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The Debate: Party Present Opening

In Monday's blog about birthday presents, MarylandMom asked a question that struck me, too, as I read through the comments:

Are we the only ones? My kids have never been to a party where the presents are opened at the party. Never. Everyone we know waits until after everyone has left before their child opens the gifts. The way I see it, the birthday child has something to look forward to after the party (no post-party tears) and the other kids don't have to sit through the opening of gifts.

The comment followed others who talked about teaching kids to graciously open presents in front of gift givers.

We, too, have been to few parties where the kids opened presents at the party. In fact, in six years, I can think of only one in which that happened. A large group of five year olds gathered around watching the girl open doll after doll with some art supplies and books thrown in and it was chaos. The kids were all reaching for the new toys, wanting to play with them.

The graciousness in our house comes in the two weeks after the party. I sit with the boys and we write/draw thank you notes (and yes, it sometimes takes two weeks even for our small parties). Six-year-old now writes his own sentences, asking me how to spell words. In every card he puts in something he likes about the gift. Four-year-old dictates his thoughts, also telling what strikes him about the presents, then writes his name and draws a picture for the gift giver.

Do your kids open gifts during parties or afterwards? And how do you handle thank yous?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  April 17, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers
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Comments


My daughter is four, so we have had four parties so far.
Year one: just a small family party. We opened the gifts at the party, as it was all relatives and family friends. Only two babies at the party (my daughter and her cousin)

Year two:Again small party. Mostly family, family friends, and we did invite a family friend who had twins. I think there were four kids at the party (twins, a cousin, and my daughter). Her first cousins came after the party. They are always late. In total, she received about 5 gifts (from family) and we did open them at the party. I requested no gifts from the friends (twins).

Year three: Again a small party but invited same cousin, same twin friends, and two children who had invited my daughter to a party. Her relatives came some other day or later in the day. She recieved four gifts and did open them at the party.

Year four: A rather medium sized party. Invited 13 kids and I think 8 showed up. A lot were sibling sets. She received around 5-6 gifts. Ran out of time and let each child open the gift they brought and show the group. Her one cousin was not allowed to open a gift (her mother said NO), so my daughter opened one as well. Kids thought this was awesome (except for her cousin who cried the whole time).

I have always done all the thank you notes the night of the party. I would rather get them out. My daughter does not know how to write.

Most of the parties that I have been to do not open gifts unless it is a small home party. Of course the small home parties are usually dominated by family members who want to see the child open the gifts. I have been to a number of book exchange or no gift parties as well. Personally, I think those are the best but some people are totally offended by the no gift suggestion. But these party places do not alot enough time or space to open gifts. Some do not even have a cake area.

I have also found it is regional. People who are from different parts of the country think it is weird not to open gifts. Personally, I have seen it both ways and it is usually fine either way. If you have a party of 20+ kids, it seems insane to open the gifts. If it is under 8 gifts, it takes relatively little time. Depending on the age, the kids seem to take it well. Under three seems fine with it because they really have no idea. 3-7 seems like it could cause problems but not a bad life lesson.

Next years plan: I would like to do a Chuckie Cheese party because the obligatory invites are getting too large for a home party. I would request no gifts or book exchange.

BTW, sometimes I feel we go overboard to make our kids not feel bad or jealous. I was at one party where a guest (not birthday child) cried when they did the cake for the birthday child. The mother excused herself and ran to Giant to buy a cake and candles. Brought it back and wanted to light the candles and sing happy birthday to her child (even though it was not his birthday). At what point to we just tell kids everyone has a birthday and today is not yours. We will have a cake and sing when it is your birthday. But today is X's birthday. Seems crazy.

It also seems perfectly normal at all the preschool parties that I have to let all the kids help blow out the candles.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 17, 2008 7:35 AM | Report abuse

We have the children open the gifts, the lessons are twofold. One, my children learn how to be gracious recipients and two, the guests learn how sit and watch someone else be the center of attention. The gift givers also get to experience the joy of watching someone open a gift they have selected for them (that's fun for everyone).

I'm crazy about thanks yous. My 7 year old writes his own with a little guidance from me. My 5 year old writes generally what I tell her to write but usually comes up with what she liked about the gift. Before they could write, I would write the note and then have my child draw a picture at the bottom of the page and/or make an effort to write their name.

