Birthday party invitations come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some arrive in the mail, some merely pieces of 8 1/2 x 11 paper, printed at home and hastily folded into messy rectangles before being handed out at school. But no matter how they look, there is a uniformity to their contents. Time, date, location, RSVP. There’s really not much room for improvisation.
On this day, I was standing in my kitchen shuffling through the graded school papers my daughter had brought home in her backpack, when a perfectly ordinary hot pink envelope slipped out of my hands and onto the counter. Nothing about this envelope hinted that it was different from any other invitation we had ever received, so I picked it up, unaware that its contents were about to make my head explode.
My daughter’s name was written neatly on the front in purple ink, surrounded by hand-drawn hearts and swirls and a few random spots that I assume were meant to be polka dots, and the back was sealed shut, not with a wax seal that would have set off my inner modernist alarms, but with a more-or-less harmless Monster High sticker.
“It’s a party!” the inside read, followed by the birthday girl’s name and the time and location of her celebration. The black and pink invitation was decorated with monsters-turned-high school girls, or high school girls-turned-monsters, I don’t know which, something that makes my skin crawl but with which my almost 9 year old daughter is already familiar.
My eyes alighted on a sticker at the bottom, blue with a hot pink mouth that has vampire fangs protruding over the bottom lip and the words “Save the Date” scrawled across it. Not much unusual there (if you discount that “save the date” is usually reserved for wedding invitations) until I read the slip of paper stuck under that sticker.
“A baby registry is available at target.com.”
Wait, what is this? A baby registry? My eyes glazed over as I tried to make sense of this seemingly innocent scrap of paper.
Picking up the envelope, I looked once again to make sure it had my daughter’s name on the outside and not my own, because why would she be invited to a baby shower? No, the invitation was clearly for a birthday party. For a third grader. The purple ink and girlish decorations had not changed.
Was it an accident? My instincts told me that this had to be a mistake. This little piece of paper must be for something else, and it fell into the invitation and was sealed inside unnoticed. I pictured the birthday girl’s mom standing at her own kitchen counter, looking around confusedly and thinking, “I know I had that registry slip somewhere around here… Where could it have gone?” She probably shrugged and figured she’d find it later.
That must be how it happened, because the alternative is mind-blowing. Because the baby registry couldn’t have been put into that birthday invitation on purpose.
Because birthday registries for kids are not a thing.
There can’t actually be parents out there who think to themselves, “Gosh, wouldn’t it be a disaster if Little Susie’s guests showed up with a gift she doesn’t want? How embarrassing.” Surely there are no parents out there teaching their children that it’s okay to dictate to their guests what they should purchase. Surely no one is really so entitled to think that forming a baby registry for their 9 year old’s class birthday party is appropriate. Right?
I have such a problem with that idea because it’s pretty much exactly the opposite of what I’m trying to teach my kids. I want my kids to feel that birthday parties are for celebrating you on your special day, but that your friends don’t come to kneel at the altar and pay homage to you in all of your glory. I’m trying to teach my children that gifts should be given freely and of a generous spirit. I want my kids to know that if someone brings you a gift, you should be grateful for their thoughtfulness, no matter what is in the wrapping.
Gifts should be appreciated, not expected.
Giving my head a moment to clear from the implications of this invitation, I did check out the registry to see if it was really a wish list of birthday gifts and not a baby registry that had fallen into the most unfortunate of envelopes.It was a not a mistake. (She’d really like some black knee high boots. And they’re on sale!)
I can’t help feel like the birthday girl’s parents are setting her up to be let down. How will she feel when she opens her gifts and they’re not all exactly what she wanted? I can’t say for sure, but something makes me think that helping her to handle disappointment graciously isn’t high on their list of priorities.
For now, I’ll just keep explaining to my kids that birthday gifts are less about what you want than they are about friends who choose gifts as a way to show how much they care. I’ll remind them that it’s the thought that counts, not what’s in the box.
And I’ll remind them as many times as it takes: when it comes to birthday gifts from friends, “you get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” Even if that means you get nothing at all.
About the author: Jennifer Oradat is a freelance editor and writer, mom, military wife, and fount of useless knowledge. Her work has been featured on Scary Mommy, Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and more. So pull up a chair, put up your feet, and go follow her on Twitter. You two will like each other!
I’d be reading the list exceptionally carefully and finding something that was the opposite of EVERYTHING on the list.
Then you could have the joy of writing a post about being approached by a parent to return a gift and buy something more appropriate…
So, I did this for my son’s 3rd birthday party…but it wasn’t really a registry but more or less a piece of paper with some ideas on it instead of 20 text messages from people who would ask me. And he had just been diagnosed with MERLD and SPD and I wanted him to get some FUN & EDUCATIONAL gifts to help us out at home. Guests were more than willing and most of them got gift cards to therapy places. I think it’s one thing to put down some ideas then to make an actual registry with toys/gifts ON it…I am also a single mom and thought that just MAYBE doing that would help me out with having to buy a bunch of therapy related stuff….i.e. weighted blanket, weighted vest, etc…I got to use those gift cards to help offset those costs and it was AWESOME!
this is how i feel about any gift list, it’s the whole assuming thing which can appear thoughtless. Obviously some people like it though – means they have to put zero thought into what they take as a gift. I also always disliked the kind of party where the whole class gets invited and presents bunged on a table somewhere to be opened later, that’s just plain weird!
Dear Jennifer, while I understand what you are saying I do completely disagree. For me I’d like to know that if I’m gifting something, my gift will be used and not sit in a corner collecting dust or just donated to goodwill… However you did not take into consideration all those children whom like mine is disabled. Even though he’s now 6yrs old his fine motor skills are that of a 2yr old. So, making a gift registry to make it easier to those who wish to buy him something is the right thing. As much as I’d love for him to get a gift I’d hate it if the gift that he opens is something that he will struggle with and cry because he’s unable to use it. I’d bet no one wouldn’t want to give the birthday child or anyone something they’re unable to utilize. To me seeing anyone getting something that they totally want is much nicer, than the gift itself.
Assholes? Takes one to know one apparently. The tone of this tripe is a bit too self righteous, but good to know there are still martyrs out there.
No way, I love it when people provide registries! I don’t want to waste my money on a gift that won’t be used, and I don’t want my son to get a bunch of junk that he won’t use either. I don’t see anything wrong with having a registry or wishlist, it cuts down on waste and