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The 'Right' Birthday Present

It all started innocently enough. Little girl, age 4, invites little boy (my youngest son), also age 4 to her birthday party. Boy and girl are playmates at school.

The conversations start on the way home from school on Friday afternoon:

Boy: I want to go buy [girl's] present.

Mommy: Okay, we'll do that this weekend. What do you want to buy her?

Boy: A fire-breathing dragon.

Mommy: What if they don't have a fire-breathing dragon at the store?

Boy (with much thought): A monster jam (translation: a monster truck)

Mommy: Are you sure she'd like that?

Boy: Yes

Mommy: Well, what does [girl] like to play with at school?

Boy: Cars and trucks

Mommy: Okay. (All the while thinking how am I going to get him to choose something more girly?)

Skip to Saturday; Daddy takes boy shopping. He finds a highly coveted car that shakes and moves on its own. The kind that makes lots of noise and is "automatic." Boy decides that this is THE perfect present for the little girl. A mom with three daughters tries to help Daddy, trying to steer boy to dolls or games or other toys a girl might like more. But boy is not to be deterred.

When did gender roles get so complicated? As a girl, I was a total tomboy -- baseball cards thrilled me as much as stuffed animals or Barbies. And I've always loved sports. Before having kids, I always presumed it was possible -- easy even -- to raise gender-neutral kids.

So, why shouldn't a girl like a car for a present? And yet, we always give games, books or something princess related to girls. And my boys most often get cars, trucks and Legos -- all of which thrill them.

How do gender roles play out around you? Is raising gender-neutral children more a pre-child parent fantasy than reality with most kids?

By the way, I'll report back later on if the gift is a hit with the girl!

By Stacey Garfinkle |  April 14, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers
Previous: 'Are You a Tigger or an Eeyore?' | Next: Computer Time for All Ages

Comments


My advice in those situations, is to provide the gift receipt in the card. That way if the little girl doesn't like the car, her parents can return it and purchase something she does like. I think kids that age want to feel part of the process. So picking out the gift is important to the child, even if they haven't exactly clued it on a gift is about the receiver not the giver. As far as gender roles, it really depends on the kid. My daughter, who is four, is all girl. She is very active, climber, gymnast etc... But her plays still centers around typical girl stuff. She likes dolls, loves the kitchen play sets, and likes little figures and play sets. She also likes a lot of unisex stuff like books, puzzles and DVDs. She has very little interest in trains, cars, action figures, or most sports type stuff. Of course she plays with the random ball but doesn't seem to have a lot of interest. One strange thing is she doesn't like blocks too much or legos. I thought that was a bit odd. She will play occassionally at preschool or at church school. But almost never approaches the lovely blocks sets at home. She does like dinosaurs at preschool. She treats them like dolls. She likes to set them up in scenes with dishes and food and she likes to dance around the room with them. Our boy is still in uetro. So not sure how he will turn out. But our home is dominated by girl stuff, so it should be interesting.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 14, 2008 7:38 AM | Report abuse

I've a crazy day today so I'll be brief. Books are always the right gift.

Posted by: Moxiemom | April 14, 2008 7:45 AM | Report abuse

My now 15 year old daughter cringed every time she got a Barbie or something princessy for a gift. She would have rather had the car! She has only one Barbie that she kept and that was a tattoo Barbie. It was not available at the stores very long - I think it was decided that it was in poor taste or something. She still has that one too!

I agree about the books. You can never go wrong with those. Craft sets are also a good choice. But it is important to let the gift giver have the final say in it!

Posted by: MD Mom | April 14, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

I think that many of us self-select gender-skewed toys without even realizing what we're doing. In my small cohort, most of the girls were given dolls long before they could even hold them, while most of the boys simply don't have any. And we wonder why our now two-year-old girls love to play with their dolls. They've been trained practically since birth to do so.

By the same token, the boys in our playgroup seem to have lots of cars and trains. Of course, now those toys are their favorites.

The funny thing is, most of us have tried really hard not to gender-train our kids. We're all making a concerted effort to avoid the princess scourge, and we're all just trying to ensure that we have happy, healthy active kids. But those gender roles still sneak in.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 14, 2008 8:21 AM | Report abuse

We are in the same boat - first party for a little girl, age 3. My son insists she likes McQueen from Cars. She probably does. I'm thinking of a gender neutral gift, like a game. I'm not having him come pick out a gift with me though. I'll never leave the toy aisle alive if he's with me!