Posted by: Moxiemom | April 17, 2008 7:59 AM | Report abuse

So far my only experience has been my step-daughters birthday at which only her brother was present. He was quite upset that he didn't have presents and cried.

I totally didn't understand this as this isn't what I remember from parties in our family (I had a brother). Normal?

My husband wanted to buy a present for him. I thought that he needed to learn that everybody has a birthday and you need to wait until yours.

Posted by: Billie | April 17, 2008 8:03 AM | Report abuse

my husband instituted a no-gifts-please policy for my daughter's parties back before her first birthday, and it's one of the best decisions he's ever made. (i confess at first i was opposed!) for five years now we've had great parties where everybody had a great time and nobody had to suffer through that worst-part-of-every-kid's-party, the gift opening. cleo and her brother get MORE than enough stuff from us, the grandparents, and the close family friends who choose to give gifts anyway (because people always do--we open them another time), and so for her, parties are about celebrating with your friends, not biding time until you get to see what you got.

we started this because we were part of an enormous playgroup that did practically everything together, and there was just no way it was going to be reasonable to bring gifts to every one of these kids' parties. so the flipside is, we don't bring gifts to other people's parties, either--at least, not the kind most people bring. we have been known to make pictures or bake things, and occasionally we will bring a potted flower or plant. i have never met a parent who objected to this--how many of us regret not having ONE MORE toy for our kids to leave lying around?--and the kids haven't complained much, either. over time, almost all of our playgroup friends adopted the same policy.

since moving here to fairfax county, i have been stunned by the displays i've seen at kids' parties. people buy real, expensive presents at the parties i've been to, and lots of them. the opening is a focal point of the party, and i leave each time with a really sick consumerist sense as the kids scream and throng and eventually melt down over what they did or didn't get.

Posted by: vikki Engle | April 17, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

We tend to have small family parties -- grandparents and cousins. We go to a local state park with a kid playground, and the kids all run around and entertain themselves, while we throw burgers on the grill and tote over German potato salad and the cake and all that. Luckily, my girl has a May birthday, so we can usually get away with that. :-) Don't know what we're going to do when my boy (November) finally gets old enough to care. :-(

We tend to come back to the house and open the gifts then. Some people leave, some stay (because of course grandma and the cousins and all want to see how their gifts are received). I think this year will be my daughter's first DIY foray into thank-you notes -- I've had her sign them before, but her writing is now to the point where I can sit her down to do them all. Yay! Less for me to do! :-)

Posted by: Laura | April 17, 2008 8:13 AM | Report abuse

For my almost 6 YO, last year, I did the book exchange. We didn't have to haul home gifts we didn't need (some people, like grandparents, etc, gave gifts, but not at the party). And no need for goody bags. A win win for all.

For the almost 3 YO we're not going to have a party this year, as last year - so people brought gifts to a cookout we had (his bday is near memorial day) - but we didn't open them when he was here. For the older's first birthday party, we had a ton of people (20 invites) so we didn't open the gifts at the party - the child had to take a nap at some point thru the party.

It's been hit or miss. I never understood the opening gifts at a party. It just seems weird to me. Sometimes kids open them, sometimes they don't. I understand the opening them - and miss manners says if you thank someone in person when you open the gift, you don't need to send a thank you note....:)

Posted by: atlmom | April 17, 2008 8:17 AM | Report abuse

I didn't have to write thank you's til I was 13 - for my bat mitzvah, which was a big deal cause there were about 100+ guests and probably more who didn't come but gave us gifts. My kids are going to start writing them much sooner than that - the 6 YO maybe this year!

Posted by: atlmom | April 17, 2008 8:20 AM | Report abuse

I really think it depends on the temperament of the birthday child and the dynamic of the group. Not sure this is really a debate, and I hope it doesn't become another "sanctimommy" issue. :)

Posted by: Mama | April 17, 2008 8:29 AM | Report abuse

with large parties at other venues i don't open presents. if the party is at my house than the parties tend to be smaller (under 10 kids) so he opens presents. like others have noted; i think opening gifts teaches some very important lessons.

Posted by: quark | April 17, 2008 8:31 AM | Report abuse

This year was the first year my daughter opened her gifts in front of her guests at the party. We had her party at home for the first time since her baby (1 and 2 yrs) parties. There were 10 kids and she didn't open the family gifts then. She turned 8. One activity at the party was decorating picture frames, which the girls took home. I took a picture of my daughter with each child after she opened the gift and then we sent a copy of the picture to the child with the thank you note. She has the picture of her with all her friends from the party in the frame she made in her room and insisted on putting the copies of all the other pictures in her personal photo album so that tells me she liked the idea!

