Birthday presents at school parties

I’m on the record as being against preschool classroom Valentine’s Day parties. As Scrooge said, people are “spending the mortgage money on frivolities”. The parents sending in gifts is the pinnacle of the rotten heap. I would abolish daycare Valentine’s Day parties entirely – outlaw them like those super sized soda cups.

Now, with Covid subsiding and my son in elementary school, I’m getting to see school-aged-kid birthday parties (as I mentioned yesterday). The parties as events that build social capital are great. The gifting aspect of it is mostly dumb. I abhor waste. I put “no gifts” on the birthday invitation for my son.* Most guests brought a present anyway. Next year, should I write “if you bring a gift I will burn it in the driveway before you can enter”? These parents would say they are worried about the island of plastic trash in the Pacific, but what do their actions tell?

It would be nice if school birthday parties could adopt the white elephant/Yankee swap convention that keeps present volumes down at Christmas/holiday parties, but it’s impossible for logistical reasons. If it were socially acceptable to grab a lightly used board game out of your basement and wrap it up to give a school friend, that would also be better. Maybe I should write that on our invitation next year and report back to you all! What do the really really crunchy parents do?

Economists think it’s clever to say, “Haha. You thought Christmas presents were wholesome, but they are inefficient. Merry Deadweight Loss.” Personally, I like most Christmas/holiday presents for the signaling value. I’d be happy with Christmas presents if we could get plastic junk for kids under control and heavily curtail presents at other times of the year.

Related resources: 1) Alex and Tyler donned Christmas sweaters to bring you this video on Christmas gift giving 2) Zachary has written about Christmas gifts

*Do you like funny stories? My son can read. When he noticed that I had written “no gifts,” he got mad at me. I explained that people can still bring gifts if they want to. Then I was mortified when he came home from school reporting that he had told his classmates that they can still get him presents.

4 thoughts on “Birthday presents at school parties

  1. StickerShockTrooper May 16, 2022 / 11:30 am

    For the parents of our socioeconomic background it’s an incredible amount of pressure to not be *that one parent*. But when our kids were younger we instituted a one-in-one-out/”you haven’t played with this for a year” giveaway box.

    In middle school their peer groups normalized giving cash, which was nice since by then they had their own income streams (grandparent money etc.)

    Like

  2. Scott Buchanan May 16, 2022 / 3:46 pm

    “.. he had told his classmates that they can still get him presents.” – – resourceful child, there 🙂

    Like

  3. Joy May 19, 2022 / 8:12 am

    Oh man. I just saw a Facebook picture of a 4 year old having a 4K “graduation”. The children wear tiny robes. Ban that, too.

    Like

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