(I really want to get a girly gift, or clothes, because I never get to buy girly stuff!)

Posted by: md | April 14, 2008 8:24 AM | Report abuse

I think if the child can answer the question "why do you think your friend would like this gift?" in a way other than "*I* like it," then it's an appropriate gift.

Posted by: Shandra | April 14, 2008 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Go to Michael's and get cool craft suppplies. it will be something the child doesn't have and they're fairly gender neutral unless you choose to pick up something that's gendered. Get a bunch of stuff and put it in a closet somewhere and never have to run around before a birthday party again. EVeryone loves blendy-pens.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Everyone does NOT love Blendy pens.

Quite frankly, I love that your son knew his friend well enough to choose a gift for her. What more could you want?

Of course gender-specific toys are a good idea for MOST kids. There are always children who like different things. Yay for them. The kinds of gifts my kids love are the kinds of gifts that other kids give them that THEY love. Although for all 3 of mine, Blendy pens do not fall in that category!

Posted by: Andrea | April 14, 2008 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Son, kindergarten, invited to his first school-age birthday party for his friend who has a gender-neutral name. But, the invite is a princess theme. I ask son, is this for your friend, or a girl in your class with the same name as your friend? No, says son, it's for my friend. He likes princesses. Still being naive first-time mom, I believe him.

Flash forward to the party. Son has hand-picked a transformer-type toy for friend. We go to the party. I don't see friend, or friend's mom. I see other parents that I know and ask, Where is friend? Parent points to lovely girly-girl. Hmmmm..... turns out the parents invited everyone in the kindergarten class, regardless of friendship status. My son barely knows who she is.

So, I go to birthday child's mom and explain that my son got confused, and silly me - I didn't see the obvious signs and bought a 'boy' gift for the birthday girl. (The mom even got this crazy look and asked if I even saw the invite. So, now I feel even more ridiculous!)

Anyway, mom says that birthday girl has a little brother and would be more than happy to share. Great, I say. At present opening time, son is waiting anxiously for his gift to be opened. It never happens. Mom took the gift off the table. Son was devastated - he kept asking - Why didn't she open my present? I would have showed her how to play wth it! Why didn't she like my gift!

I felt terrible. Should I have said anything to birthday mom? Did I do the right thing by going to the mom? Did the mom do the right thing by taking the gift off the table? What would you have done? (besides asking the crucial question when rsvp-ing to the party!)

Posted by: prarie dog | April 14, 2008 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Hey Prarie Dog, birthday mom was way out of line. Your poor little guy! My little girl would have loved the transformer. She wants to be a Ninja Turtle for Halloween, and yes, she also loves princesses.

Posted by: olney | April 14, 2008 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Do 4 year olds go to school?

The fact that your kid can't pick out an appropriate gift for his "friend" is a clue that they are too young for this nonsense.

"By the way, I'll report back later on if the gift is a hit with the girl!"


Don't bother. Another silly, elitist topic.

Posted by: Huh? | April 14, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

NewSAHM

"The funny thing is, most of us have tried really hard not to gender-train our kids. We're all making a concerted effort to avoid the princess scourge, and we're all just trying to ensure that we have happy, healthy active kids."

How do you know what "most of us" have tried and "we're all" are trying?

Posted by: Say what? | April 14, 2008 9:18 AM | Report abuse

"Do 4 year olds go to school?"

In the U.S., they do. Pre-kingergarten is practically a requirement nowadays. There's nothing elitist about it. Even the poor kids have Head Start.

FWIW, my daughter would have loved the truck.

Posted by: va | April 14, 2008 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Prarie Dog,

That stinks. Maybe the other mother took the present off the table because she was worried her DD would be a brat about it, and she was trying to spare your son's feelings?

Posted by: reston, va | April 14, 2008 9:24 AM | Report abuse

prarie dog, don't feel terrible about some kindergartener's plastic trinket. nobody will remember, nobody cares, just shrug your shoulders and move on.