I also think it worked out well. She was excited and gracious about all the gifts -- we'd talked about that before and she was great.

What I've seen is that if the parties are out somewhere, bowling alley, gymnastics place, etc., the kids tend not to open the gifts because there isn't time. The place usually kicks you out to get ready for the next party. Also, for preschoolers, I haven't seen many kids opening the gifts in front of everyone. For parties held at home, gifts are usually opened but that's mostly been 1st graders and up in our experience.

As far as thank you notes, my kids have participated in the process at whatever level they can. Once they could write their name, I asked them to sign each one. They really liked that and were very proud of being able to do it. Then, I got those fill-in the blank thank you cards where you fill in the person's name, the gift and your child's name. That worked well for kindergarten. My daughter loved being able to do the notes herself. Once she could write a sentence, she started writing them, with help on spelling and what to say.

My kids really like writing and receiving thank you notes. It does take a little while when they do it because they can't usually do more than a few at a time. But, we generally get them done within 2 weeks of the party.

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | April 17, 2008 8:37 AM | Report abuse

I think it's very important that children learn how to open gifts and express appreciation every time. My current pet peeve is dealing with parents who are so insufferable as to dictate what will be acceptable gifts for their darlings: registering at upscale toy stores, telling us "no electronic or plastic toys" which made me want to splurge and buy the kid an iPod, no toys made in China (good bloody luck), organic cotton clothing only please (do you really want one sock from me as a gift), etc. I find it appalling. I have raised three children (well, one of them was 9 when I got her, but still) and I am capable of picking out an age appropriate and safe gift that isn't going to make me go broke.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 17, 2008 8:37 AM | Report abuse

,Mama

"Not sure this is really a debate"

I agree. It's not. It's another big bag of b.s. angst, fake "issues" and navel gazing from people who have waay too much money and leisure time.

Posted by: Toss this topic in the trash | April 17, 2008 8:44 AM | Report abuse

WorkingMomX

"I find it appalling. I have raised three children (well, one of them was 9 when I got her, but still) and I am capable of picking out an age appropriate and safe gift that isn't going to make me go broke."

What's the problem? Decline the appalling invites.

Posted by: SAHM | April 17, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Birthday parties at our house tend to be small. We have never invited the whole class, only good friends and usually don't attend parties for everyone-so I don't feel badly about it. Now that my oldest is in 4th grade, the "we need to invite everyone" mentality seems to have passed for most people. We have always opened gifts at our parties. I usually have the gift-giver sit next to the birthday girl and take a picture of the two of them which we use as a post card to write the thank you note on. We have never had a problem with kids complaining, but parents often complain that watching other kids open gifts is horrible for little kids. I think most of them enjoy seeing that the birhday child likes what they picked out. My kids get upset at parties when their presents aren't opened for just that reason.

I have become a huge fan of homemade gifts. If my kids want to make something for a friend instead of buy, I definitely encourage it. I also find that most parents really appreciate this sentiment because our houses are all over-flowing with our kids stuff. I don't know a single child who needs more things!


Posted by: Momof5 | April 17, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

If the kids are having a lot of fun at the party, the gift opening routine gets pushed to the very end or after the party is over.

If I had it my way, the gifts would be opened as soon as the guest entered the house. That way, everybody could play with the stuff they brought, But that may be way too practival. Oh yeah, and forget the stupid wrapping paper and bows and ribbons, I think it's a waste of time, resources and makes a mess.

Can you tell that I think birthday parties are more for the moms than the child? Girl stuff!

And thankyou notes, sure if my kid wants to write one, I'll tell them go right on ahead, nobody's stopping you.

Posted by: DandyLion | April 17, 2008 9:05 AM | Report abuse

SAHM, how old are your kids? How do you suggest I decline their friends' invites?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 17, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

What's the problem? Decline the appalling invites.


Posted by: SAHM | April 17, 2008 8:52 AM

The problem is what if the appalling invite is from the 8 yr-old's best friend on the soccer team and the whole is invited? I see this age as the worst. The child wants to go to their friend's parties, any social fallout affects them and yet as a parent you are still footing the bill (don't know to many 8 or 9 yr olds with jobs, and even with allowances you are still on the hook for providing that). Yes I teach my child that money is not important, yes I encourage them to have friends with the same values, etc but considering some of this comes from the parents not the kids I am not ready to say you can't be friends with an otherwise nice child because the parent makes unreasonable birthday gift requests.

