That’s It! No More Effing Goody Bags    

by Meredith Gordon
Kids sitting at a picnic table that has a cake with three candles and a dinosaur on it
AleksandarNakic / iStock

To say I have a love/hate relationship with end of birthday party treat bags would be an understatement. Honestly, I never want my kids to go to a friend’s birthday party and have the expectation that they are getting some reward or present at the end of the party. They are there to celebrate their friend. They don’t need a prize to do that.

And as a non-crafty, can’t-Pinterest-for-shit mom, I have to say goody bags are the kind of thing that needlessly keep me up at night. Some of you moms are super creative and you like it, which is amazing. But for those of us who don’t want to spend our time decorating a Skylanders yo-yos for our kid’s Skylanders party goody bags, and worse yet, can’t, the goody bag is a thing that causes needless anxiety.

And then there’s the case of what’s actually in the birthday party treat bags, which is usually garbage. In general, and I pass no judgment about this, goody bags are filled with a bunch of crap, a potential choking hazard, and junk the kids will forget about the minute they get in the car. The bag will never make it to my kid’s bedroom because they will have deposited its contents somewhere between the floor of my car, my kitchen counter, and my hand.

So it should come as no surprise to you that I’m no fan of goody bags. But what I am a fan of is making my kids happy — and that includes planning fun parties that they and their friends will enjoy. If that means throwing a treat bag into the mix (because let’s face it, most parties end in goody bags), I’m happy to do it.

Even better is when someone else does it for me, which was the case this past weekend for my daughter’s 6th birthday party. The play space we rented does all the things a can’t-pinterest-for-shit mom like myself can’t (or hates) to do. That means they take care of the goody bags. I just had to give them the party theme and a head count and they did the rest, goody bags and all.

It was an all-girls party with the exception of my 9-year-old son and two of his buddies whose sisters would also be attending. When I gave the play space manager the head count, I mentioned there’d be three 9-year-old boys. She said she’d make a separate set of bags for them. The morning of the party, one of the moms in who would be in attendance asked if her 9-year-old daughter could attend as she couldn’t find a babysitter. “Sure,” I said. “But in the spirit of full disclosure I don’t’ know if there will be a treat bag for her. I had to give a head count a week ago. I just don’t’ want her to be disappointed.”

Her mom graciously responded, “She’ll be just fine without a goody bag.”

Naturally, the day of the party, a few kids got sick and couldn’t attend, so there was an extra bag for my friend’s older daughter. Her mom had told her there might not be a bag for her, so I assumed she’d be thrilled when I handed her one. Instead, she started to cry. “I want what’s in the boys bag. My bag doesn’t have the same thing,” she said. Honestly, I thought it was ridiculous considering it was her younger sister who had been invited to the party, but I politely explained that the big kids’ goody bags had been made days ago. And if I’d known she was coming, she would have had one too. Her tears turned into a full-on temper tantrum, which only stopped when her younger sister chimed in and said she didn’t even take a goody bag because she “didn’t like” what was inside.

This was the moment that I mentally said to myself, “Eff goody bags.” Screw you, you tiny little tantrum-inducing bags of nothing. The problem isn’t whether I make the bags or someone else does. The problem is the expectation and lack of manners that comes with giving a kid a reward for attending a party to celebrate someone else. I’ve had it with the plastic ball, themed pencils, and sticker set the kids will lose before they make it home. And I’ve had it with kid meltdowns, expectations, and lack of manners over them.

So I’m not doing them anymore. Treat bags, you’re dead to me. I’m sure that will make some kids unhappy at the end of one of my children’s next birthday parties, but it’ll give them something new to complain about. And that’s fine, because I’ve had it with their scathing reviews.

Oh, and to my friend’s kid who had a goody bag meltdown, the correct response is, “Thank you!” There’s really nothing else to be said when someone gives you a prize just for showing up.