One Birthday, Two Parties: One Problem

February 8th, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  4 Comments

As Nathan informed us all yesterday, he is an absolute genius at planning children’s birthday parties. Seriously! In fact, he’s soon to be heading up a new DadWagon division, Pint-Size Parties R Us. Profitability is, at last, in our future!

I jest, of course. (DadWagon has been hugely profitable since Day One.) Jean, Sasha and I attended Dalia’s morning birthday event, and had a wonderful time. Actually, it was one of the most enjoyable kid-parties I’ve ever been to, though that was largely because all the kids were now, finally, around at least 2 years old, and so needed slightly less supervision. I didn’t hear much crying, Sasha got to lick the frosting off a cupcake, and all was well with the world.

There was, however, one teensy-weensy little problem with the whole thing. In e-mailing the invitation, Nathan and his wife, Julia, made one stipulation: no presents. Now, you’d think this would be a freeing moment. Ah, we’d all go, no need to drop $3 on some piece of plastic crap!

But for me, at least, it sparked a rush of anxiety. Is this, I asked myself, a directive intended to be ignored? A kind of humble, aw-shucks, we-don’t-need-nothing falsehood?

Even if it’s honest, I imagined, I pictured everyone else ignoring it anyway, and presenting Dalia with monumental boxes wrapped in exotic fabrics, tied up in silk, containing, I don’t know, taekwondo princesses or some shit. And there Jean, Sasha and I would be, empty-handed, the lone idiots among Nathan’s circle of friends not to realize that “no presents” is a phrase one always disregards.

As all these worries flooded my mind, I knew to ignore them. Nathan had asked for no presents, so we would comply with his wishes. But this annoyed me in one last way, too: He was, presumably, asking for no presents because his kids already have too much crap. And frankly, I think the punishment for parents buying their kids too much crap is to have even more crap foisted upon them. That’ll teach ’em!

In the end, of course, we brought Dalia nothing but ourselves. And she seemed happy enough with that. Next year, though: The Thornburgh family better clear some space in the basement!


  1. SCOTTSTEV says:

    February 8th, 2011at 11:21 am(#)

    You don’t how badly I want to have no-present birthdays. It’s easier with little-ones, so I congratulate Nathan on managing to get the 5th birthday successfully (I can barely get through no-present weekends lately, though these are the few tantrums and crying jags I enjoy causing).

    Where I live, however, this is very much against the grain and putting such a request in an invitation would basically throw a gauntlet down at all of our friends and neighbors which is decidedly not what I want to do. I live in the burbs for a reason, and accept the good with the bad. We simply don’t want more crap, and don’t want our children to equate happiness with material possessions.

    So I just smile and accept the 40 gifts of crap: and save my morality lessons by explaining to my son that no, he shouldn’t expect a fucking Bayblade every fucking Saturday and to go ahead and fucking cry for 20 minutes because that funny feeling in the pit of his stomach is the feeling of character slowly growing inside 38 pounds of pure solipsism.

  2. Nathan says:

    February 8th, 2011at 11:32 am(#)

    @SCOTTSTEV totally fascinating that it’s less en vogue in the suburbs. I guess Matt was right about our motivations, though: they are mostly related to the fact that we have zero goddamn space in our apartment.

    I shouldn’t set myself up as a champion ascetic, though. The girl still gets her way, and equates happiness very much with material things. This was, after all, the first year in which she said things like “that’s not a very interesting present” (we had, as in prior years, wrapped up some new art supplies, drawing pads, etc., along with a couple more substantial board-game gifts). So she’s as afflicted as any suburban kid, I’d wager, just as we tend to buy things that we don’t need at unnecessary prices, for therapeutic purposes, at times…

  3. karen says:

    February 14th, 2011at 12:11 pm(#)

    Here in Vancouver, where living space is becoming more of an issue and kids have too much crap … er … I mean playthings … from day before-you’re-born, there is a growing trend of twoonie and fiver parties.

    The idea is that the kids bring cards (mostly homemade, when did that become the norm?) with two twoonies (er, that’s a two-dollar coin, for you yanks who still value paper ones) or two fives. The kid keeps 50% of the take, and chooses something to keep (or to save the money, whatever floats their boat ) and picks a charity for the other 50%.

    Of course, this requires that the parent gets them to the charity of their choice, which usually takes me till the next year …

    Some, though only the most aesthetic or self-conscious parents request the charity cash only … we buy a book for the kid as a kind of f-u … but hey … I like presents!!!

    The best thing about a fiver party is that the total “gift” is $10 … a near impossible feat when trying to buy something for the kid, but not so little that one feels cheap. Added bonus: no last-minute dash to the local toy boutique for something hideously expensive AND plastic.

  4. Winfred Ronny says:

    December 15th, 2011at 6:57 am(#)

    I shouldn’t set myself up as a champion ascetic, though. The girl still gets her way, and equates happiness very much with material things.

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