Posted by: Mom_of_1 | April 17, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse

I agree. It's not. It's another big bag of b.s. angst, fake "issues" and navel gazing from people who have waay too much money and leisure time.

Posted by: Toss this topic in the trash | April 17, 2008 8:44 AM
------------------------------

That's what happens when you have to come up with a new topic every day - the good ones get used up in the first couple of weeks and then you spend months with dumb ones like this (and you recycle topics over and over). It's the same problem On Balance has. They really should put these blogs on the shelf for a few months and bring them back with new authors and maybe they'll be interesting again.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 17, 2008 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Dandylion: however, in our culture, it is expected that people send thank you notes. So if you don't teach your child to do that, when they are adults, people will think they have bad manners. You can move to Mexico, where it's not expected, if you'd like :)

Posted by: atlmom | April 17, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

WorkingMomX

"SAHM, how old are your kids? How do you suggest I decline their friends' invites?"

Um. Skip the ego trip. Learn how to set boundaries.

Posted by: SAHM | April 17, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

I've never seen a kids' party where the gifts WEREN'T opened in front of the guests. As moxie and others have noted, it's important for the recipient to learn to be a gracious recipient, and for the attendees to learn to let someone else be the center of attention for a few minutes. They can deal with it.

As far as invites that specify acceptable gifts, I accept the invite but ignore the gift specification. We try to let the kids pick what they consider to be appropriate gifts, knowing what they know about their friends. (If they don't know the honoree well enough to know what he/she likes, why were they invited, again?) I've never had a host be so rude as to confront me in public about a gift that wasn't on the "acceptable list", but if a host did so I feel quite confident I could handle the situation appropriately.

Really, the worst problem I've seen at birthday parties is that the honoree gets six copies of the same gift - six copies of the hot new CD, or new computer game, or whatever. Repeat after me: "gift receipt, tucked into the accompanying birthday card".

And yes, our kids write thank-you notes a few days after the party. If they haven't done it on their own, DW will sit with them while they do it.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | April 17, 2008 9:17 AM | Report abuse

WorkingMomX, I find that unwanted invites can be declined as follows:

"We're terribly sorry, but DD can't come to the birthday party. We already have a commitment then. We really do appreciate your invitation, though."

If you're concerned about "lying", make the other commitment before you decline the invitation. Then you're telling the truth.

Another commitment can generally be created if necessary, even if it's a trip to Grandma's house or to the park. Dentist appointments are nice, too. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | April 17, 2008 9:20 AM | Report abuse

ArmyBrat

"I've never seen a kids' party where the gifts WEREN'T opened in front of the guests."

So what? When in Rome... If you don't like the customs, don't go back.

Posted by: ??? | April 17, 2008 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I'm in a pretty bad mood today, but you went there first. SAHM, bite me. You obviously either have quite young children and don't know what you're talking about. Report back when your son's best friend, a lovely boy with a crazed queen bee mother whom I despise, has a birthday party after checking first with you to see if your son can attend.

Army Brat -- We do occasionally decline, but as another poster pointed out, these are good friends of my kids. Stuck between a rock and a hard place. And don't worry, I have no problem lying. I'm in HR.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 17, 2008 9:29 AM | Report abuse

WorkingMomX

"And don't worry, I have no problem lying. I'm in HR."

Interesting moral compass.

Posted by: Wow! | April 17, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

ArmyBrat said: "WorkingMomX, I find that unwanted invites can be declined as follows:

"We're terribly sorry, but DD can't come to the birthday party. We already have a commitment then. We really do appreciate your invitation, though."

If you're concerned about "lying", make the other commitment before you decline the invitation. Then you're telling the truth.

Another commitment can generally be created if necessary, even if it's a trip to Grandma's house or to the park. Dentist appointments are nice, too. :-)"

----

I say this and I'm truly not being snarky -- this skill sometimes comes in handy as an adult as well. :) Admittedly the "prior" commitments might have to be different, but the formula is sound....

Posted by: Declining Invites | April 17, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

To: ??? "When in Rome.." Hey, I like Rome. It's a neat city. There are some nice hotels on the Via Vittorio Veneto. I find the Pantheon to be over-rated, but then I never was a Hadrian fan.

