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Home » CHFWeb Forum » HotTopics » Birthday Parties: SWAG Bags, Games w/ Prizes, Thank You Cards, Opening Presents
Birthday Parties: SWAG Bags, Games w/ Prizes, Thank You Cards, Opening Presents [message #818775] Fri, 11 November 2016 12:35 Go to next message
Jamie
Messages: 4138
Registered: April 2005
Senior Member
This is just putting down thoughts - I have no beef with anything going on in my life w/ birthday parties at this moment. I have, however, read and/or have been in conversation about birthday party expectations for little kids (think pre-k/early elementary aged kids). I've quietly been doing a Then Vs. Now in my head:

When I was a little girl a typical birthday party involved dressing up. It seriously looked like kids were either going to church (fancy) or going to picture day at school (not fancy, but "best" clothes). Now, it's whatever one would where to sit around the house.

When I was a little girl, there were 2-3 games provided at the party. Pin the tail on the donkey, for example. Each game had a prize. There might be a 1st/2nd/3rd prize, or a group prize (like pinata candy/toys). There were other games, if the back yard was available, like hide-n-seek or Marco Polo type things. Now, it's either in a park (genius, IMO) or people rent petting zoos and ponies or those giant blow-up jumping houses. The kids are given free play from the moment they walk in to the moment they leave. The only exception to that rule is when it is time to sing/cut cake.

When I was a little girl, birthday cake and ice cream were the only things that were served. Now, it's like a full lunch buffet, no matter what time of day.

When I was a little girl, either before/after the birthday cake, little kids gathered around to see their gifts unwrapped by the birthday-child. Now, I don't remember a single time that this caused an issue for the guests. I suppose it would be somewhat natural, if there was a pang of "I want that, too" or of the gifted child not wanting to share as immediately as the guests may have liked. I simply don't recall that happening when I was a child at a party. I don't recall that happening when my now-adult kids were young. But this is given as the reason for today's etiquette which says that kids can't handle it, so it's no longer desired.

When I was a little girl, there was no such thing as a SWAG bag. The closest we might have had, were slices of leftover cake wrapped up with a napkin. Earlier this week, on a private board, a mother came to check her etiquette...she had been verbally eviscerated on a local board, discussing her plans to skip the SWAG for her child's party. People actually said that they would NOT come if they knew in advance a bag was not coming home with them. Apparently, the excuse of it's difficult for a child to see one child getting presents without getting something for themselves is at play here. I'm not really getting how, if the birthday child doesn't actually open anything, that the SWAG helps?

When I was a child, thank you cards were sent within a few days of the party. Thank you cards, for a children's birthday party, are almost (almost) non-existent. This is what brought this topic up. A mom just texted me asking for my address to mail a thank-you card too for a birthday gift. I mentioned that I thought that that was what the SWAG bags were for - a thank you for coming. She said, no, that they were two separate things. I mentioned that we don't go to tons of b-day parties, and have only had one for Jonah, but I have never received a thank you card so I thought the SWAG was for that.


I know, for Jonah, he's thrilled to get a little bag of something...but he honestly is surprised by it (we go to maybe 2 or 3 parties a year)...it isn't something he's expecting. There's not enough history of birthday party expectations built up for him to think that it should be there or would miss it if it were skipped. I wonder what happened that made the children so fragile that an entire generation has deemed that all must have something and the main kid can't have anything until after guests have gone. I think I was of the generation that dropped a lot of the niceties, the thank you cards...so to receive one, for me, is like a unicorn...very pleasant, but if it weren't around, I wouldn't know. I get the nostalgic "awww" looking back at birthday party pictures, with little kids looking like such adorable little ladies and gentlemen in their cute (and very dated) outfits. I must admit, I miss that...however, in all practicalities, it would probably take me wrestling Jonah into something with zippers and buttons and hard shoes. Jonah's birthday is in dead of wet-winter season after a rapid succession of holidays. I would love to do an outdoor setting, but it hasn't been very practical. I could not afford to keep up with the Jonses' and am a good generation older than the other moms...LOL, all the games I know/would offer *inside* my home, would be considered "vintage" by the parents, and would be definitely boring for the kids who are now used to high-tech things. I will say that the entertainment portion (along with where on the calendar should I actually celebrate so people would come) makes me gun-shy about throwing a party.