Posted by: DandyLion | April 14, 2008 9:26 AM | Report abuse

"How do you know what "most of us" have tried and "we're all" are trying?"

Because we talk. Most of the friends to whom I'd been referring are concerned about these issues, and the come up in conversation.

Or was my comment unclear? I wasn't trying to make a point about all parents, just the ones I'd already mention in the first paragraph of my post.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 14, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Prairie dog - I'm kind of shocked at the whole thing.

First of all, why apologize for bringing a girl a transformer? Part of being a gracious human being is learning to accept gifts that you don't like - or THINK you won't like. Transformers are cool.

Secondly - that mother was so rude!!!

And third - I really don't get the whole gender thing framed as "it's a gaffe to bring cars for a girl." I really don't get it!

Posted by: Shandra | April 14, 2008 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Just wait until your kids get older...it gets worse. Do you know what I hate? Pre-teen/teen parties where the kids give gift cards and the pressure is on to put $20 or more on the card! I am not the only one to find this distasteful.

Many parents are telling the kids that if they have a formal party with invites they have to have "no presents, please" on the invite. This has become the trend at our middle school and I am SO HAPPY! Sometimes my daughter will be shopping and see something that she knows a particular friend will love...oh look, a neclace with a dolphin..and then uses her allowance to buy it for her friend or other times she brings back special candies from a trip for all the kids at her lunch table ....these off the cuff gifts are so much nicer than the staged birthday giftcard item.

Posted by: samclare | April 14, 2008 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Dandylion, I didn't feel bad for the birthday girl. I felt bad for my son, whose feelings were hurt.

And, I don't feel bad anymore - that was 5 years ago! It was such a crazy experience - like everything about it went wrong.

I do think the mom thought her daughter would not like the gift. So, why bother, I guess? Maybe she would have been a brat. Who knows?

Since then, though, I have learned to make it clear to my kids before gift opening time that ALL presents given must be OOO-ed and AHHH-ed over. Even if you already have one, or it's not what you wanted, or whatever.....Every gift gets a hearty "Thanks so much!" because someone liked them enough to go out of their way to get them something - and that alone should make them happy.

So, I guess to anwswer this topic question - I think raising a gender-neutral child works up to a point. I'll throw out 18 months. After that, preferences are definately seen, and outside influences play a major part. But, if your child wants to get a gift for a friend, and you don't think the friend will like it, send a gift receipt.

I think it's great when kids want to shop for friends presents. When they have an idea what they will like and want to share that. Age 4 might be young to really get it. At that age, it is more like the child is shopping for themsleves. But, I'd say around 6 the kids know.

In fact, just this weekend my daughter (7)went to a boy's bday party. She picked out a Incredible Hulk throw blanket and Captain Underpants books. She would never read those books or like that blanket, but she knows what her friend likes. And, I did include a gift receipt, just in case.

Posted by: prarie dog | April 14, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

The conversation is backwards. What is important is to teach both children manners.

Gift Giver: if he is being thoughtful, as he seems to have been, then any age-approporiate gift is fine. He says she'll like it and he's thought about it for a few days.

Gift Recipient: I have five children, including pre-schooler and a teenager. And the only reaction they are taught to have when they open ANY gift is an expression of delight and gratitude. And that starts as soon as they are old enough to have parties - by age 3 or so I start practicing with them.

I don't like gift cards or give them, but if people give them to us, the children know to act thrilled. That is the only polite way to receive a gift.

Commenting on the value of the gift is rude. If my children did that, the gift card would be confiscated and I would shop for someone with better manners.

So, I think the entire issue boils down to making sure that children give and receive gifts graciously. If they turn around and give it to their sibling - they need to wait until every guest has left. I don't need gift receipts because there is usually someone in our house who will play with any gift - and I can always donate to the poor if it's something no one will use.

Posted by: Amelia | April 14, 2008 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Shandra,
I don't know why I felt compelled to apologize - I guess because 'I' knew we shopped for someone else. But, I agree that we need to teach our kids to be gracious about receiving gifts.

I think I would have reacted differently if my son knew it was a girl and still wanted to get the transformer.

Posted by: prarie dog | April 14, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

"I can always donate to the poor if it's something no one will use."

or re-gift it and make it somebody's elses problem to deal with. The sand art kit comes to mind.