But snarkiness aside, I guess it's just the circles in which my family travels. We all learn to open gifts in front of people, and I like those circles.

If your circles don't open gifts in front of others, fine.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | April 17, 2008 9:40 AM | Report abuse

@Wow:

"WorkingMomX

"And don't worry, I have no problem lying. I'm in HR."

Interesting moral compass."

Interesting contribution. You got anything else?

Posted by: m2j 5c2 | April 17, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

My 2 kids, and their friends love opening the gifts at parties. If it's not my kid asking wn it's time to open presents, then it's one of their friends. Really, it's an expected part of the party.

It's not chaos, the birthday child has fun, and from what I have seen, the other kids like to see the gifts as well.

Also, I have not seen the gross cosumerism. Nothing outrageous or overdone. Even gift cards - which we talked about earlier - are fun for the kids.

We don't have large parties, mostly they have been at the house. I will say that the few times we have had a party somewhere else, there was no time to open presents. The kids still asked about it, and were bummed, but understood that there was no time.

Posted by: prarie dog | April 17, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

We always opened gifts at the party.
Why give a gift if nobody is going to open it?

Plus - if you open it and say thank-you right there you can skip the note. It's hard enough to orchestrate a kid party without also having to get those notes written.

Posted by: RoseG | April 17, 2008 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Plus - if you open it and say thank-you right there you can skip the note. It's hard enough to orchestrate a kid party without also having to get those notes written.

Posted by: RoseG | April 17, 2008 9:42 AM

Really? Wow. That's a new one for me!

I'm originally from Long Island, NY, we (kids) open gifts then and there, and send separate thank you notes. I still send thank you notes once in a while at 34, usually it's in an e-mail since this is 2008.

Just goes to show how things are different across the country and no one's right or wrong (rude LURKERS -- that's aimed at YOU).

Posted by: WDC 21113 | April 17, 2008 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Declining Invites

"ArmyBrat said: "WorkingMomX, I find that unwanted invites can be declined as follows:

"We're terribly sorry, but DD can't come to the birthday party. We already have a commitment then. We really do appreciate your invitation, though."

If you're concerned about "lying", make the other commitment before you decline the invitation. Then you're telling the truth.

Another commitment can generally be created if necessary, even if it's a trip to Grandma's house or to the park. Dentist appointments are nice, too. :-)"

----

I say this and I'm truly not being snarky -- this skill sometimes comes in handy as an adult as well. :) Admittedly the "prior" commitments might have to be different, but the formula is sound...."

Yes. Lying, deception, and manipulation are wonderful skills to model to the kiddies.

Posted by: Puzzled | April 17, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Puzzled: "Yes. Lying, deception, and manipulation are wonderful skills to model to the kiddies."

A term for this is "social graces." If you're invited to a friend's house for dinner, and dinner isn't very good, how do you respond when asked "how was the lasagna?" Do you say "my gosh, that was the most disgusting stuff I've ever tasted. Burned on the outside, raw on the inside. And what was that crap you tried to pass off as ricotta?" Or do you say "it was good. It's a little different from how my wife makes it. Thank you very much for inviting us."

And yes, "social graces" - handling a situation without insulting a host and causing an offense - are indeed important to model to children.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | April 17, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

What a bunch of self-righteous people we've got on this blog today.

Yes, I'm in HR and that means I know how to lie. I get lots of practice. I lie really, really well. I might even be YOUR HR Director. The people who come to me crying because so and so is "disrespecting me when we pass in the hall" or "I've spent my paycheck on new clothes again and have no money to pay the mortgage and need another paycheck advance" or "She slammed the ream of paper down on my desk and I think that's rude" believe I actually care about what's going on. I do, to some extent, but not with some of my little problem children -- you know, that 20% on which 80% of my time gets spent. The ones who live for drama.

So sit there on your perch gazing at your "moral compass", and slam away. If I hadn't been doing this for almost 20 years, I might care. As it is, you're just making me laugh.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 17, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

WorkingMomX

"So sit there on your perch gazing at your "moral compass", and slam away. If I hadn't been doing this for almost 20 years, I might care. As it is, you're just making me laugh."

Um. If you didn't care, you wouldn't respond.

Posted by: SAHM | April 17, 2008 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Plus - if you open it and say thank-you right there you can skip the note. It's hard enough to orchestrate a kid party without also having to get those notes written.

