Excess or When is Enough Enough?

When I was a kid, I loved going to friends’ birthday parties. Most times, I loved them because they were at ultracool places like McDonald’s or Showbiz Pizza. I can remember bringing along a little gift for the birthday boy/girl. Then, we’d stuff our faces and run and play for couple of hours. Now days? It all seems so different. Maybe because I’m the grown-up taking my kids or maybe I’m just old. Now it seems like there are 45 people at a 4-year-old’s birthday and little girls are getting “make-overs” (how do you make over a perfect little 4-year-old in the first place?). It all seems so excessive. Two distinct birthday parties come to mind when I think of the excess. Both of these parties were for toddler girls and both had so many presents that I literally was a little ashamed. Mind you, I did not bring the onslaught of gifts, but when I sat back and took in the scene all I could think of is how spoiled we all are and how much neither of those precious girls needed 55 new toys that day. In the last couple of days, I’ve come to a decision that may not be so popular with my children’s friends.

 I am no longer buying birthday presents for children’s parties my kids go to.

How can I take my kids to a party without a gift? Well, instead, I’m going to use the money I’d spend on some useless toy to make a donation in that child’s name. I don’t know how happy the parents or the birthday kid will be, but after going to parties where the kid is literally surrounded by gifts, I’m just over it. Ava went to about 8-10 birthday parties last year, and she wasn’t even in school then. I don’t know how many we’ll have for her to go to this year. Soon, Binh will be getting into the whole birthday thing as well. That would be a few hundred dollars spent to buy kids stuff they don’t need and will have lost within a few months anyway. So I figure, why not spend that money on something that could actually make a difference in someone’s life?

I constantly think about how when we were in Vietnam, we went to the ATM and took out the equivalent of what a family there makes in a year.

Then, we stuck it in our pockets and went to dinner.

I want my kids to know they are blessed and we as Americans have so much to be thankful for- things like clean water, houses not made of corrugated metal, and schools we get up and go to every morning knowing that it will be staffed with happy, capable people willing to teach them, not to mention separate bedrooms stocked full of books, toys, games, and almost anything else they could possibly think they want.

I know all of my friends live the same way. They wouldn’t miss the gift if I didn’t give them one directly. I will research and try to tailor the donation to the child’s personality. Then, I can give them a card telling them how their birthday has helped someone else.

I know I won’t be saving the world, but sometimes our enough really is enough.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lauren Cristina Vitrano-Wilson
    Sep 09, 2010 @ 07:30:59

    Awesome! I love this idea and want to say how much I agree and am so refreshed to read this. 🙂


  2. E.
    Sep 09, 2010 @ 14:13:12

    Amen! This line of thinkng was the whole source of our family Christmas debacle a couple of years ago. I was just sick of sending presents to people who don’t need them when I knew we could all work together to do something better. Now we just do nothing instead. Well, nothing together. The husband and I have always tried to do something at Christmas to help someone, and we still do. I like the idea of extending it to birthday parties.


  3. Christina
    Sep 09, 2010 @ 17:25:45

    What a great idea. These days the kids don’t even open the presents in front of their friends (I understand the idea that present opening takes too long and might lead to comparisons or whatever… but doesn’t that take the joy of giving away from all the guests?) so it’s not like Ava will be there if the kid is disappointed she didn’t get yet another barbie or pretty pony.

    I’ve taken the “hard line” that my kids only go to parties of kids they actually know and play with. I just got so sick of these entire class parties where I’m dropping $25 on a gift for a kid my child hardly even knows.


  4. Tracy @ My Minivan Rocks!
    Sep 09, 2010 @ 17:57:28



  5. 1beautifulmess
    Sep 09, 2010 @ 18:03:46

    I love it.


  6. Jaime
    Sep 10, 2010 @ 01:01:18

    I love this idea. These dog gone birthday parties are completely out of hand. I was also thinking about donating gifts received to a charity like toys for tots, a pediatric cancer or AIDS center or a homeless shelter (if my kid ever arrives!!!) . Maybe let him pick one or two to keep, but then have him donate the rest (after all of the thank you notes are written, of course). Then hopefully, he is also getting a sense of giving back to those who aren’t as fortunate. Let me know how it goes. I would personally be honored if someone gave a charitable donation in my child’s name.


    • metaphase
      Sep 10, 2010 @ 18:53:11

      It’s just hard once a little kid sees a new toy to tell them, “no, you are going to give that to someone else”. Maybe as they get older, but I think not having it in the first place might be better at this stage.


  7. sarah
    Sep 12, 2010 @ 15:49:32

    I think that is a really great thing to do, you are right – we are so spoiled and no kid really NEEDS a million toys or another barbie/car or whatever…. There are a lot of kids all over the place that don’t even have clean panties/underwear or a meal to eat at night. It is really sad and I feel ashamed a lot as well. I think your idea for a charitable donation is wonderful! I am sure the parents will feel the same way. Convincing a 6 year old that it is cooler than the newest video game may be a hard sell, but it can be a teaching lesson for them. Love it!


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