birthday party - in latin or french or spanish - after making their own costumes."

DC lurker -- I would not have invited you if I knew you were going to make fun of our party. I hope you at least appreciated the thank you note.

Posted by: Arligton Dad | April 6, 2007 2:51 PM

LOL at Arlington Dad! =)

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 2:52 PM

I loved the party Arlington dad but I wanted the play to be in Italian.

Posted by: DC lurker | April 6, 2007 2:52 PM

I hate it when people pick apart others grammar because they don't like what they have to say.

Posted by: anon for this | April 6, 2007 2:53 PM

KLB
If you know the couple (or one of the couple) well enough, an off registry gift can be wonderful - I have a piece of art, an antique silver vase, and a garden stone that were unique wedding gifts that I treasure (I also treasured the registry gifts as well, we tried to register for kitchen and dining items we would use/needed/are still using.)

Posted by: jessker | April 6, 2007 2:54 PM

Why are parents writing thank you notes for their kids beyond the age of 4? I've found that having my son write thank you notes is a great way for him to learn to write in English, and also share a bit of his funny side with the new people in his life. He even draws pictures. My parents and others post them on their refrigerators.

Posted by: Adoptive Mom | April 6, 2007 2:55 PM

Adoptive Mom ~ Not all 4 or 5 year olds can write well enough to do thank you cards, so why shouldn't parents help them out? It's better than not sending a note at all... Now, if the kid is 15, ok, fine, that's not right. But 4,5,6? I think it's ok.

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 2:57 PM

To Jen, but this time seriously:

Jean Piaget, a Swiss researcher in how children learn, posited that children's brains aren't ready to learn certain concepts before certain ages, and if they try or are forced to, it won't be effective learning (he had a whole hierarchy of these, BTW, e.g., for math concepts). Of course, his data were based on European (mainly Swiss) rather than American children -- who, in the '70s at least, tended to run later (LOL) -- and these ages of course aren't iron-clad numbers. However, the real point is that, within limits, children KNOW when they're ready to start learning various things, including how to read. In my case, when I was 4 I began pestering the daylights out of my mom (mainly SAH, but also took me along when she worked two mornings a week, with her boss's blessing) to teach me to read. Hard to believe nowadays, but that was once considered a precocious age -- and not a few parents snarked at my poor mother for letting me start so early, even though I was the one who wanted it.

Moral of the story: Your kid's only 3½ so don't sweat it for another year or two, don't stress your kid out over it either -- and just mentally give these other folks the, ahem, "We're #1" digit if they get on your case.

Posted by: catlady | April 6, 2007 2:57 PM

KLB - it's totally fine if it's not from the registry. Some of out best gifts were not from the registry. We also got sucked in by the registry, and then when we got some of the stuff, wondered why we had ever registered for it :-) The one thing that bothered me was people asking what we wanted, when they knew we had a registry. To me, the point of making the registry was so that people would have a list of things we liked. I also didn't want to presume what price range they were thinking of, and we had items in all price ranges on our registry.

Posted by: Kathrina | April 6, 2007 2:57 PM

The only reason I picked on the anon poster with bad grammar is because he/she was boasting about how smart his/her kids were. The error was just irresitably low-hanging fruit.

Posted by: Anontoo | April 6, 2007 2:58 PM

DC lurker -- I know, which is why DD wrote your thank you in Italian -- sonnett form, no less.

Posted by: Arington Dad | April 6, 2007 2:59 PM

"On second thought, I recall reading somewhere that there is a school of thought (Waldorf perhaps) that it is actually HARMFUL for children to be taught to read and write before they are five (I think that was the right age) because thier minds are not truly "ready" yet. "

Their!!!

Right, it really was harmful to Bill Clinton to learn how to read before age 5.

It's a tradition in some families for the kids to be taught at home to read by the age of age 5.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 3:00 PM

And my 3 year old translated it into Portuguese and German in operatic form.

Posted by: dc lurker | April 6, 2007 3:00 PM

You're using BILL CLINTON as a model? *smacks forehead*

Can I correct your grammar/spelling now?

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 3:01 PM

The only reason I picked on the anon poster with bad grammar is because he/she was boasting about how smart his/her kids were. The error was just irresitably low-hanging fruit.

Actually, I think that person was making fun of the person who said their kids could read.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 3:02 PM

DC Lurker - Yeah, well, my dad can beat up your dad! LOL You guys crack me up.

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 3:02 PM

"The error was just irresitably low-hanging fruit."

Spelling error alert!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 3:03 PM

dlm79 -- Sorry, I don't agree. Almost any 4,5 or 6 year old can write (or copy) "thank you" and write their name, or leave a finger or hand print. It's the process of involving them in thanking someone for giving them something or doing something nice that is important, IMHO. It also helps set the habit of manners for later in life.

Posted by: Adoptive Mom | April 6, 2007 3:03 PM

I'm with MaryB - I only buy from the registry if I don't know the person/people well. I am just not a fan of registries, and I am bothered by the idea that the recipients will know how much money I spent on the gift.
I send thank-you notes even if I thanked the giver in person.

Posted by: TakomaMom | April 6, 2007 3:04 PM

Sorry about the sexist wisecrack on the wedding thankyou notes, but...

I found it interesting how a wife pointed out that she got the blame from her husbands aunt (female), because he didn't write a thankyou note.

Trying to figure it out for myself, I put the issue into the gender catagory. For one thing, I don't care myself if I ever get a handwritten thankyou note for a gift I've given. I just don't care, and I think most men don't care either.

It's a girl thing...

For instance, I suggested we give our daughter's teacher $50 because she got called up to serve in Iraq. She called our house, I answered the phone, she asked for my wife, and thanked her. Once again, I'm not upset in the least. Should I be?

Gift giving, thankyou notes are more of a girl and mommy thing. Simply compare Mother's day to Father's day. If I give someone a gift, I'm giving it because I want them to have it. That's all.

I do realize that times are changing though. Doesn't Home Depot have a gift registery now?

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 3:06 PM

Adoptive Mom - Oh, no, I agree about writing their name or making their mark in some way. I just meant the "Thank you for the books, I'm sure I will enjoy reading them with mom" or what have you. Normally a thank you card does not consist merely of "Thank you" and a name. So I think that it's ok for parents to write the majority of the card, and not expect children of that age to do it on their own.

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 3:07 PM

My family stopped the any occasion card thing in the '60s.