Posted by: DandyLion | April 14, 2008 10:52 AM | Report abuse

The worst is receiving a gift that makes the PC parent happy. Girls like girls stuff generally and boys like boy stuff. Something the PC crowd hates. But since they are usually wrong about everything, why would this be any different?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I don't try to sway my kids gift giving ideas (unless they are out of my price range). I am excited that my girls want to pick out the "perfect" gifts for their friends and I don't want to discourage this. My twins each bought a baby doll for their friend who is a boy. I thought it was odd and added a gift reciept to the package. A few hours after the party the bithday mom called to tell me how sweet it was that the girls gave friend a present he would really like and how the dolls were the first thng he opened and had been playing with them all afternoon. My point is, they know their friends better than I do, so why should I try to pick something out?

Now that I have 5, we no longer attend parties for kids who are simply in our class. Buying gifts gets too expensive when you are attending 2 parties a weekend. If it is a child that I have never heard of and the girls don't seem to know them well, we politely decline.

Posted by: Momof5 | April 14, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

To be honest, I think people are putting more into that needed. Most of the kids that I see, (middle class and above) have a ton of toys. So what if they don't like one or two of the gifts given at a birthday party. It isn't like they don't have enough toys for 3 or 4 kids anyway.

It teaches kids to be gracious about receiving something they don't like. Somehow, I doubt the birthday party is the first time they receive something they don't like.

Doesn't everyone have some old Aunt Tilly who thinks socks are a great gift. I know my mother sent prayer cards one year. Yeah, like what kid really wants a prayer card for their birthday.

The point is that it teaches the child to be gracious and hopefully teaches the giver to think about the other person who they are giving a gift to. I think some adults need some lessons on that. But it is age appropriate for a preschooler or even a kindergartener to think about what they like rather then who they are giving the gift too. I think it takes time for them to realize that just because you think a "X" doll is great doesn't mean anyone else does.

I like gift reciepts even for adults. If nothing else, you have no idea if they already have the item or not (that includes books). Why give the kid 3 or 4 copies of the same book? Would you like to just let them return it for a book they don't have.


I am shocked gifts are still expected in MS. Wow, I would have thought the whole gift thing would have been exhausted by elementary schoo.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 14, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: samclare | April 14, 2008 10:10 AM

You're the cheap parent right? The one who wants to give a poem or something made in crafts class to people right? Or perhaps a book you have already read and used and feel that person would JUST love. UGG

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

I went to a birthday party where the wife and husband were fighting. The wife- a nut case I later found out-had my sons gift in her hand and got mad at the dad and flinged my son's gift hard back onto the table and stormed off. I was in shock at the rudeness. My son didn't see it, but we declined all contact with them after that. Unbelievable

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Well I guess I"m a cheap parent too -- because I don't see the point of having kids exchange gift cards. Once you hit middle school they don't give presents anymore. It's either cash or gift cards. It feels tacky. It feels like you're buying your kid his admission to the movie or whatever. There's no opening of the presents -- just the birthday kid shoving a bunch of gift cards in his pocket.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

"Pre-kingergarten is practically a requirement nowadays." -va

--Last time I checked, only K-12th grade is a requirement. Unless the government starts funding Pre-K, it is NOT a pre-requisite to enter in kindergarden. A child *must* be enrolled in school by the time he/she is 5 year old by a certain calendar date. A 4 year old *may* enroll in school by his/her parents choice.

Posted by: Soguns1 | April 14, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

" My twins each bought a baby doll for their friend who is a boy. I thought it was odd and added a gift reciept to the package. A few hours after the party the bithday mom called to tell me how sweet it was that the girls gave friend a present he would really like and how the dolls were the first thng he opened and had been playing with them all afternoon."

--*shrugs* I would be inclined to think that parent was lying to me. Oh well, at least she called to thank you....

Posted by: Soguns1 | April 14, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

If a girl doesn't have any brothers then sometimes a "boy" toy is novel and they they enjoy it.

I was always kind of cheezy on birthday presents. It bothered me much less to let $10 be spent on something I suspected might get given away or tossed. My feeling was that the present should be nicely wrapped because it's really all about the anticipation.

