My daughter’s sixth birthday party was a few weekends ago. We (I) like to celebrate usually with an at-home party, a meal’s-worth of food, homemade birthday cake, balloons, tablecloths, opening presents and some sort of entertainment for the kids/guests. It takes a lot of time and energy to execute. A lot of that time and energy is spent making it look like it didn’t take a lot of time and energy to execute. After it’s over, I’m usually exhausted.
I may have mentioned it before, but I’m old. However, I can still remember going to birthday parties when I was a kid. Most of them were low-key, inviting neighborhood friends and friends from school (back then, they were one-in-the-same) to the birthday person’s home for cake and ice cream and present-opening…and playing with said presents. Occasionally, I’d be invited to a party at the skating rink or McDonald’s or the bowling alley. Sometimes there was a piñata. Those were awesome. In late-elementary school, the slumber parties started. The recipe: friends, sleeping bags, pizza, cake, ice cream, movies, scary story for Light-as-a-Feather-Stiff-as-a-Board and a determination to stay up all night. I made and lost great friends at those parties (oh, middle school drama) and have memories of most of them, still. I don’t remember ever leaving a party with a favor. And out of all of the birthday parties I’ve attended and hosted as the birthday girl myself, I’ve never written or received a thank you note for a present.
I mean, is this a new thing? Am I without any manners I *thought* I had? I’m born and raised in the South so it’s not like I’m new here. I have my “Yes, Ma’ams” and “Yes, Sirs” down pact. I’ve gotten engaged and married and had babies – each of those events came with showers where I received presents, carefully catalogued presents, so appropriate, meaningful, SINCERE thanks could be handwritten, addressed and sent to the gift giver. I’m not ungrateful. I just haven’t sent out Thank You cards for my children’s birthday party gifts. Hypocritical, perhaps but NOT ungrateful (wink, wink).
Here’s the thing: A LOT of people are doing it! Oh, the peer pressure. That’s not the only way I can show my gratitude though, right? I’m *almost* feeling guilted into doing it. That’s not the way it’s intended to work, I’m sure.
I’m not just wanting to rant. I hadn’t planned on mentioning this at all. I’d normally just sit and stew in my guilt for forgetting or not
having making the time to write my true thanks to each child for coming to the party, for making the party what it was with their laughter and cool, kid enthusiasm. I’d say thanks for the gift and for making my kid so happy on her special day. To the parents, I’d write a thank you for the effort I know it took to come with a present to this party… when I know you could have been doing something anything else with those few hours of your precious weekend. With my child, we talk about how nice it was for her friends to come and how great it is to have received their gifts. She expresses her thankfulness and appreciation again to us, her parents, reiterating what she told everyone at the party. My child is not ungrateful.
If you’re a parent, too – you know. So, thank you.
If you’re a kid that had fun at the party – you know. Thank you for coming.
So, without a plan to rant, here’s what got me thinking about this:
It was present time at my daughter’s party. I choose to have her open presents at the party so everyone can enjoy seeing her open their present. It’s never resulted in any problems – except for some over-zealous “Open THIS one!” gift thrusting by some happy-to-see-what’s-in-the-boxes guests. The children were gathering and the adults were getting a seat while I was scrambling for a trash can to stow the carnage. A friend approached me, thinking she would offer some help. She asked if I’d like her to write down the gifts and the givers. I knew where she was headed. In the middle of everything, I told her that I was going to pass on the Thank You cards this time. I didn’t want to offend her or for her to feel like I was passing judgment on HER. The moment was moving fast, so I threw out, “Who started that anyway?” She smiled, and the party kept moving.
Gifts opened, in-person thank-yous dispensed, happy children playing, food and cake all gone, I started to clean up when I got this text from her:
“Can I take 5 minutes to say thank you? … for being a wonderfully mannered mom with etiquette I can only hope to one day achieve and to hear you say, “Who started that anyway?” Reminds me that not every current social norm is normal or logical or possible. So, thank you because now I don’t have to keep up with who sent/gave what gift to my girl for her birthday.”
This isn’t an ungrateful woman. BY FAR. I know she’s not looking for excuses. I look up to her for so many things, too. But with that text, she told me that we’re both struggling – to keep up. If she is, and if I am, then maybe you are, too. Now, I’ve no doubt that there are hard and fast opinions about the Thank You card thing. It’s a ball in the air that I’ve willingly let drop. If I don’t drop that one, which one do I let hit the floor?