We save trees and use the telephone or the Net or -Gasp!!- we do things in person~

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 3:12 PM

My son's handwriting is completely atrocious - still practically illegible, so I admit that I did his thank you cards for him much longer than I would have preferred - I guess until he was about 8. He does his own now, but I still cringe watching him do it, as I am sure the recipient will not be able to read them. I try to reassure myself that the people he sends cards to are, by and large, friends and family who know and love him, and won't give a rip.

Posted by: TakomaMom | April 6, 2007 3:13 PM

If I'm truly strapped for an idea, I'll go for the registry, although I do usually at least peruse it to see what colors they want for their decor, if any such items are on it.

Otherwise, generally if they're inviting me to their wedding I have at least one non-embarassing story/how-do-I-know-them type of thing about them that I can work into my gift, for instance, a woman I used to cook with got married, and I gave her a really nice recipe book for the wedding.

Posted by: Registering in on Registries | April 6, 2007 3:13 PM

"Just enjoy reading with him - the gift of loving books is prabably the best educational gift of all"

Another spelling error!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 3:14 PM

You have all really given me food for thought. I never thought certain things would upset people so much but I will now be more sensitive about thse things. For instance, I do sometimes take a gift even when the parents say no gifts if I am close to the child. Also while, I have sent thank you notes for all my son's previous birthdays, this year I just never got around to it. Some of my son's friends send thank you notes and some don't but I never really give it much thought except for one little boy's because he has his own letterhead! I've always admired that. Another pet peeve I have really never thought of is opening presents in the presence of the donors - I never do that.

Now that I know that such things really upset people, I will be more diligent in future. I guess it is wrong to assume everyone is like you and would not take certain things to heart.

One thing I will not do though is restricting gifts. I love watching my son open his presents and I love buying gifts for others.

Posted by: ladyjanegray | April 6, 2007 3:14 PM

Anyone else stuck at work right now? Come on, 3:45! I want to go home!!

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 3:16 PM

"I just don't care, and I think most men don't care either.

It's a girl thing..."

Father of 4, try getting comfortable with the idea that maybe you don't care about something and most other men feel differently. Everything about your wife is not a girl thing. Everything about you is not a guy thing. You don't either of you represent, with a capital R, your gender. You are who you are, no more, no less.

by the way, some time I will introduce you to several men who will not hire a job applicant, or recommend a job applicant for hire, if the applicant does not send a thank-you note after an interview. They believe that if the candidate doesn't write a thank-you note following a job interview, he either does not want the job, or has not read the million and one how-to interview books on the market which instruct him to do it, or lacks the polish to survive in our, and many other, industries.

Posted by: peeved anon | April 6, 2007 3:17 PM

"One thing I will not do though is restricting gifts. I love watching my son open his presents and I love buying gifts for others."

AND we're back to the original topic _ Rich Americans pissing away money....


Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 3:18 PM

Oh, so THAT was the original topic... I'd been wondering.

*eye roll*

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 3:20 PM

"You're using BILL CLINTON as a model? *smacks forehead*"

He's accomplished more then you or I ever will.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 3:21 PM

It's more THAN, not more THEN, and while I may never be president of these United States, I will also never cheat on my spouse, lie to the American public, or shove a cigar where the sun don't shine!

Neener, neener. ;-)

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 3:22 PM

"by the way, some time I will introduce you to several men who will not hire a job applicant, or recommend a job applicant for hire, ..."

Are the gay?

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 3:23 PM

Damn, right when I'm correcting someone's grammar, this darn blog adds a double word to my note! No fair. =)

Posted by: dlm79 | April 6, 2007 3:23 PM

"One thing I will not do though is restricting gifts. I love watching my son open his presents and I love buying gifts for others."

AND we're back to the original topic _ Rich Americans pissing away money....

Posted by: | April 6, 2007 03:18 PM

If you assume that conspicuous consumption means someone's rich, you may not understand the use and abuse of credit card debt to avoid ever saying no to our children.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 3:25 PM

AND we're back to the original topic _ Rich Americans pissing away money....

Posted by: | April 6, 2007 03:18 PM

This NEVER happens in other countries! Hah! I have a Chinese coworker who is currently buying gifts for every member of her family and her husband's in preparation for a visit back home. Since when is it only Americans or even only people of European extraction that lavish gifts?

Posted by: MaryB | April 6, 2007 3:31 PM

Your birth date could be worse: TWICE my birthday has fallen on Yom Kippur already. Oi vay!

Posted by: To atlmom | April 6, 2007 3:31 PM

"One thing I will not do though is restricting gifts. I love watching my son open his presents and I love buying gifts for others."

AND we're back to the original topic _ Rich Americans pissing away money....

Posted by: | April 6, 2007 03:18 PM
If you assume that conspicuous consumption means someone's rich, you may not understand the use and abuse of credit card debt to avoid ever saying no to our children.

Posted by: | April 6, 2007 03:25 PM

I don't know why I am dignifying your comments with responses but...

Do you really think that
a) only rich people can afforf to buy kids' birthday gifts and
b) working folks can only afford birthday gifts for kids by getting into debt?

Curious phenomenon!

Posted by: ladyjanegray | April 6, 2007 3:32 PM

It's not effeminate for a man to be polite. It's just plain rude for anyone not to be polite.

Posted by: To Fof4 | April 6, 2007 3:34 PM

KLB: you are never even obligated to buy a gift - get them what you'd like - include gift receipt to be kind.

Kathrina: Miss Manners says that if you open the gift in front of someone and thank them, then no, you don't have to send a thank you note.

DON"T EVER BRING GIFTS TO THE WEDDING. Everyone has enough to do.

In my family, most family members sent a gift when we got engaged and money at the wedding. It's NOT TACKY. it's how most people work, I thought. Maybe it's a Jewish thing. Or a northern thing.

Posted by: atlmom | April 6, 2007 3:37 PM

by the way, some time I will introduce you to several men who will not hire a job applicant, or recommend a job applicant for hire, ..."

Are the gay?

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 03:23 PM

No, and I cannot imagine why you think this is a relevant question. Pretty offensive to assume that all straight guys are identical to you in perspective.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 3:38 PM

Yes, I always give cash at the wedding and participate in the dollar dance.

Posted by: scarry | April 6, 2007 3:38 PM

Never saw a Dollar Dance till we moved to the Northeast. So humiliating. Just one step removed from prostitution.