So I think I'd let my child pick out whatever. Boys who've been in daycare with other girls usually have a clue about what the girls play with.

Posted by: RoseG | April 14, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Soguns1


"Last time I checked, only K-12th grade is a requirement. Unless the government starts funding Pre-K, it is NOT a pre-requisite to enter in kindergarden
"A child *must* be enrolled in school by the time he/she is 5 year old by a certain calendar date. "

It's 6 year's old in my state. Or homeschooling.

Posted by: Different drummer | April 14, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

I always include a gift receipt so the item can be returned if it is a duplicate, etc. I also try to ask the parents for suggestions. Otherwise, I use the invite theme as a guide.

As for gender neutrality, I don't put a lot of thought into it. I let my kids be who they are and play with the toys they like.... I have boy/girl twins who share most toys with each other so my daughter plays with trucks and dinosaurs sometimes and my youngest son plays with dolls and princesses sometimes. We don't say that certain toys are for girls or boys. Their favorite toys and books do seem to fit the gender stereotypes.


Posted by: Mom_2_LED | April 14, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

She said "practically" a requirement. In California, and I'm sure other states that passed similar laws after NCLB, Kindergarteners must have a whole range of skills to progress to first grade that may be difficult for a child to master if K is their first year of exposure to the school environment. You can still just teach your kids at home, but there's no guarantee they'll pass out of K without the foundations from Pre-K.

As for the gender-neutral thing, my stepdaughter loves arts and crafts and books and stuffed animals. She loves doing her "work"books (coloring books with puzzles and writing challenges in them), and will sit down and do 10-15 pages when she's bored. For her birthday she got a spirograph, a stained "glass" kit, and a bunch of sidewalk chalk, and we used up half the bucket of sidewalk chalk that weekend (but are now waiting for a significant rain to wash the ground clean so we can make another mural).

She has always preferred a well-constructed stuffed animal to baby dolls, and books to the point where she is content to listen to me read Bruce Coville books (without pictures) and ask me questions about the story.

I'm not sure why it's so hard for birthday shoppers to avoid both the pink aisle and the blue, spiky aisle, and go for the bright, primary colors. Even stickers would be appropriate for both ages, perhaps with a sticker album to the kid can start a "collection".

Posted by: Kat | April 14, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

If you're going to take your child shopping, why not shut up and listen to him? Why all the effort to reinforce gender roles in the store? The two messages you rammed home were: (i) your son's input is irrelevant, and (ii) all girls like X. What a wasted opportunity to teach your child how to purchase gifts, by considering what the recipient likes that is within your budget.

foamgnome, great post, although you didn't mention sage green items, LOL.

Posted by: MN | April 14, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

"It's 6 year's old in my state. Or homeschooling."

--That's nice. The point that I was making is that Pre-K is not a requirement before entering in kindergarden.

Posted by: Soguns1 | April 14, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I guess I am the cheap "one who wants to give a poem or something made in crafts class to people right? Or perhaps a book you have already read and used and feel that person would JUST love."

My daughter has made many of her gifts for her friends since she was in the 2nd or 3rd grade. She evens makes her own gift cards. The children have always liked what she has given them because she takes the time to personalize them. And yes, she picks out books that she has read and loved and given them as presents (new,not used). Early on she saw that children at parties recieved a lot of the same thing and decided she wanted her gift to be different. Since I refuse to spend huge sums of money on kids who don't need the present anyway, I'm thrilled that she is willing to make something. Now that she is older, it may be a scarf or hat that she has knit herself, bracelets, journals, etc. In fact, many of the kids look forward to Valentines Day because she hand makes every card with a personlized saying (not just their name). What better way to say you are my friend.

Posted by: Another mom | April 14, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

"She said "practically" a requirement. In California, and I'm sure other states that passed similar laws after NCLB, Kindergarteners must have a whole range of skills to progress to first grade that may be difficult for a child to master if K is their first year of exposure to the school environment. You can still just teach your kids at home, but there's no guarantee they'll pass out of K without the foundations from Pre-K."

