Why I Wish We Could End This Birthday Party Tradition

by Julie Scagell
Originally Published: 

I just picked my daughter up from her millionth birthday party of the year. Out she comes, racing toward the car, a skip in her step I haven’t seen in … forever. The reason? Apparently, at this party, the mom gave 14-karat gold initial necklaces to each girl. This was, of course, nicer than the gift we sent for the birthday girl herself. It was nicer than the gift I gave my daughter for her birthday. I drove away, hands firmly planted at 10 and 2, fantasizing that the steering wheel was this mother’s neck.

I have never put more than a moment’s thought into a birthday party gift bag. In fact, I detest the notion that I need to give other kids a gift for my child’s birthday. For my son’s last birthday, I picked out eight candy bars at the Target register, 10 minutes before his party started. I threw them in a bowl and let each child pick one as they left my house. I was pretty proud of myself for my ninja-like ability to think under pressure.

Though I am not a proponent of tchotchkes from Oriental Trading Company mixed in with last year’s Halloween candy, these moms need to dial it back a notch. In no particular order of insanity, I have witnessed the following:

-Monogrammed golf balls and putter (metal, not plastic) for a party that took place on a putt-putt course

-A gumball machine filled with gumballs (The kid’s father was a dentist. The irony was not lost.)

-Monogrammed sunglasses, T-shirt and a purse filled with makeup for a “Rock Star VIP party.” It goes without saying that they also had a red carpet with the birthday girl’s name embroidered on it where the kids walked in. And paparazzi.

-A fish. (Mind you, the fish was in a plastic bag. So, because I didn’t want my child to think I’m a homicidal maniac, I spent the rest of my Sunday procuring a fish bowl, fish food and toys for the fish’s new home. Because the fish deserves party favors too.)

-A canvas tote from Pottery Barn filled with flip-flops, sunscreen and a monogrammed towel for a beach party.

-A $32 jumbo box of sand art. As a side note, this mom will be on my shit list until the day I die.

Can we be honest for a moment and admit that the favors are to impress other parents? They are certainly not for the joy of giving to other people’s children. Since we are in the Trust Tree here, no one really likes other people’s children anyway. These are the mothers who are constantly trying to keep up with the Joneses. I picture Mrs. Jones sitting on a private island somewhere, sipping a martini and thinking, “I wonder what else I can get these crazy bitches to do!”

Here’s an idea, ladies. If you care that much what others think, how about sending the child home with a gift bag for their moms? Like a new Coach purse filled with little mini bottles of booze? A subscription to a Wine of the Month club? Advil and a gift card for a pedicure to make up for carting my kid to the mall to get your kid’s gift? Until then, slow your roll. Our kids will be just as happy attending your child’s petting-zoo-themed party (the giraffe was a big hit), noshing on food-truck-catered tacos, and eating your child’s three-tiered, gluten-free buttercream birthday cake without a gift of their own.

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