Peace
Re: Birthday Parties: SWAG Bags, Games w/ Prizes, Thank You Cards, Opening Presents [message #818776 is a reply to message #818775 ] Fri, 11 November 2016 14:29 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Leigh  is currently offline Leigh
Messages: 4572
Registered: April 2005
Location: Tennessee
Senior Member
And back in the day it was just the invitees attending the party, not both parents and all tagalong siblings. Their mothers called six or eight friends, we bought a present, and we went to the party. We had a couple hours of fun, and then we went home.

I grew up in California, so sometimes there were swim parties if the birthday kid's family had a pool. In those cases they usually served hot dogs along with ice cream and cake.

Now it's like a three-day event.

[Updated on: Fri, 11 November 2016 14:30]


Leigh
Tennessee

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

~~Benjamin Franklin

Re: Birthday Parties: SWAG Bags, Games w/ Prizes, Thank You Cards, Opening Presents [message #818777 is a reply to message #818775 ] Sat, 12 November 2016 08:19 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Tracy in Peru  is currently offline Tracy in Peru
Messages: 7972
Registered: April 2005
Location: Trujillo, Peru
Senior Member
Some of this, I wonder if it might represent a change/blend of cultures.

The swag bag in Hispanic cultures is a "thank you" gift. Often, it has a handwritten or a printed note inside or attached that thanks the attendee for their presence at the party. This is done in lieu of thank you notes.

Also the whole family attending is expected.

We have made some humdingers of mistakes and it wasn't just when we arrived in Peru. We lived in El Paso for a number of years and it was truly a blend of cultures. At least when we make cultural mistakes in Peru, we get "excused" for being North Americans. When we lived in El Paso, we just looked like ninnies when we goofed.


In Him--Tracy
Re: Birthday Parties: SWAG Bags, Games w/ Prizes, Thank You Cards, Opening Presents [message #818778 is a reply to message #818775 ] Sat, 12 November 2016 15:36 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Lisa R.  is currently offline Lisa R.
Messages: 14917
Registered: April 2005
Location: Georgia
Senior Member

Birthday parties seem to have so many unspoken rules these days.

Up until my 5th kid was born, we lived near my dear friend who had "stair-step" kids with mine. We occasionally invited other kids, but mostly when it was someone's birthday party, the mom baked her own cake, we called the other mom and said, "Cake's ready! Come on over!" and the kids came and played altogether, and we had cake and ice cream. It was really just a family play date with cake and ice cream. And maybe a present.

The we moved to another state, and boy were things different. My kids started getting invited to parties individually. We had to explain the cultural differences so that they understood only one being invited. That was certainly fine, but wow! The parties they had! It was all Chuck E Cheese or roller skating or whatever the latest thing was. Every kid seemed to try to one-up the last party.

We were a pastor's family with 5 and soon 6 kids, with 4 summer birthday. We certainly weren't going to take only one of our kids to a cool place for her own birthday and leave the rest home, so we were $50-60 in to the party before we even invited guests...most parties were going to be in the $200+ range if we were going to socially reciprocate, and that was certainly expected.

So, that was the year we brainstormed and decided that from then on birthdays were a special family time, and we let the birthday kid choose any place they wanted to eat, and that kid and Mom and Dad went for a special lunch, and later the whole family had ice cream and cake at home, and maybe watched a movie or whatever in the evening. Very low key, very kid-focused. And not too expensive! We simply couldn't compete with the crazy birthday party culture, so we dropped out.

And since we're in Hot Topics...

As to the issue of not opening presents in front of the other kids, that drives me crazy!! Kids need to learn how to give and how to rejoice in the good fortune of others. They will all have a birthday at some point, but not today. That is lesson that should be learned. It's not always all about them.