Posted by: To scarry | April 6, 2007 3:43 PM

Never saw a Dollar Dance till we moved to the Northeast. So humiliating. Just one step removed from prostitution.

Glad to see that you honor other cultures traditions. It is no different from any other tradition.

Posted by: scarry | April 6, 2007 3:45 PM

Some traditions aren't worth keeping. Cultures can evolve.

Posted by: To scarry | April 6, 2007 3:49 PM

atlmom, it is a Jewish thing. Also Italian. Perhaps others, as well. In other cultures, particularly amongst the traditional (includes Southern and Northeast non-last 100 years-immigrant) money has long been considered gauche and unacceptable as a gift. I'm not agreeing -- I'm of a culture where $$ is the most common gift.

Bringing gifts to the wedding is quite common and acceptable, particularly outside of urban centers and for weddings where the reception is downstairs in the fellowship hall after the ceremony (and where the gifts dine on dinner mints and mixed nuts). Paying to have gifts shipped would be considered a frivolous waste of money in those social sets.

So much about weddings, gifts and appropriateness reflects what is appropriate in Rome.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 6, 2007 3:49 PM

"When DD was in daycare in the 4-year-old group, she was invited to at least 10 birthday parties for children whose parents we had never seen because our work schedules were different. We never dropped off or picked up our children at the same time. I wasn't about to let DD go to someone's house at age 4 by herself when I didn't know the family."

Which begs the question of why she would even go to the party at all. There's no possible way a 4 year old is THAT good of friends with 10 other kids whose parents you've never even met that she should be invited to their parties.

You always have the option to decline an invitation.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 3:49 PM

Most southern brided have a table set up at the wedding to receive gifts. One of the bride's aunts, close friend, cousin or younger sister is the person who takes care of this table.

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 3:52 PM

that would be brides, not brided

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 3:54 PM

"I cannot imagine why you think this is a relevant question. Pretty offensive to assume that all straight guys are identical to you in perspective."

I haven't assumed anything. Yet you are. I also think it's rediculus to compare a thankyou note that one may write out, (or email which I think is OK) in gratitude of a $15 child's gift, to an note expressing thanks to an interview which may land someone an $80,000 a year job. And by reaching for straws to make your case, you've actually proved my point.

Thanks!

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 3:55 PM

Umm, no some people like their ethnic, blue collar weddings the way they are. If you don't, perhaps you shouldn't attend them since you are way to high class for the dollar dance or just don't participate. Comparing it to prostitution is a snotty, uneducated way to look at someone else's tradition. Everyone doesn't have to be the way you are. I want to a couple of fancy weddings and I didn't complain about what went on there. Then again, I was raised to accept people and their traditions and be respectful.

The Irish do it with whiskey. You pay five bucks to have someone in the wedding party take a shot. No one makes you dance or give money.

Posted by: to to scarry | April 6, 2007 3:55 PM

"Thank you cards should always be personalized to include the gift. I've never gotten a preprinted thank you note, so I'm pretty sure I would think they're rude. Minimal effort usually means minimal thought."

What about the preprinted ones that say

Dear _______
Thank you for the __________.
___________

We got one of those the other day. The birthday child was 7 and had invited the entire 1st grade class, didn't open the gifts at the party, and brought the thank you notes to school to hand out. A parent had filled in my daughter's name and the name of her gift, but the birthday girl had signed her name. At first I thought "that's nice that they did thank you notes" but after I read it I thought "wow, thanks for the huge effort." There's handwritten personalized and then there's handwritten personalized.

Posted by: April | April 6, 2007 3:56 PM

Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength. Apparently we have a lot of weak people on this blog.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 3:57 PM

Some traditions aren't worth keeping. Cultures can evolve.

Yes and some people need to take the sticks out of their asses too.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 3:58 PM

Which begs the question of why she would even go to the party at all. There's no possible way a 4 year old is THAT good of friends with 10 other kids whose parents you've never even met that she should be invited to their parties.

You always have the option to decline an invitation.

Posted by: | April 6, 2007 03:49 PM

but why? Why would I encourage my daughter to decline an invitation to a party at which she might make new friends, have fun, have a new experience? I can't see anything gained from declining and much to be gained from accepting.

Posted by: anon for now | April 6, 2007 3:59 PM

Then let's just go back to arranged marriages.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 4:00 PM

Wedding are for women anyway. Men could care less but are forced to attend. This includes the groom.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 4:01 PM

Coming late to the discussion. Birthday parties are completely out of hand. DD 3 birthday we threw at home. Invited around 10 kids (3 were cousins) and about 8 showed up. 2 came late. So a party of 6-7 3 year olds was great. My Aunt made a giant Angelina Ballerina cut out. I took each child's picture in the cut out. We had a ballet slipper pinata (filled with Halloween candy left overs). We played pin the tail on Angelina. I placed toys out and let the kids run around the back yard. Party lasted two hours. At the end of the party, each child got an Angelina book that I bought on sale for a $1 /piece, a goody bag of gold fish crackers, fruit snacks, raisins, and a charity band. And each child got a hellium balloon. Winner of the pin the tail on Angelina got an Angelina DVD (regifted from a duplicate that we recieved). OK, here is a big trick. I go to clearance book sales. Buy about 20 copies of a hard cover children's book and give them out as a favor. Goodie bags are filled with eatable snacks and a charity band (raises money for charity). Works like a charm. Day care parties suck because I have to supply 16 goodie bags. But up swing is I don't have to invite those kids to the party. Next year will be another home party of cousins and kids who have invited her to their birthday party.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 6, 2007 4:02 PM

I haven't assumed anything. Yet you are. I also think it's rediculus to compare a thankyou note that one may write out, (or email which I think is OK) in gratitude of a $15 child's gift, to an note expressing thanks to an interview which may land someone an $80,000 a year job. And by reaching for straws to make your case, you've actually proved my point.

Thanks!

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 03:55 PM

I have only proved you are happy in your rudeness. Thanks shouldn't be restricted to situations in which you think you have a sufficient stake to make it worth your while to be polite.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 4:04 PM

"Why would I encourage my daughter to decline an invitation to a party at which she might make new friends, have fun, have a new experience? I can't see anything gained from declining and much to be gained from accepting."

Well, mostly because birthday parties are supposed to be for people with whom you're close to celebrate your special day, not to provide an entertaining afternoon for every single child in town whether they're your friend or not, and not to haul in 25 cheap gifts that you don't need or perhaps even want. If the birthday child isn't close enough to your daughter to have warranted a play date or a previous "hi, I'm so-and-so" to the child's parents, then they're not close enough to invite her to their birthday party.

