July 3, 2015

The Great Debate: Birthday Party Wishlists - Tacky or Helpful?

Since becoming a parent there have been a few things that have bothered me about modern parenting. I wrote about my crusade to change the way we talk about sleep training, my desire for us to stop comparing our babies to one another and my shock at the reaction to one family's wishlist for their child's birthday. I wrote then that I was making a wishlist for the girls' birthday and planned to distribute it in some way.

Well, I did it. I put a link to the girls' wishlist in their birthday invitations.

I know some people will judge me and say how awful it is. I know it's considered "tacky" and "inappropriate." Maybe one of my relatives will even post it on the interwebs and I'll become internet famous!  The difference between what I did and what that other family did is that I came up with a cute poem and a list of ideas rather than demands and parameters for people to follow, seemingly or else.  Maybe people will think it's still tacky. Maybe people will think it's genius and helpful.

I don't really care either way.

And I don't think other parents should either. I feel like if we all got together and broke it down we would realize that this is not the etiquette rule breaking fiasco that many think it is. But why do people think that way?

Is it really that rude to assume that some people might bring your child a gift at their birthday? Is it that bad to help guide them towards a gift that will be loved? Is it that wrong to try to limit the amount of unnecessary toys they get and instead ensure they receive things they really need or that you want for them?

I recognize that I hold the unpopular opinion here, what I'm trying to understand is why?

Why is it ok to make a list of things you want for your wedding and baby showers but it's super taboo to do it for a 1 year olds' birthday party?  Is it really that different?

Luckily in talking over my decision with a few people I've been able to see the light bulb click and the change in how they see it. Everyone's reaction is at first, "Oh god, how awful of her!" but then when they think about it, usually the response is, "Well, why not?"

Why not save your guests time and money by helping them know exactly what to buy?

Why not help people, many of whom haven't had young children in a long time, easily choose something without the hassle of the toy aisle at Target?

Why not be up front and honest about your parenting choices and wishes to limit the types of toys you children have, especially when it doesn't exactly fit into the mainstream idea?  I mean, my kids' favorite toys are bottle tops and old yogurt containers. Maybe they're weird but why let people waste their money on the new light-up moving doohickey that won't get played with?

My mother told me to just wait until people RSVP and they'll probably ask what they want so I can give them the wishlist then.

Why do we need the extra step?  And when your invitation states "RSVP with Regrets Only", as many do these days, how exactly do you go about doing this?  Should I have waited until people tracked me down, or I have the extra five minutes a day to e-mail or call everyone and explain the link or have a handful of ideas to dole out to people, along with where they can find them?

Maybe it's not supposed to be easy. Maybe the easy way is tacky?

I don't know. And like I said, I don't care.

Here's my argument:

I live in a shoebox and my kids have more than enough "typical" toys as it is.
Not everyone knows what to get a 1 year old so if I can guide them, why not?
I'm not demanding gifts, but not one person I've invited has ever shown up to one of the dozens of birthday parties my family has had over the years without a gift. Why would ours be the first?
We're broke and sometimes can't afford to buy them the things that they need, let alone want.  That's not anyone else's problem but it's my reality. And these days, it's more common than ever. One would think that as family who love and adore my children they would rather give us things we need and want over a bunch of toys that will get played with for a second.

So here's what I wrote, feel free to use it if you decide to be tacky/genius like me:

Your gracious presence is all we request
to help our party be the most fun
But we know that some we love, may bring
a gift in honor of us turning one

Our home and play space are very small
and gifts for babies can be hard to find
So please don't find this tacky, but helpful
Here's a list of ideas, should you be so kind:

I'm not expecting people to purchase everything specifically off the list, in fact I hope they don't. Just like I wrote, it's meant to give them ideas. Ideas of what kinds of toys I prefer for my kids, things that will last in the long run and the types of things that they really need. 

Maybe I'll be judged. Maybe someone will report me to Miss Manners and spread the word that I'm one of the "worst parents in the world". Don't worry, I'll be just fine.  And, on the off chance that one of my relatives is offended I hope they have the heart to tell me rather than put me on blast for all of the internet to judge. But so far the reception has been pretty good. I'll update in a few weeks and let you know how it went!


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