I'm Not On Board With The Kid Birthday Registry Trend

by Kimberly Zapata
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and Halfpoint/Getty

My 5-year-old daughter has been to her fair share of birthday parties.

When she was in daycare, she attended an event at an indoor playplace — complete with pizza, cake, and an impressive Disney princess. In preschool, she was invited to a museum party, a carousel party, a children’s play, and everyone’s “favorite,” Chuck E. Cheese. And this year, she has been to bounce house, half a dozen “school parties,” and a friend’s pool. (I know, I know; my kiddo has one hell of a social life.)

But something I saw on a recent invitation struck a nerve in me. Scratch that: It pissed me off.

Because at the bottom of this expertly designed piece of card stock was a link to a registry. A children’s birthday registry.

Say what?!

For those who aren’t “in the know,” creating gift registries for your little’s birthday bash isn’t new. Not really. The trend has been around for several years. A quick internet search reveals the phenomena began around 2015. But what is a birthday registry?

Well, much like a wedding or baby shower registry, it is a list which is compiled by your kid. In other words, your precious peanut sits in front of their computer or scours store shelves to their heart’s content.

Of course, this may sound like a good idea. No parent wants a kazoo, drum set, or plastic school bus that sings “Wheels On the Bus” for hours on end, and this mama certainly doesn’t need any more floam, foam, sand, or slime. (I’d also appreciate it if you avoid buying my daughter stuffed animals.)

But are registries really necessary? I don’t think so.

Not only are they unnecessary, they are ridiculous. They are imposing and pretentious. They are ostentatious, and (dare I say) a bit tacky. They come across as greedy. I mean, whatever happened to “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset?”

Plus, these lists also assume everyone will and should buy you something, which is complete and total bullshit.

You see, the idea behind a birthday party is to celebrate the person and another year (hopefully) well-lived. It is also a chance to make memories. It is a day to spend with family and close friends. And while most of us bring gifts to these events, they are not a requirement. At all.

I personally have many friends and family members who cannot afford to buy things. I would never, ever want to create something that makes someone feel inferior or stressed.

Yet that is just what gift registries do — they assume partygoers must shower your wee one with gifts. (Something that likely costs $19.99, or up.)

Registries also give children a false sense of entitlement, as journalist Ericka Souter explained in a 2015 interview with ABC News. “You always run the risk when kids get to make these gift lists,” she said. “They feel entitled. They feel that they should get everything on it, and that can create a problem if you are not setting the right limitations, if you do something like this.”

That said, Souter acknowledges there are “some merits” to the idea.

Proponents believe gift registries save time, both up front and on the back end — which is to say there are often fewer exchanges and returns. They also believe said lists helps generate ideas, specifically for distant relatives and non-parents.

However, Souter does not think the pros do not outweigh the cons.

“There are some things about birthday parties that shouldn’t be so planned out and so expected from a kid’s point of view,” Souter said.

Plus, the best gifts are often the unique, creative or unexpected ones. Part of the “holiday magic” is being surprised, after all.

Does this mean that sometimes you and your kiddo will get things you don’t want? Abso-freakin-lutely. My daughter has been given some strange shit. It also means that sometimes you’ll receive gifts you don’t need and/or already have.

One year, my daughter was gifted two tricycles, two “Let’s Imagine” Elmo dolls, two Elsas, and three Play-Doh ice cream makers. (Yes, three.) But you know what? That’s what gift receipts are for.

Well, that or you can also stuff those puppies in the back of your closet for another party and/or kid. Re-gifting is a wonderful thing.

So let’s chill out on the registries, all right? If you really want to know what little Jane or Johnny wants (or, better yet, needs) maybe you should ask him. Or his parents. Answers are just a call, text, or email away.

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