I understand that sometimes it's nice to invite the whole 2nd grade class and that for some kids, that's the only time they're invited to birthday parties. But for 4 year olds in daycare? Give it a break. Just say no.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 4:06 PM

re: opening gifts - interestingly, i was taught it was rude to open gifts with everyone else there, because it would be greedy (meaning, i wanted the gifts more than i wanted the company of the people there).
anyone else have that tradition/background?

Posted by: delurking | April 6, 2007 4:07 PM

You are really being ridicules. Everyone is not the same you know. Some people like being ethnic and gasp blue collar. I said nothing of arranged marriages, but if by chance someone agrees to it, that's their right in AMERICA.

Father of 4 bring your sexist butt over to northeast Ohio, I will get the whiskey. My cousins are getting married in June and the dollar dance will be in full swing.

Damn the Polish for starting this vulgar tradition, but you know, I love it.

Posted by: scarry | April 6, 2007 4:07 PM

At first I thought "that's nice that they did thank you notes" but after I read it I thought "wow, thanks for the huge effort." There's handwritten personalized and then there's handwritten personalized.


Posted by: April | April 6, 2007 03:56 PM

April, Cut the parents some slack, please. They are trying to do the right thing, if not as perfect as we'd like. I'm sure you'll set the gold standard (I don't intend this to be snarky) and you'll be the mom that makes me feel like I didn't do it as perfectly as I should have, but I hope your daughter had a great time at the party.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 6, 2007 4:08 PM

I think the pre-printed thankyou's with the blanks are fine up through pre-school and maybe even kindergarten. The child should fill in as much as she/he is able to do, and I prefer mailing the thank you note to the giver's home. I don't like any of this stuff going through classroom.

Around first grade (when kids are expected to write short sentences), they should write a short note. Neatness and sophistication should increase with child's age.

Posted by: Marian | April 6, 2007 4:08 PM

"but why? Why would I encourage my daughter to decline an invitation to a party at which she might make new friends, have fun, have a new experience? I can't see anything gained from declining and much to be gained from accepting."

Then why do you go into it with the assumption that the parents are not to be trusted with the care of your darling daughter? Obviously you want to go in and meet them and see that everything is ok, but why do you insist on staying and making them entertain you too?

I will admit that it sounds like people are not planning parties with age-appropriate activities (if each kid needs individual help, IMHO it's not an age-appropriate activity). But if 5 year olds are jumping in a moonbounce, for example, I don't think every parent needs to stay and supervise. And if every parent does, then the parent throwing the party basically has to throw a parallel party for all the parents.

We used to have holiday parties (Halloween, etc) that were family parties where adults and kids were all invited, but birthday parties were kids only. This also helped with knowing the other parents.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 4:12 PM

"Around first grade (when kids are expected to write short sentences), they should write a short note. Neatness and sophistication should increase with child's age."

I guess this was my point - I know this particular child could handle more than signing her name to the card. I wouldn't have thought much about it if it were for a 4 year old.

"I'm sure you'll set the gold standard (I don't intend this to be snarky) and you'll be the mom that makes me feel like I didn't do it as perfectly as I should have, but I hope your daughter had a great time at the party. "

How on earth is this not snarky????? Putting a disclaimer on snark doesn't mean it's not snark.

Posted by: April | April 6, 2007 4:13 PM

Sure Scarry, but would it be rude to bring 50 $1 bills and not give anybody else a chance to dance with the lovely brides?

Maybe I'll not only give them a tip, I'll try to write a thankyou note. (I can barely write my own name nowadays)

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 4:14 PM

scarry: LOL. The prego lady playing bartender... bring it on!

On birthday parties... my cousin managed to escape hosting one until her kids were 5. Other than parties for kids of her friends they didn't start attending alot of parties until they were 4 or 4 1/2.

And cmac one more plea for no chucky cheese. As one friend I know said "we only go to chucky cheese parties for people we REALLY like". ;-)

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | April 6, 2007 4:16 PM

Warning! Spontaneous outbreak of lyrics ahead! But it is on topic!

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 4:17 PM

"If the birthday child isn't close enough to your daughter to have warranted a play date or a previous "hi, I'm so-and-so" to the child's parents, then they're not close enough to invite her to their birthday party."

Actually when my daughter was in pre-school I did not meet parents of many of her closer friends until the birthday parties because as the previous poster said we were on different drop-off and pick up schedules. Also, my daughter's birthday is in early fall so for her 4th birthday we invited someone who had just started at the school/daycare even though she didn't know her well to avoid singling this child out.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | April 6, 2007 4:17 PM

"I'm sure you'll set the gold standard (I don't intend this to be snarky) and you'll be the mom that makes me feel like I didn't do it as perfectly as I should have, but I hope your daughter had a great time at the party. "

How on earth is this not snarky????? Putting a disclaimer on snark doesn't mean it's not snark.


Posted by: April | April 6, 2007 04:13 PM

well, because I say so, April. I did not mean it to be snarky in any way and said that directly so you'd know. Some parents do everything to the 120% degree and set a high bar, and that's not a bad thing. I asked you nicely to have a little compassion for the rest of us, not that you should lower your standards.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 4:17 PM

Yahoo! This is your celebration
Yahoo! This is your celebration

Celebrate good times, come on! (Let's celebrate)
Celebrate good times, come on! (Let's celebrate)

There's a party goin' on right here
A celebration to last throughout the years
So bring your good times, and your laughter too
We gonna celebrate your party with you

Come on now

Celebration
Let's all celebrate and have a good time
Celebration
We gonna celebrate and have a good time

It's time to come together
It's up to you, what's your pleasure

Everyone around the world
Come on!

Yahoo! It's a celebration
Yahoo!

Celebrate good times, come on!
It's a celebration
Celebrate good times, come on!
Let's celebrate

We're gonna have a good time tonight
Let's celebrate, it's all right
We're gonna have a good time tonight
Let's celebrate, it's all right

Baby...

We're gonna have a good time tonight (Ce-le-bra-tion)
Let's celebrate, it's all right
We're gonna have a good time tonight (Ce-le-bra-tion)
Let's celebrate, it's all right

Yahoo!
Yahoo!