--...And yet in California, it's still not a requirement before entering kindergarden. Guess the kindergarden teachers in California better ramp up their skills so that their students can pass onto the next grade level. Oh wait...I thought that should be a goal of any decent teacher.
So tell me, is pre-K (the pre-requisite before entering kindergarden) free in CA? What about any other states? I can't think of one state that requires a child completes pre-K before enrolling in kindergarden. If there is such a state, then I'm sure their state government funds their public pre-schools as to make is free for all parents.

Posted by: Soguns1 | April 14, 2008 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Soguns1 -- we get it already.

For what it's worth, I went to pre-K in NY at 3 years 9 months of age. And that school district STILL has that program 30+ years later.

***

When I was a kid, I had a friend (the only kid my age in the neighborhood at the time) who was a boy who had a baby doll and a carriage. And I played with cars. We both turned out okay.

Posted by: Wondering | April 14, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Another mom | April 14, 2008 12:23 PM

You are kidding yourself. That craft you made gets tossed the minute you leave and the transformer set gets played to death. But if it makes you happy to think that more power to you.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Well, K is not required in GA and I bet it's not required in most states. I bet most parents think it is (I did before it was pointed out to me), so they send their kids. It is crazy, actually, as kids in first grade are expected to do all sorts of things, yet K is not required. !!!!!

Posted by: atlmom | April 14, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

and i avoid the princess route at all costs - no dolls or anything. Most parents with girls I speak with indicate how it just appears, and they are not exactly happy with the whole princess thing.

I usually try gender neutral anyway. The last party we got invited to i was told no gifts. People brought them anyway. I suspect they were like me (us) in that they have way too much stuff, so I was happy not to give them something when they didn't want anything. I keep meaning to make a donation to the org. that runs the preschool they are in together...

Posted by: atlmom | April 14, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

when my kids were younger (they're now 10 and 14) I would simply ask the parent when RSVPing. Now, for the 10-y.o. (who doesn't get invited to many parties anyway) I ask him what he thinks his friend would like, and if it's within reason we get it.

Worse than gift cards is kids (in middle and h.s.) giving each other cash! Talk about putting no thought into a gift. At least if you get a gift card it shows you know where they like to shop (esp girls - yes I know it's sexist, but true).

My daughter has now started making blankets for her friends. Just buy two appropriately-sized pieces of flannel material - place them back-to-back and cut about 4" strips all around. Tie the strips together (one of each color) - it looks adorable! Everyone she's given them to seems to like them... girls and boys.

Posted by: just me | April 14, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

"and i avoid the princess route at all costs - no dolls or anything. Most parents with girls I speak with indicate how it just appears, and they are not exactly happy with the whole princess thing. "

More PC nonsense, perhaps greta the granola girl doll will be better for their "sensitivities". I truly feel sorry for the kids with these nutty PC parents. "Hey mom can I get a happy meal?" No sweetie, they don't have gay marriage benefits and don't use beef that has been organically grown in certified comfort pens and they don't endorse south american ranchers trade rights, blah blah blah.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

To the person who thinks homemade things will get thrown away and the plastic junk toys will prevail:

I am not someone who keeps much (800 sq. ft. house, no attic, no basement), but I do have a treasured box full of homemade "garbage" my friends and I made for each other and many many homemade Christmas ornaments that are far more dear to me than the fancy ones.

Speak for yourself and enjoy your pile of plastic garbage.

Posted by: MaryB | April 14, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: MaryB | April 14, 2008 1:30 PM

Oh yeah because at a toy store, the homemade scarves, knit hats and bracelet junk section is just overflowing with excited kids........

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Exactly.

Posted by: MaryB | April 14, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

No, exactly not.....

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

boy you people are snippy! this is not rocket science, it's just birthday presents.

Posted by: just me | April 14, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Hey dad, can I get Bumblebee transformer like all my friends have? No, son, but here's a lopsided rainbow knit hat made in crafts class! gee dad your the best......sheesh

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Love your post, Stacey. Glad you let your son choose the gift. Who knows if his friend will like her truck? But he had fun picking it out. Also love your internal monologue (how many of these do i have when my kids are doing something *I* would not choose but is not such a big deal?) -- as for gender stereotyping, I definitely used to be in the gender-roles-are-socialized-100% camp and now that I *have* a girl and a boy (who appear to have read that book on gender stereotypes in utero - forget an 18 month window for gender neutral anything) I see that there's a grain of truth in this one as with many stereotypes. Am I still a crunchy granola parent who will try to avoid cheap plastic crap? You betcha. And was I a tomboy? 100%, so the stereotypes didn't hold true for me. But I am going to let my kids be who they want to be -- and it's great you're letting your son be the kind of friend he wants to be. Fascinating comments as usual! ;)

Posted by: MamaBird/SurelyYouNest | April 14, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

"i avoid the princess route at all costs - no dolls or anything."

