My daughter, Sofie's birthday is coming up next week, and with that in mind, I figured I'd treat you to a reprint of a piece of mine that was published in the Syracuse Post Standard back in 2009.
Has anyone noticed the new trend of "giftless birthday parties?" We've been invited to three of them in the past few years and they're great. The invitation comes and says something along the lines of "Instead of bringing a gift, we'd appreciate it if you'd make a donation to such-and-such charity, which really means a lot to us."
I like these for two reasons. The first is that it makes my life easier as a gift-giver. Knowing how many useless and ill-chosen gifts my kids have received over the years at birthday parties, I strive to give what I call zero-footprint gifts. These are things that take up no space at all in the house, and include movie passes, bookstore gift cards, and the like. But giving to a charity is the ultimate zero-footprint gift, and teaches the kids that their birthday party isn't and shouldn't be all about what they get from their friends. I've come to believe that until they become teenagers and they all have a better idea of what their friends like, the best birthday presents come from family members.
The other reason I like this is because it now gives me a way to avoid all the useless presents that might otherwise arrive in my house, while also giving me a way to teach our daughter that it ain't all about her - even on her birthday.
Now in a previous generation, the great twin sisters of advice, Ann and Abby would've frowned on "no gifts please" invitations because it assumed that people were gonna bring gifts, and that was impolite. PULEEEZE! We all know that people are gonna bring gifts. We all know that the minute we receive the invitation, the first thing that goes through our minds is "What should I get this kid?" Sure, a gift may not be the "price of admission" to the party, but the person who comes without one sure looks funny. The time has come to stop pretending.
And that's the third reason why I like these giftless parties, no one looks odd when they come with only a card and no gift. In fact, if you're having a few financial difficulties, you can put off the gift of the donation until you're doing better (when you get your tax refund) and no one knows. Even better, this gift is tax deductible. Who could ask for anything more?
Let's hear it for more giftless parties.