Celebrate good times, come on! (Let's celebrate)
Celebrate good times, come on!
It's a celebration!
Celebrate good times, come on! (Let's celebrate)

Come on and celebrate, good times, tonight (Celebrate good times, come on!)
'Cause everything's gonna be all right
Let's celebrate (Celebrate good times, come on)
(Let's celebrate)...

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 4:18 PM

Father of 4 it would be okay to do that. You know, us blue collar people have no class; we would gladly take your 50 dollars. Just make sure you write a thank you note for the time you get to spend with my smoking hot half Italian half Irish cousin. She by the way is marring a nice Jewish boy, so I am very interested to see what kind of traditions will be done at the wedding. I've never been to a Jewish wedding before.

My other cousin is cute, but not smoking hot. She is marrying a Polish boy from town, so you know the prostitution dance will go on at her wedding with the Irish whiskey of course.

Posted by: scarry | April 6, 2007 4:19 PM


We've always done a just-immediate-family party the night of the true birthday, with cake and opening family presents, and a kids' birthday party on the nearest reasonable weekend. I've never understood the gatherings that were adult-centered for a kid's birthday; to my mind the child and child-experiences should be the focus on this of all occasions.

Our birthday child generally picks the type/central activity for their party. My oldest is now at an age where the girls all want slumber parties, as they're more relaxed and they get ample time together. My oldest mostly plans these herself, with a little parental facilitation (buying the water balloons, flavored whipped creams, chosen craft supplies, etc). Last year she really enjoyed going through craft books and picking projects she'd like to make available; we set out supplies for about 6 projects/ activities and the girls chose what they'd like to do next, most popular were very simple like making 'neggs', sand-filled small balloons that they drew character faces on and enacted dramas with . . .

With the slumber parties, they're actually very pleasant, the main thing is the load of work to clean the house beforehand. With younger kids, I've always found at-home parties so much more work and stress and in the end, hardly less expensive than outing-type parties, especially after decorating and setting up multiple activities and herding young kids. . .

Though basically, we do the party our child asks for. We've been very lucky that the year our youngest really really wanted an in-the-park outside party, we took our chances, hired a moonbounce, set up facepainting tables and a dressup tent all in the park, and the weather was beautiful --- this for mid-February in Atlanta, when we had a 50-50 chance of retreating indoors due to weather. On the other hand my oldest had an outside pool party in late April, when you can usually count on warm but not-yet-sweltering weather and a pool that's already been open a month, but we had a blustery day and shivering kids (and ice cream cake and fizzy 'potion' drinks, woohoo) . . . .

My preference has been parties at places/ activities my kids like. We've done their gymnastics place, a horse farm (where they go to horse day camp in the summer), our outdoor pool, an indoor pool (reserving an indoor pool, even local hotel pool, can be great for a winter birthday), the children's museum, and of course, our house and our local park. My 6yo this year has gone to birthday parties: bowling, center for puppetry arts, field day (at bday girls' home), big backyard neighborhood blast/barbecue, gymnastics, dance center, swimming; for my oldest, 9yo, they now seem all to be slumber parties at the bday girl's home, some with outings (like rock-climbing), most with crafts. When a parent puts together the effort to setup and run kid-activities themselves (like treasure hunts or party games or field days), that's beyond-the-norm around here, and we other parents appreciate the time and energy and creativity that's been devoted, above the default procedure of reserve the locale; send out e-vites; reserve cake, buy party and goody bag supplies; and set up table and cake while kids are in activity.

Posted by: KB | April 6, 2007 4:20 PM

All aboard

Every all aboard
Anybody wanna take this ride
Anybody wanna ride
All it takes is a nickel or a dime

Be sure to get your ticket
Hurry, don't miss it
Everybody's got to stand in line
So make sure that you too will be right on time

Everybody all aboard
Everybody all aboard

Mmm
Mmm
All aboard

Don't you miss it, baby
If you miss that train
Don't miss the party train
Oh...don't you miss it, baby
If you miss that train
Don't miss the party train

Everybody all aboard
Oh...baby
Everybody all aboard
Mmm

Don't you that train
If you miss that train
Don't miss the party train
Oh...ho...ho...ho...
If you miss that train
Don't miss the party train

Your ticket, ooh
Mmm, mmm
Everybody all aboard
Ho...ho
Everybody all aboard

Every all aboard
Anybody wanna take this ride
Anybody wanna ride
All it takes is a nickel or a dime

Every all aboard
Anybody wanna take this ride
Anybody wanna ride
All it takes is a nickel or a dime

All aboard

Hee...
Hee...hee...
Ho...ho

Get down, get down, get down tonight
We're gonna party, gonna party on the train tonight
Get down, get down, get down tonight
We're gonna party, gonna party on the train tonight

Get down, get down, get down tonight
We're gonna party, gonna party on the train tonight
Get down, get down, get down tonight
We're gonna party, gonna party on the train tonight

Huh
Huh
Huh
Huh

Gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta get on board
Hey, hey, yeah
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, gotta come get on board, baby

Everybody all aboard
Get your ticket, don't you miss that train
Everybody all aboard
Get your ticket, don't you miss that train

Everybody all aboard
Get your ticket, don't you miss that train
Everybody

Posted by: In Honor of the Gap Band | April 6, 2007 4:20 PM

CMAC - Nooo the kids don't get pointed objects they have to stomp on the balloons - that's part of the excitement especially for the boys. They are somewhat time consuming to assemble, but totally worth it and much more fun than the pinata that dad ends up beating to death to get it open.

Thank you notes are an absolute must. When my son turned 5 he had to write his own. It was so time consuming, but I think an important lesson to properly thank people who went to the trouble to buy a gift for you or come to your party. He started with simple notes like "Dear Ben, thank you for the truck. I like it a lot". but all in his own hand. My daughter is 4 and this year I would write the note for her and she would draw a picture at the bottom and write her name. You can never go wrong in sending a hand written thank you note.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 6, 2007 4:22 PM

scarry: LOL. The prego lady playing bartender... bring it on!

Yes, I told you all I can be a hot head. Don't mess with the coal miner's daughter. I take my blue collarless very seriously and complete assimilation is a bore.

What's next no jig at the weddings? Jesus Mary and Joseph. The song lyrics are cracking me up.

Posted by: scarry | April 6, 2007 4:25 PM

Megan's Neighbor - (I don't intend for this to be rude) Defensive much?

Posted by: April | April 6, 2007 4:27 PM

"The birthday child was 7 and had invited the entire 1st grade class, didn't open the gifts at the party, and brought the thank you notes to school to hand out."