Posted by: RoseG | April 17, 2008 9:42 AM

Really? Wow. That's a new one for me!

I'm originally from Long Island, NY, we (kids) open gifts then and there, and send separate thank you notes. I still send thank you notes once in a while at 34, usually it's in an e-mail since this is 2008.

Just goes to show how things are different across the country and no one's right or wrong (rude LURKERS -- that's aimed at YOU).


Posted by: WDC 21113 | April 17, 2008 9:47 AM

Hey, thats what Miss Manners says. If you thank the gift giver in person upon receipt, there is no thank you note needed. Thank you notes are more approriate when gifts are mailed or the giver is otherwise not around when the gift is opened.

Of course, that doesn't explain bridal and baby showers. hmmm

Posted by: Anonymous | April 17, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

@SAHM "Um. If you didn't care, you wouldn't respond."

Nahh, she responds because flame wars with newbies are kind of entertaining. That's different from caring.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 17, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

One poster said, "what is the point in giving gifts if no one is going to open them?" I don't think my kids have ever suffered from the impression that the gifts they were giving were going into a black hole. But again, they have never expected to see them opened.

Honestly, i don't think they have suffered for our circle's eschewing the "open gifts at party" tradition. While it is certainly valid that the "givers" and the "givees" can learn some lessons about graciousness by going through that exercise, I think they can learn those lessons in other contexts.

Like Stacey, our opportunity for demonstrating gratitude comes in the thank you note process. When they couldn't write, our girls would dictate the notes (we would put them on photo cards with pictures of the "giver" and the birthday girl on the cards). I would transcribe without editing, which made for some heartfelt, if amusing, notes. Now they write them themselves, and we've taught them how to write thoughtful notes... to say something nice about the gift -- how they will use it, etc... -- and i think they do a decent job. They do get practice being gracious "in person" recipients of gifts (from family, etc) in other contexts, so I am not too worried. And they get plenty of opportunities in life to let other kids have the spotlight.

Again, I see a lesson in opening at the parties, but on balance I think the trend toward waiting until after is an improvement.

Posted by: MarylandMom | April 17, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

We open afterwards all the time and now my son is FINALLY old enough for us to fill out the thank you card before he can open the next one. boom boom boom, it's all done. This also allowed my son to react privately at one HORRIBLE gift and return it immediately that day without upsetting the gifter.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 17, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

And the reason I don't open presents in front of the kids is that my best friend had a party when we were 8 where he opened the presents at the party and one of the kids broke two of the toys right there in front of us. Absolutely insane behavior and everyone left angry and upset and the kids parents weren't interested in replacing "Cheap" toys that broke easily. I know that story is an anecdote, but I don't want to repeat it in my children's life.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 17, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

DD opens the presents after the party. She likes to save the gift bags and bows.

Last year (age 6) I wrote the thank you notes and she wrote her name. This year she will do most of it herself because of the preprinted forms.

I want her to spend time at the party playing with kids and I want to have fun and help out as needed.

Posted by: shdd | April 17, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Interesting moral compass.

Posted by: Wow! | April 17, 2008 9:32 AM

How much talent does it take to repeatedly copy and paste the same incomplete sentence on blog after blog?

There's nothing like starting the day engaged in a battle of wits with an unarmed woman.

Maryland Mom, spot on, and I'll add another lesson from waiting to open gifts: continued education in being a good host.

A child host or hostess has an opportunity to learn to be a good adult host or hostess. The most important gift the child's friends give him is the value of their time in celebrating his special day. In return, a good child host or hostess greets each of her guests on arrival, shows her guests a good time, makes sure no one is left out of the fun, sees them to the door when they exit, and writes a personalized thank you note that thanks them, first, for attending her party, and second, for her thoughtful gift. Good adult hosts do not gather everyone around to show off each bottle of wine they receive in the form of a hostess gift. Similarly, good child hosts play with their friends, become closer friends, and have a great time, rather than interrupting the flow of the fun for a lesson in how to be the center of attention.

Posted by: Henrietta | April 17, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

"what is the point in giving gifts if no one is going to open them?"

The recipient IS going to open them, but not at the party. Why does it matter to you whether a gift is opened in front of your face? You give a gift for the enjoyment of the recipient. He thanks you verbally on the spot, and in a written thank you note delivered in short order.

