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Tuesday, June 5, 2012


i felt mildly accosted one day last fall by a sweet little 7 year old.  it happened at the end of my daughter's birthday party.  i'd just spent hundreds of dollars on cake and dinner and activities for my daughter's "most favoritest" small people in the whole wide world.  at the end of the celebration, the kids were loading into their cars to go home, and one of the little girls politely demanded her favor, hands wide open, eyes wide open and trained on my face.  "oh.  well.  i don't have any favors."  her expression said it all, but she continued with, "really?  we always get favors after parties."  i've gotta say, i was a little shocked.  and don't get me wrong - this is a good kid.  this child was seriously confused and surprised - and to tell you the truth, so was i.

stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff.  stuff.

stuff.  do we seriously need to provide plastic bags full of plastic stuff and fake food wrapped in plastic IN ADDITION TO the mounds of pizza and cake and crafts and entertainment we just provided for our tiny little children?   i'm not sure a company like "oriental trading post" even needs to exist.  but somehow it does, and somehow we party-throwers cannot help but litter them with purchase orders for plastic magenta hula skirts and blinking yellow necklaces and glitter-covered beer mugs and turquoise rubber duckies and orange kazoos and black chattering vampire teeth and...  (i'm going to channel susan powers for a minute) "STOP THE INSANITY!!!!!!!"

can we please stop??????  all of us?  me, too!  let's stop!  okay?  we don't have to buy this stupid shit!  let's shop and plan mindfully.  the kids only play with it for 2 hours before it breaks and ends up in the trash anyway.  let's just stop.  because it's not just about the short-term waste.  it's also about the long-term results.

are we, as parents, creating little monsters?  yes.  are we programming our kids to have unreasonable expectations?  absolutely.  and, more importantly, in order to meet these expectations, are we endangering our children?  i mean, spoiling them - yes, that's for sure.  but also endangering them?  YES!  all of these pointless trinkets end up somewhere.  and it ain't in my compost bin.

this message is going to anger many party planners, and it's going to offend a lot of mommies, and it's going to disappoint a lot of children, but listen.  as said by the great chief seathl in his letter to franklin pierce in 1854, "Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste."  all of that plastic shit is going to end up in a landfill.  all of those candy wrappers are heading into that landfill, too.  our unmindful purchases are only creating a more complicated world for the very children we are trying so hard to please.  and guess what?  it doesn't have to be like that.

i challenge you, as a mommy or a daddy, to say, "fuck it.  i'm not doing it this year."  because when you say, "fuck it," another mommy or daddy can say, "fuck it."  and then before you know it, when our children attend a birthday party, they can do this:  CELEBRATE.  PERIOD.

i'm happy to be the first bad mommy who does not give party favors.  i'm also happy to be the first bad mommy who does not give birthday presents.  i'll take the dirty looks and the judgment and the criticism.  because in the end, i know it's not so bad.  it's actually really really REALLY good.

when my children are invited to parties, they will not show up with games or toys or bead kits.  unless granted special permission, they will show up with smiles and experiences.  they will show up with little hand-written cards inviting the birthday girl or boy to a day at the park or a trip to a museum.  b/c there's just too much stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff.  stuff.

peace, love, gratitude,

if you are tired of the pressure to give party favors, please share this blog.  xoxoxoxox


  1. Hah!!! I love it - I've never EVER done party favors unless it's been some kind of a craft the kid can do and keep. And I think I only did that once. I've always refused to cave on that - it's silly, and it does all end up in the trash. I love your ideas for gifts, too. :) We all have too much *stuff*..

  2. here's one for you...we don't have kids' birthday parties...(insert here the stunned silence, horrified gasps, and judgements of the terrible childhood my children will remember) ;-P

    my philosophy is this: all of these birthday parties blend into the next. think about it. how many birthday parties, without looking at photos, can you actually remember from your or two maybe? then there is the inevitable comparissons your kids' friends will make to other birthday parties, or their own, perhaps declaring that their birthday cake was better, or that your kid didn't have a bouncy house...blah, blah, blah.


    our tradition is this: the kids and i discuss whatever they want for a cake; flavor, theme, etc. the idea is for them to use their imagination and come to me with something personal to them that year...and i do my best to make it from scratch. for example, i have made an open treasure chest with jewels and treasure spilling out, a jeweled crown, a tiramisu football field, the parthenon, and last year for the youngest's was inspired by Monet's Water get the idea. the kids remember, still look back fondly on them, and look forward to it every year. for my elementary kids, i still scratch make a treat of their choice for the classroom as well.