So far, none of my daughter's friends have invited the whole class. We have received a few invitations via backpack (and in her school, this means the whole class must have been invited). I have always declined these invitations (so far none have come from a child I've heard my daughter talk about playing with much). If it were a child she had talked about playing with, sitting near, eating with, etc. it would be different. It must be difficult for children who have birthdays that fall early in the school year.

I just don't find the big parties appealing; they seem impersonal. I can see a first-grader being overwhelmed by even writing one-sentence thank-you notes if she/he had to write fifteen of them. Another benefit of a relatively smalll invitation list.

Posted by: Marian | April 6, 2007 4:28 PM

Scarry, you know I'm going to ask to dance with you and may I rub your tummy for luck?

I'm outta here! Happy Easter everybody!

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2007 4:28 PM

Megan's Neighbor - (I don't intend for this to be rude) Defensive much?

Posted by: April | April 6, 2007 04:27 PM

April - No I am not. I'm sorry if you are determined to be pissed. Upon reading my earlier messages twice, the compliment and clarification and re-compliment were clear. You apparently disagree. Have a good one.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 6, 2007 4:30 PM

Scarry - a Jewish wedding reception isn't complete without the Halva Nagila and the balancing of the bride and groom on chairs.

Hotheads are more fun... they throw off the mean girls with their cattiness weapons. ;-p

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | April 6, 2007 4:34 PM

Well, I think that I will end this afternoon by listening to some Smash Mouth or Steely Dan and thanking whomever I don't have a b'day this month!

Posted by: Fred | April 6, 2007 4:36 PM

delurker,
When I was a kid of course I wanted to open MY gifts. As I get older I want people to open my gifts to them while I am there as I get much more pleasure from giving than receiving.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 6, 2007 4:38 PM

KLB: If you know the bride and groom well consider an experiential gift that you know they might enjoy -- gift certificate to a nice restaurant for "foodies" is the only example I can think of but let your imagination be your guide. You always package several things from their list into a themed gift... pasta pot filled with gourmet pasta and sauces and bottle of Chianti...

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | April 6, 2007 4:45 PM


It seems a good chance to share my rudest kid-birthday experience ever.

The year we went to Boston on sabbatical, when my oldest was in kindergarten, she got her first birthday party invitation a month or so into the school year. It was for a weekday afternoon (kindergarten was only half-day there), but since she was new and I wanted to encourage her developing friendships with her classmates, I arranged to leave work early, pick her up at aftercare, and take her. We went, she was off having a fine time, I was loitering near clatches of other moms, debating stay-or-go . . . the birthday girl's grandma seemed to be running the party, and the birthday girl's mom was chitchatting with other moms . . . one mom commented on the good turnout she got, and the birthday mom commented, "yes, I really wanted to keep it small, so I scheduled it in the afternoon so working moms wouldn't come. But still, look how many kids turned out!"

Ugh! Silly me, I hadn't realized her invitation was designed as a subtle disinvitation for my child, that the weird timing wasn't due to sibling nap-schedules but to filter half the kids from coming . . .

I said nothing, though, sigh. Fortunately the kids my daughter became fastest friends with had nicer parents.

Posted by: KB | April 6, 2007 4:46 PM

Not PC but funny

JIM AND EDNA

Just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to, doesn't mean they don't love you with all they have.

Jim and Edna were both patients in a mental hospital. One day while they were walking past the hospital swimming pool, Jim suddenly jumped into the deep end. He sank to the bottom of the pool and stayed there.

Edna promptly jumped in to save him. She swam to the bottom and pulled Jim out. When the Head Nurse Director became aware of Edna's heroic act, she immediately ordered her to be discharged from the hospital, as she now considered her to be mentally stable.

When she went to tell Edna the news, she said, "Edna, I have good news and bad news. The good news is you're being discharged. Since you were able to rationally respond to a crisis by jumping in and saving the life of another patient, I have concluded that your act displays sound mindedness. The bad news is that Jim, the patient you saved, hung himself in the bathroom with his bathrobe belt right after you saved him. I am so sorry, but he's dead."

Edna replied, "He didn't hang himself, I put him there to dry. How soon can I go home?"

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 4:46 PM

the path of etiquette righteousness.

-------------------------------------

Too often the rightousness seems stronger than the etiquette... I would prefer the company of a grateful non-thank you note writer to someone who keeps checklists on the behavior of others.

----------------------------

For weddings...
I think thank you notes should be written in proportion to who picked what on the registry. If the bride feels she should pick everything she should be the one writing. I have known couples where the stuff is important to both and other cases where the groom would have been just as happy with no gifts... Likewise if one person wants to elope the other shouldn't complain about doing extra planning for the event.

--------------------------------

I would rather new parents not add me to the thank you list note when I cook or get a gift for them. The idea is not to create more work in that situation. Plus if they have a few minutes a phone call (and good poop story) are alot more fun.

Posted by: hmm... | April 6, 2007 4:47 PM

Thanks all for the thoughts re: registries. I know the groom much better than the bride as he was a neighbor for three years then a roommate for 6 mos. I believe I will be finding something from the heart that is not on the registry (with gift receipt).

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 6, 2007 4:51 PM

thanks, KLB SS MD. always wondered if it was just my family/culture...

note, of course, that as a kid i wasn't pleased about not getting to open my presents :)

Posted by: delurker | April 6, 2007 4:57 PM

"April - No I am not. I'm sorry if you are determined to be pissed. Upon reading my earlier messages twice, the compliment and clarification and re-compliment were clear. You apparently disagree. Have a good one."

You are amazing. Your tone is completely sarcastic yet you say that I'm the one who is pissed (I'm not) and that you complimented me and that you were nice.

I don't think there's anything wrong with thinking it would be nice if a parent would take longer than 5 minutes to dash down the list of 15 birthday parents and scrawl the name of the child and the present on a preprinted card and then thrusting the cards at her 7 year old and saying "here honey, sign these so we can get this awful chore out of the way." Especially when every one of those other parents took anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours to shop for the gift, wrap the gift, have their child make a birthday card, drive their child to the party, often STAY at the party, and drive their child home from the party.

Posted by: April | April 6, 2007 4:57 PM

"15 birthday parents" - s/h/b "15 birthday presents"

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2007 4:58 PM

Knew someone would remark (rightly so) that a moonbounce is a pretty high minimum! But hey, progress not perfection...(FYI, Big Country Amusements in Virginia is great...they have about 35 different models)

Another tip for winter birthdays: my friend (whose kids were born in Feb and March) sometimes throws HALF birthdays in the summer for variety. Good idea.