Hear, hear. That stuff is insidious. I figure I can't do anything about what my daughter soaks up on her own, but I'll be darned if I'm the one who will bring it into my house.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 14, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

MamaBird/SurelyYouNest

"But I am going to let my kids be who they want to be -- and it's great you're letting your son be the kind of friend he wants to be. Fascinating comments as usual! ;)"

What a suckup. Do you ever give it a rest?

The comments are the same old, same old. Do you get out much?

Posted by: Sheesh | April 14, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Chiming in late but I agree with those who buy books, games or crafts. I also tend to buy in bulk - saves money and trips to the store. Now that my daughter is 8, she knows her friends well enough to provide helpful advice on gift choice so we have veered away from our standards -- mostly to those Wedkinz stuffed animals, which are also primarily gender-neutral.

I also insist my children show excitement for all gifts. They are also required to pick a certain % of their gifts to donate to a hospital. My rule is, if you want to invite 15 kids to your party fine but there is no way you are keeping all those gifts. I also put one or two things away for summer surprises. My kids have fall/winter birthdays and during rainy days at home in summer, it's fun to pull out a new game or toy from the back of the closet to pass the time.

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | April 14, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | April 14, 2008 2:06 PM

Groan..........Hey it's your birthday but you don't get to keep the gifts! Wow, can't wait til next year! Phony feel goodism on display today.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Isn't this part of the RSVP process? You call to confirm you will be attending, then you ask if there are any particular gift recommendations or ideas.

Seriously, let the friends pick out a present they want to give. I think all this "SHOULD BE nuetral, SHOULD BE education, SHOULD BE healthy" is a lot worse than "girls like X and boys like Y" stuff when it comes to learning about the process of giving a gift.

Yes, you learn to smile and thank graciously no matter what gift you get, but really, if you're giving a gift, make it a sincere one that you really believe the person will enjoy for what it is- not to push any of your agendas.

For the record, my 7 yo nephew ADORES littlest pet shop stuff and while the father is a bit uneasy about it, the rest of us completely support it.

Posted by: Liz D | April 14, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Hey dad, can I get Bumblebee transformer like all my friends have? No, son, but here's a lopsided rainbow knit hat made in crafts class! gee dad your the best......sheesh

Posted by: | April 14, 2008 1:39 PM

Or on my daughter's team at the holiday exchange another bottle of wierd smelling stuff from the store or the hand made scarf? She actually got asked to make ones for other girls. Now of course my daughter was 12, old enough to have some skill, so it wasn't lopsided.

Posted by: Mom_of_1 | April 14, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

PT Fed Mof2

"My rule is, if you want to invite 15 kids to your party fine but there is no way you are keeping all those gifts. I also put one or two things away for summer surprises. My kids have fall/winter birthdays and during rainy days at home in summer, it's fun to pull out a new game or toy from the back of the closet to pass the time. "

Please up your meds.

Joan Crawford did the same thing.

Posted by: Mommie Dearest | April 14, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Yes, you learn to smile and thank graciously no matter what gift you get, but really, if you're giving a gift, make it a sincere one that you really believe the person will enjoy for what it is- not to push any of your agendas.

BINGO!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm baffled as to why you are so sure the girl won't like the truck, or that you need to get a "girl" present. My son and his girl cousin play princesses, trucks, dinosaurs, "family" (what we called house), shopping, and pretty much every other game you can think of with equal pleasure. Today when I dropped my son off at preschool, a little girl ran up and asked if he wanted to play Batman. I see no reason to doubt your son that she plays with cars at school - why wouldn't she?

If you're really worried, bring the gift receipt as FG suggested. Or maybe go choose the gift yourself instead of trying to convince your son that his girl friends only like princess dolls.