Meanwhile, instead of stopping a party dead so that the birthday girl can play Queen for a Day, the children continue to run, jump, play and otherwise enjoy each other. The party is for the kids - remember?

Posted by: MN | April 17, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

The gift cards are tough on young kids. We took my kid to the toy store to buy something, and he didn't quite get what was going on, and he just wanted everything he saw. I think with older kids it could be a good teaching lesson - they can figure out how much they have, how much things cost, if one item is better than another.

We're trying to teach graciousness to my almost 6 YO. He gets very emotional at times, so it's easy for him to just be in the moment (he's just 5) and we try to model behavior like: Well, it was very nice for dad to do XXX for you. It might not have been the way you liked - you can say thank you dad for doing XXX but I think I might appreciate YYY.

I hope it's working...

Posted by: atlmom | April 17, 2008 11:48 AM | Report abuse

That's funny, Atlmom -- my girl is completely the opposite: gift cards are one of her favorite things, because she loooooves going through all the possibilities and choosing just what she wants. Which is funny, because I always saw gift cards as the cop-out for when you didn't know what else to give. :-)

Posted by: Laura | April 17, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Gawd, is this stuff boring. No wonder men cheat.

Posted by: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ | April 17, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Lay off workingmomx!

I'm old school with the thank you notes. They should be handwritten and mailed irregardless of whether you thanked them when you received the gift. If people took time to select, purchase and wrap a gift for my child; the least my child can do is spend 10 minutes writing a proper thank you note. I like mailing them because, in this day and age, how often do you get a real piece of personal mail? It is always such a plesant surprise to get a personal card in the mail. In matters such as this, it is always better to err on the side of more. No one dislikes gettting thank yous but lots of people are disappointed when they don't get one.

I think as the kids get older, opening gifts become more important because they are an active participant in the selection process. Many times my son has been so excited to see his friend open a gift he chose for them. Its a neat feeling, so its not necessarily a killjoy for every party.

Posted by: Moxiemom | April 17, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

What I don't like about the "let's sit around and watch little Jessica open up packages of plastic trinkets manufactured in China" mentality is it puts the emphasis of a gift on material goods as the means to happiness. I don't like what this teaches kids.

Then there's the graciouseness thing. Reminds me of Momof5's post a few days ago where her girls picked out baby dolls for a boy and the mother called and thanked Momof5 ever so graciously for the gift anyway. Hahaha! Social graces indeed!

Makes me wunder how gracious Moxiemom would be if one of her kids unwrapped a toy gun. What to do in that case?

I still think the pretenciousness of the gift giving/thank you note ordeal is a mom thing and men really don't care. However, I will sometimes accept the left over birthday cake when I notess the hostess try to pawn it off on the guests as they leave. Of course, I'll throw it in the nearest dumpster so the hostess doesn't have to feel guilty about doing it herself.

Posted by: DandyLion | April 17, 2008 1:35 PM | Report abuse

"Of course, I'll throw it in the nearest dumpster so the hostess doesn't have to feel guilty about doing it herself."

This MUST be a fake DandyLion! The real one would admit that he'd just eat the cake on the way home. No fuss, no muss!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | April 17, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I agree, DandyLion, doesn't sound like you. And, for the record, I would tell my son to thank the gift giver and then ditch the gun. Its called being gracious not pretentious.

Posted by: Moxiemom | April 17, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I recently posted about this, too. We have never opened gifts at a party, but this year wished I had. My son loved all his gifts so much and really was into them as he opened them. I guess we would have run out of time though. I do thank you notes the week after the party. But someone mentioned taking a picture of them opening the gifts and sending it with the thank yous. It's a great idea. I don't think I would ever get it together enough for that.

Posted by: Linda | April 17, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I admit I was surprised to hear that people do NOT open gifts at the party. I don't think I've ever been to one where they didn't, growing up or now, kids or adults.

Billie- our family has a "sister/brother day" present tradition in which the sibling receives a small gift on the birthday of the other sibling. I think it's really sweet since becoming a sibling IS a big deal, and yeah part of it might be to hush them up and be ok with someone else being the center of attention, it's a sweet tradition and has caused no harm for us.

I don't think there's any should/should not about opening presents at a party, I supposed that's up to the host/guest of honor. At dinner parties I've asked "Should I open this now?" if there's more celebration later and have always been told "YES!"

But as I said on the other post- Stopping the gift opening part of BABY showers is something I'd love to see happen.