Posted by: Leslie | April 6, 2007 4:59 PM

delurker,
Forget to mention that as a kid the grand and great grand parents and aunts and uncles and great aunts and uncles far outnumbered kids. They thought it was a good idea for us to go around the room and each person would open a gift - ONE AT A TIME until we were done. Christmas eve and Chrismtas day were endless.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 6, 2007 5:00 PM

April,

Step . . . away . . . from . . . the . . . ledge.

She agreed that the fully handwritten card is the best approach. You may want to reread.

Posted by: Regular Lurker | April 6, 2007 5:12 PM


KLB ---

That one-at-a-time-take-turns-til-we're-done paradigm was the first thing we axed when we took back Christmas! I lived with it as far back as I can remember, growing up, and it *really* doesn't fit the attention span/needs of little kids well at all! It only took one year flying out to grandparent's houses for us to take back Christmas, and declare that our kids would have Christmas in their own home, celebrated in a child-centered way. It feels so decadent the way we do Christmas now --- sometimes we actually stop opening gifts for a while, if the kids become engrossed in something they've opened . . . they can play with it for a while! They needn't dutifully set it aside and pay attention to the next present opener, and keep opening presents until done, no missing a turn for potty, snacks, stretching time, no matter what! It's actually relaxed, the way we do it now. Though sometimes we get calls for the thank-you round mid-afternoon and the callers are chagrinned that we're actually not done opening yet . . . .

Posted by: KB | April 6, 2007 5:15 PM

KB - I bet the kids play with the boxes and paper as much as the actual toys. That is a joy to watch.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 6, 2007 6:10 PM

"Step . . . away . . . from . . . the . . . ledge."

Oh, for goodnesssakes. I'm not the one who spent ALL AFTERNOON talking about thank you notes in one form or the other - I told a simple story about a thank you note that my daughter received that I thought was less-than-ideal, and I get snark and sarcasm back.

"I'm sure you'll set the gold standard (I don't intend this to be snarky) and you'll be the mom that makes me feel like I didn't do it as perfectly as I should have, but I hope your daughter had a great time at the party. "
"Upon reading my earlier messages twice, the compliment and clarification and re-compliment were clear."

Where exactly is the compliment and re-compliment in this? It's sarcasm. She's saying that just because my 7 year old would handwrite thank you notes, that I'm making her feel bad about herself - like I would handwrite thank you's specifically to make everyone else feel bad and not because I feel it's the polite thing to do. And the "I hope your daughter had a good time...." part is just snark - she's trying to point out to me what's really important, which is condescending.

"She agreed that the fully handwritten card is the best approach. You may want to reread."

OK - I did re-read. Where exactly did she say this? In her sarcastic remarks about my gold standard? Give me a break.

Posted by: April | April 6, 2007 7:22 PM

"I'm sure you'll set the gold standard (I don't intend this to be snarky) and you'll be the mom that makes me feel like I didn't do it as perfectly as I should have, but I hope your daughter had a great time at the party. "

Sorry April but this can be read two ways (tis the problem with Internet communication). Try taking this as the comment of a Mom who fell short on thank you notes. She is admitting what you did is better, but still hopes that you can see she did try her best to throw an event that was fun for a group of kids.

I am often a failure on the etiquette front - but as a single, childless engineering prof. I am thankful that I am surrounded by guys like Fo4 who don't seem to get put off by small lapses if I am generally hardworking and reasonable. I glance at this blog occasional to understand the travails of my mom friends.

... and sympathetic I am!!!

Some people are insufferable and rude... but I don't think that has any correlation with thank you notes. For some thank you notes just allow them to be self rightous without really being kind.

Posted by: hmm... | April 6, 2007 11:17 PM

JRS, it's probably way too late for you to get this, but my comment was directed at FO4, who I'm sure is laughing at my indignance right now. You just love to get a rise out of us, don't ya? ;-)

Posted by: Mona | April 7, 2007 12:03 AM

"Some people are insufferable and rude... but I don't think that has any correlation with thank you notes. For some thank you notes just allow them to be self rightous without really being kind."

And for some, being a single, childless engineering prof. apparently makes them exempt from rules of etiquette. The lack of thank you notes has a HUGE correlation with being rude.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 7, 2007 1:13 AM

Mona, You should know by now that I'm a troublemaker and read your earlier post as an indirect way of saying I am an ungrateful jerk unworthy of marriage. The problem though, is that there exists standards of etiquette that I will always, always fail. Handwritten notes happen to be one of them. I can't read them nor write them with any proficiency, much less help my crayon wielding kids out with them. So, by this one standard alone, I am forever condemned to be inconsiderate and rude. However, and alternate form of appreciation I think should be acceptable; verbal thanks, email, phone call, and the best way to express gratitude for a gift is to use it. For instance, if you cross stitch a piece of art and give it away as a gift, you will definately know it is appreciated when you walk in their house and see it hanging on the wall.

Which reminds me, my officemate gave me an Easter goodie-bag, and I left it on my desk at work. I had better get there early and stuff it in a drawer before she sees it lying there. I just keep on screwing up, don't I?

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 7, 2007 4:54 AM

I put "single, childless engineering prof." in to point out I am have always been on the giving end at showers, weddings, children's birthday parties, etc - not to say that I don't have the occasion to write the occasional thank you note. I think whether you grew up writing thank you notes says more about geography and social class... perhaps my anecdotal evidence is unfair (I have never lived near DC), but I am just saying that when I give a gift it is a gift - not an opportunity to judge the recipient.

Posted by: ugh... | April 7, 2007 8:41 AM

Sorry, Fo4, my post was inflammatory when you think about it like that. I was actually thinking in terms of my ex, who had this obsession with fairness, but whom I could also see putting the entire onus of writing thank-yous on me. Not that it matters anyway, we're certainly not going to get married. But if he'd expected me to A) plan a wedding I didn't want for the benefit of HIS relatives, B) wear an enormous diamond mined by African slaves that was too big for my finger because he wanted to outdo his brother-in-law, C) write all the thank you notes for every gift, including the ones I didn't want or ask for, we'd have had some major troubles. For what it's worth, when his parents paid for our Xmas holiday in Vegas, I sent them a gushing thank-you card. I'm sure he sent them nothing. I'm a little bitter about this whole thing, and I apologize for directing my anger at you.

