First skirmish lost in presents revolt
There are some money battles you lose. My younger daughter has just turned 7, which turned my mind to the tyranny of birthdays.
In the weeks before the party, I came up with a fantastic plan to spark a children’s birthday party present revolution.
If I had my way, nobody would give anybody else’s children presents at birthday parties. Presents come from mum, dad, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts and grandparents. There’s too much stuff in the world, and children need friends, not more stuff. Life’s expensive enough already.
Sadly, the first version of my plan went down badly.
I suggested we tell all the parents of the 20 or so little invitees that we didn’t want presents, but would have a collection box to raise a bit of money for the SPCA, or to buy a goat for a village in Africa.
The suggestion was received coolly by all.
I can see it in my children’s eyes. Other kids get presents, so why not us?
I tried again.
My daughter had her eye on a particular item. OK, so why not save all the parents a few dollars, and suggest each one chip in a gold coin, and my little one could buy it?
It would be a win-win.
It’s tough finding a ‘‘decent’’ present for other kids’ for less than $15 to $20. Instead, I suggested, we ask the twenty sets of parents to chip in $2 each, or nothing, if they weren’t inclined.
I chatted with work colleagues about this scheme. All the parents thought it was a great idea. Time and money saved by all.
And yet, despite the obvious benefits, my scheme never went ahead.
It all felt too presumptuous. I had all been for writing a letter saying everyone was free to bring no present, a present, or a gold coin. No pressure.
But it looked like I was trying to direct other people’s spending, co-opting their consumer power. There was pressure.
Many worrying questions were raised around the dinner table as the scheme was discussed.
Would it insult people? Would they think we thought they were poor?
Was it in bad taste? Would it look like we were questioning their taste in presents? Were we likely to cause unintended cultural offence?
It is hard to swim against the tide sometimes, and in this case, had a family vote been taken, I would have lost three to one.
OK. Plan number three. We say no presents, have the SPCA box, and I give my daughter $40 for zoo animals.
It was pointed out that risked seeming superior and judgmental, and would reveal my resentment at having to bring presents to other people’s children’s parties.
I recognise defeat. I amlocked into mutual assured birthday gift expenditure.
I guess it is not the end of the world. By 10, their circles of friends get more focused, and the party-count drops fast.
The revolution will have to wait until then.
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