Posted by: Baffled | April 14, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

My 4 year-old girly girl (won't leave the house unless wearing a dress and carrying her red purse) would LOVE that gift. It would be great on its own and even better as a way to transport dolls to and from their social events. I hope some boy in her class thinks of it for her up-coming birthday!

Posted by: MomOnLeave | April 14, 2008 3:46 PM | Report abuse

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.

My mother-in-law thinks this is horrible -- she says, "but kids LOVE to see their present get opened." I dont' remember loving that. Maybe a little when mine was being opened, but I remember some boredom while I sat there through the kid openeing the rest. And when I was really little, I'm guessing what I mainly felt was jealousy! I distinctly remember giving a frances book to someone for a party and her announcing that she already had it.

My kids do not care about seeing their gifts get opened, but it's never been part of their experience. Personally, I like the trend. Maybe they are missing out on a chance to learn to sit patiently and to appreciate someone else's good fortune, but they are pretty gracious children, so I don't think they've suffered.

Posted by: MarylandMom | April 14, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

"Everyone we know waits until after everyone has left before their child opens the gifts."

BRILLIANT! I would love to see that practice here. Sitting through the present opening at my neice's last b-day party just about did me in. It took forever, we were all hungry, the other kids were going bonkers.

Posted by: Baffled | April 14, 2008 4:01 PM | Report abuse

MM:I have seen both ways (some open and some wait). I think it also depends on the number of guests and the age of the guests.

We have always opened the gifts at our parties but we have had small at home parties.

But if you invite the entire first grade class, it does seem to take a lot of time to open gifts. Also a lot of parties are hosted at an away party place. There usually isn't time between your party and the next to open presents.

I find the parents that want to see the gifts opened are usually not from this area or older. I personally don't care and don't think the kids care too much.

I try to ask parents what they want to do. We ran out of time at my daughter's fourth birthday party. All the kids were on melt down mold. So I let the kids open the gift they brought. One little girl's mother wouldn't let her open the gift. So my daughter got to open one herself. Personally, the kids thought it was a blast to open someone else's gifts. Did not seem to bother my daughter either.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 14, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

"Well, K is not required in GA and I bet it's not required in most states. I bet most parents think it is (I did before it was pointed out to me), so they send their kids." -atlmom

--I seriously doubt you know what you are talking about. Anyhow, that's not even my point.

Posted by: Soguns1 | April 14, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm up for banning the gift opening portion of baby showers.

Posted by: Liz D | April 14, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

"Everyone we know waits until after everyone has left before their child opens the gifts."

Same here. The focus of the birthday should be getting together with friends and having fun. Making present-opening the main event only serves to emphasize the gifts over having fun with friends.

Posted by: MN | April 14, 2008 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Get a grip people. At all of the parties my children have been to (now 10 and 12) their friends always opened their presents. ALL of the kids were excited to see what the birthday child got. Course in our circle we don't invite the entire grade and our children were always taught to behave and appreciate their friends special days.

After reading this blog I now see the parents of all of the spoiled children I keep reading about.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 6:43 PM | Report abuse

I am so confused about why 75% of the comments on this blog are just plain rude and hateful. I hope you all don't talk to people like that in real life.

Posted by: AL Mom | April 15, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

*rolls eyes* Why is it that anyone who actually thinks about the wider consequences of their actions gets dismissed as "PC?" Oh, yeah, because you don't want to have to admit that a "do whatever I want, no matter who it hurts, and screw the rest of you" attitude doesn't make you an independent, free-thinking individual, it makes you a nasty, selfish, self-centered jerk with no concern for anything that doesn't directly and immediately affect your short-term well-being.
Give your kids as many happy meals as you like, make sure they get as many toys as they like (but only the ones that are gender-appropriate - wouldn't want them to have to do something new and interesting, after all), and make sure they never have to be polite or respectful when given a gift that isn't expensive, plastic, and exactly what they want at that given moment. God knows a child should never have to be grateful for *shudder* a homemade gift. But don't kid yourself that teaching your kids to be spoiled little entitlement brats makes you a better parent.

Posted by: Katja | April 15, 2008 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Wow.

Posted by: e2h | April 21, 2008 7:55 PM | Report abuse

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