Posted by: Liz D | April 17, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

But Moxiemom, if you thanked the gun-giver for the gift, wouldn't you be giving that person the false impression that letting your kids play with toy guns is acceptable in your household?

I don't know about this one. Social graces trumping deep seeded principles? Hmmm...

Posted by: DandyLion | April 17, 2008 3:44 PM | Report abuse

But Moxiemom, if you thanked the gun-giver for the gift, wouldn't you be giving that person the false impression that letting your kids play with toy guns is acceptable in your household?

I don't know about this one. Social graces trumping deep seeded principles? Hmmm...

Ummm... no - there is a time and a place to discuss what your personal views are regarding appropriate toys for your kids and the party is not the time. If this person was a close friend, I might at another time let them know that we don't allow certain things in our home, but if it were an aquaintance, I would thank them and move on. Again, I believe in the principle of courtesy. I don't care how anyone else feels about guns and I certainly dont' need to use a kid's party to try to convert anyone.


Posted by: Moxiemom | April 17, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

when my son was born, my MIL instituted "big sister day" for my daughter (she was 4 at the time). it was a special thing just for the two of them. I think it would still be going on (she's 14 now), but MIL died 3 years ago.

I did teach my kids to write thank-you notes as soon as they were old enough (daughter at 4, son at 5 - no two kids are the same).

The biggest issue we had was that my son was born on Thanksgiving - try having a bday party that weekend! After getting tired of inviting 10 kids and having only 5 show up, at age 9 we stopped the parties altogether and go to sporting events instead - sometimes bringing one friend along. He doesn't miss the presents and usually gets some sort of souvenir. Of course, we always have cake on Thanksgiving, even if that's not his actual birthday (it will be this year).

Posted by: just me | April 17, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

I'll somewhat agree with zzzzzzzzzzz, why do people get so worked up about these things? There are major issues going on in the world. But having read this far, I'll do my part. During over two decades of parenthood, I've rarely been to parties where the birthday child doesn't open the gifts. This fad of NOT doing so seems to have started only in the past few years. Somehow the elites have decided it's declasse, or common, or something. It seems like basic manners -- a guest takes the time and spends a little money to give the host child a gift; the recipient takes the time to open the gift and show his or her appreciation. What's so complicated about that? Basic common sense. But let the overheated debate continue ...

Posted by: Anonymous | April 17, 2008 5:54 PM | Report abuse

We had no-gift parties until our eldest child started 1st grade- we called them "hobbit birthdays" where you give away gifts (goody bags of homemade stuff) instead of receiving them. Then they got one big gift from us at home; a bike, a new baseball set, huge pile of books, something like that. Our kids loved it until they attended a few over the top huge parties with way too much of everything- gifts, candy, games, guests, etc! Now it's a tougher sell. But I think that limiting the guests to the birthday child's age is important- no 20+ invites for us! Our eldest has repeatedly said, at age 7, that he knows birthdays are about friends and fun and not getting stuff.
But when the stuff comes in, we're strict about thank you notes: no playing with the new toy until the TY is written.
For the preschooler we're going with some cupcakes for his class, and then a family-only dinner at his favorite restaurant. Easier on the budget and on the nerves.

Posted by: MomWorks | April 18, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

I find it very hard to decide what an "over the top" birthday is. I grew up with some kids getting the pony rides (hey, it was the early 70s and people in MoCo had ponies), the jugglers, the clowns, the magicians and then the arcades and chuck e cheeses and giant Farrells parties with 31 scoops of ice cream. as teenagers some girls would get actual local bands to play, usually someone's cousin, and have makeshift dances. That was the reality of everyone's birthday party I grew up with.

I hosted and went to those parties when my son was in daycare, but in elementary school all the other parents couldn't believe our fancy party because they WEREN'T GOING TO HAVE ANY PARTY FOR THEIR KIDS AT AGE 5(!!!!!) They were annoyed that we had a party at a museum even though from my perspective it was a toned-down party compared to his cousins, my youth, etc.

Ugh, so parties right now are way way way scaled back and much more primitive than what I grew up with in the 1970s.

I mean, my son's best friend had a small party and I found the PERFECT present for him at $20. Of course we bought it and had it wrapped at the store because the do that for free. Then suddenly I become the "baddy" who is over-inflating gift-giving. I mean with any thought about the kid and online sales, gift-giving should be a no-brainer.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

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