    we do buy them presents, but meaningful things, or things that inspire creativity, or what have you.

    the other tradition is their birthday meal. they can pick a homemade meal or a restaurant of their choice. nana comes over to participate as well.

    i just feel, as vanessa said, it's all insanity. the things we do have allowed the kids to remember each year as a unique and personal experience.

    that being said, if parents want to have parties and favors i say, "go for it." my kids get invited, and they go to most of the parties, and enjoy celebrating their friends, but they have never once asked to move from our traditions in favor of a pizza party at the movie theater, and for that i am grateful. i like our little family traditions. :)

  3. I'm am 100% with you on the less stuff idea. (Say no to that swim team backpack!) But to present another side of this issue, the favor can also be a lesson about the value of gratitude and giving. The favor is traditionally supposed to represent a gesture of thanks to your guests for coming to the party and for giving a gift. I have been conflicted over the same issue and have seen a couple of good solutions by creative parents. One is to do a book exchange, where each child brings a book (new or used) and the kids exchange books, rather than bringing a gift. Another is to ask the guests to donate to a charity your child cares about rather than bringing gifts. In both of these solutions, your child is giving instead of just receiving. Another idea is to give a favor that does not add to the "stuff." One year, I accepted gifts for my daughter and gave mickey mouse shaped soap as the party favor. I loved that solution because it allowed her to share in the experience of giving, but who can't use a bar of soap? And it's perishable without being junk food. One kid did try to eat it, though.

  4. aaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!! love all this commentary and the terrific ideas and viewpoints!!!!!! carol, your thoughtful post is inspiring! and, jen, cracking up about eating soap! so funny! keep it coming!!!!

    this post isn't to say that parties are bad or giving is bad, it's just a plea to keep it all in perspective and think consciously about the condition of the planet and the development of our children while we plan celebrations.

    love you guys!!!!!


  5. My kids are older (25 and 22) so my chiming in to say YES is kind of cowardly...cause I don't have to put my lack-of-spending-money where my mouth is! I'll share two things. One - when my kids were little we lived in France...where they (literally) sell ONE (or at least they did 15 years ago) set of decorative plates with matching paper table all my kids parties looked pretty much the same! And no one over there has ever heard of party favors...but kids have fun at birthday parties. Really, they do! AND...when they grow and are BOMBARDED by all the stuffstuffstuffstuffstuff that now goes into planning a wedding (my daughter got married last year!) you will really think you've landed on some strange foreign planet! My daughter's "favors" at her wedding was to let everyone know that in lieu of favors, money had been donated to a charity that provides clean drinking water for the planet. I'm just saying ~ if you think the birthday party world has gone mad....when you get to wedding world you'll die! Although, now that I think about it...the one might have produced the other??!! GREAT POST!!!!

  6. thank you adrienne!!!!! i'm 36. growing up we never had party favors. really, the only time i ever saw a favor was at a shower or wedding - and even then it was usually a handful of pastel colored chocolates wrapped in gauze with a pretty bow. i'm not sure if favor-giving for kids' birthday parties is typical in american suburbs now, but it seems to be the norm around here (boston). so, YES, it's time to practice scaling back before we hit the marriage years!!! can you imagine where we'd be if we kept up this pace???? (besides in debt??? ;-)

    i love the charitable gift donations your family gave as wedding favors. lovely! something to remember. AND THANK YOU!!!!! xoxox

  7. This needs to be on the front page of every newspaper across the US! I can't stand Oriental Trading Post and yes, I agree that it should not exist. I am guilty of indulging my kids, for sure, but I try my best at parties to avoid the junk, only give craft projects no gifts (at least for the older kid, but the younger one is coming around) I don't even do balloons anymore. I would like to take up Caron Ann's idea this year and not do parties at all but special outings. Maybe include a friend or two or not. Keep it simple! Amen. Thanks for the inspirations, ladies. Its not always easy to be a non-conformist so encourgement from like-minds helps. Vanessa, awesome post and I LOVE the emotion in it ! I agree 1,000%
    btw, it was my kid who almost ate the soap. She thought it was white chocolate. Oh well, it was great once we realized it was soap and made for tub time fun!
    XO KLF

  8. xxxxxoooooxxxxxoooooxxxxxooooo!!!!!!!!!