And what on earth is a dollar dance?

Posted by: Mona | April 7, 2007 11:05 AM

"Which begs the question of why she would even go to the party at all. There's no possible way a 4 year old is THAT good of friends with 10 other kids whose parents you've never even met that she should be invited to their parties."

Actually, she spends 40-45 hours per week at the daycare. Why wouldn't she be good friends with the children? Sine we both work, and she is with the children the majority of the time during the week, we reserve our weekends and evenings for home and family and errand time, and playdates aren't an issue. At age 4, she could play by herself or with her sister during non-daycare time.

Oh, church, dance class and birthday party invitations for both children also fill up weekend time.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 7, 2007 2:21 PM

"I don't think every parent needs to stay and supervise. And if every parent does, then the parent throwing the party basically has to throw a parallel party for all the parents."

If the parents choose to stay,I have no problem with that. However, I do not feel the least bit obligated to treat them as a party guest and "throw a parallel party."

And for the person who complained about the dad who had a steak dinner durying the party - So What !!! Why do you think that taking advantage of a few hours while the child is at a party is "using the party for free babysitting"? It's not like he asked the people to have their party at a particular time to suit his social life.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 7, 2007 2:46 PM

"Another tip for winter birthdays: my friend (whose kids were born in Feb and March) sometimes throws HALF birthdays in the summer for variety. Good idea."

I have to disagree with you on this. My kids have also talked about half birthdays. I told them it was ridiculous. Your birthday is your birthday, not 6 months away. We celebrate as a family on the actual day with a special dinner and family presents. Their party is on the closest weekend before or after.


Posted by: to Leslie | April 7, 2007 2:50 PM

"If the parents choose to stay,I have no problem with that. However, I do not feel the least bit obligated to treat them as a party guest and 'throw a parallel party.'"

I disagree 100%!!! If you have people at your home who do not live there, guess what... they're GUESTS. And yes, if you have 15 kids and 15 parents, you'd better have something planned for the parents. Some sandwiches and drinks or whatever. How rude to consider otherwise!

Posted by: Re: 2:46 (parents at party) | April 7, 2007 2:54 PM

What about the preprinted ones that say

Dear _______
Thank you for the __________.
___________

We got one of those the other day. The birthday child was 7 and had invited the entire 1st grade class, didn't open the gifts at the party, and brought the thank you notes to school to hand out. A parent had filled in my daughter's name and the name of her gift, but the birthday girl had signed her name. At first I thought "that's nice that they did thank you notes" but after I read it I thought "wow, thanks for the huge effort." There's handwritten personalized and then there's handwritten personalized.

Posted by: April | April 6, 2007 03:56 PM

"Around first grade (when kids are expected to write short sentences), they should write a short note. Neatness and sophistication should increase with child's age."

I guess this was my point - I know this particular child could handle more than signing her name to the card. I wouldn't have thought much about it if it were for a 4 year old.

"I'm sure you'll set the gold standard (I don't intend this to be snarky) and you'll be the mom that makes me feel like I didn't do it as perfectly as I should have, but I hope your daughter had a great time at the party. "

How on earth is this not snarky????? Putting a disclaimer on snark doesn't mean it's not snark.


Posted by: April | April 6, 2007 04:13 PM

Megan's Neighbor - (I don't intend for this to be rude) Defensive much?

Posted by: April | April 6, 2007 04:27 PM

"April - No I am not. I'm sorry if you are determined to be pissed. Upon reading my earlier messages twice, the compliment and clarification and re-compliment were clear. You apparently disagree. Have a good one."

You are amazing. Your tone is completely sarcastic yet you say that I'm the one who is pissed (I'm not) and that you complimented me and that you were nice.

I don't think there's anything wrong with thinking it would be nice if a parent would take longer than 5 minutes to dash down the list of 15 birthday parents and scrawl the name of the child and the present on a preprinted card and then thrusting the cards at her 7 year old and saying "here honey, sign these so we can get this awful chore out of the way." Especially when every one of those other parents took anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours to shop for the gift, wrap the gift, have their child make a birthday card, drive their child to the party, often STAY at the party, and drive their child home from the party.


Posted by: April | April 6, 2007 04:57 PM


"Step . . . away . . . from . . . the . . . ledge."

Oh, for goodnesssakes. I'm not the one who spent ALL AFTERNOON talking about thank you notes in one form or the other - I told a simple story about a thank you note that my daughter received that I thought was less-than-ideal, and I get snark and sarcasm back.

Posted by: April | April 6, 2007 07:22 PM

we'll have to take your word that you didn't spend all afternoon, but over the span of several hours, you spend a considerable amount of energy being defensive and unhappy. Based on past history, if MN had intended to be snarky, there'd be no disclaimer in the initial comment and no apology later. I hope April's Saturday was better spent.

Posted by: anon for now | April 7, 2007 6:14 PM

Mona, the $1 dance, or Money Dance is where the bride wears an apron or special purse, and the DJ slows the music down, then the geezers will give you cash to have the opportunity to dance with the most beautiful girl at the wedding reception.

some tacky old fart just might write you out a $50 check in your name, and you may be compelled to write him a personalized thankyou note in return, (females are like this for some reason), but he won't expect a thankyou note or even consider it remotely impolite. if you don't. However he may consider it an insult if you never cash or deposit the check. :-)

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 8, 2007 5:34 PM

There are benefits to having one of those big, invite-all-the-kids-in-the-class shindigs.
It's a chance to meet the parents and to get hospitality obligations out of the way in one fell swoop.
But some caveats:
If you do this kind of party, it should be as low-tech, low-rent as possible. The gym rental is a good idea, but there's no need for a fancy cake or goodie bags. The kids probably don't need super-organized activities, and they don't care if the cake is from Costco or some fancy bakery. Weather permitting, you could even have it at a public park/playground and do it picnic-style.
Also, timing can be an issue. If the party is around the start of the school year, it can be a good idea as a general back-to-school event.
And thirdly, such parties may require that parents stick around to supervise their own kids.
So there are pluses and minuses to this approach.

Posted by: anon mom | April 9, 2007 2:50 PM

It sounds like the Money Dance is just one step away from prostitution. I've never been to a wedding where this was performed, and I hope to God I never see it in the future. Probably started with penniless immigrants right off the boat. But then marriage is just a step away from legal prostution.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 9, 2007 3:00 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2007 The Washington Post Company