There was a satirical article I saw in the wake of the elections with a headline that said something along the line of "Police Calm Election Protestors by Giving Out Participation Trophies." And yes, I've read that many of the riots and protests are orchestrated, but really, I think that kids who can't bear to watch someone open a present without having one themselves are probably the ones who grow up to be unable to bear their candidate losing an election, or needing a "safe room" on the college campus in case anyone teaches on a topic that might hurt their feelings.


Blessings,
Lisa R.
Re: Birthday Parties: SWAG Bags, Games w/ Prizes, Thank You Cards, Opening Presents [message #818779 is a reply to message #818778 ] Sat, 12 November 2016 20:41 Go to previous messageGo to next message
carolinec
Messages: 625
Registered: April 2005
Senior Member
Lisa R. wrote on Sat, 12 November 2016 14:36

..or needing a "safe room" on the college campus in case anyone teaches on a topic that might hurt their feelings.


not the thread for it, but as someone who works on campus (and teaches! and gives.. gasp.. trigger warnings!) - this is a *total* mischaracterisation of what's happening.

If you want another thread....

Wink

(sorry for the bunny trail, Jamie!)
Re: Birthday Parties: SWAG Bags, Games w/ Prizes, Thank You Cards, Opening Presents [message #818789 is a reply to message #818779 ] Mon, 14 November 2016 07:31 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Lisa R.  is currently offline Lisa R.
Messages: 14917
Registered: April 2005
Location: Georgia
Senior Member

I'm not up for starting another thread, but would respond in a few days if you started one. My comment was a "short cut" rather than wildly accurate, but I'm getting a lot of info from my college daughter from her campus and experiences.


Blessings,
Lisa R.
Re: Birthday Parties: SWAG Bags, Games w/ Prizes, Thank You Cards, Opening Presents [message #818795 is a reply to message #818775 ] Mon, 14 November 2016 09:48 Go to previous messageGo to next message
praise2christ  is currently offline praise2christ
Messages: 2166
Registered: August 2009
Location: Northern KY
Senior Member
We are still in the midst of the birthday party years. Growing up with a birthday very near Christmas, I rarely had parties. Only two where friends were invited. The rest was cake and ice cream with family. As a result, I really wanted my kids to have parties.

For my kids, we started out with family, but my family is quite large and extended. My aunts and uncles were invited, along with my cousins and their kids. I realize that seems to be a bit much, but we are very close and this is how it was with all my cousins' kids.

When the kids got to the age where they wanted friends to come, I gave them each a limit of 3-5 friends each depending on where we had the party. Since they are twins, this meant a lot of friends at one party. Eventually, it got out of control. As my cousins had more kids, we finally ended up about with about 20+ kids, plus all the parents. I think the last time we did that, we had over 50 people at their party! Shocked That was certainly never my intention, but that is how it ended up. My cousins' kids party were getting out of control, too. Thankfully, we all agreed that we would invite extended families to 1st birthdays only after that. We had a few more parties with friends, but removing my extended family cut the parties in half.

The location of our parties has varied. We've had them at parks (there are two near us that we can reserve for free), in our back yard, and at our church in the fellowship hall. Their birthday is in late September, so the weather is unpredictable. One year it may feel like winter, another it may feel like summer, and there is always the chance of rain.

Several times, we had the party at the beginning of September so that the kids could swim at our house. We also have a giant blow-up water slide that I bought for cheap on clearance at Aldi as a joint present one year. The kids loved it and it made their party so much fun! But, I never would have spent the money to rent one. When we had the party at the park or church, I always had a few games we played. I also bought cheap party hats and those foam stickers and let the kids decorate their hats. That always kept them busy and they enjoyed it. We also did a Diet Coke and Mentos geyser one year that they had fun with.

I am pretty firmly anti-swag. I want my kids to learn to celebrate the birthday child without expecting anything in return. It is a simple way for them to practice developing the character traits that are needed to resist covetousness. So, I didn't do goody bags/swag bags at our party as a matter of principle. My one excepting was the candy and small toys from the pinata. My kids enjoys having a pinata every year, so I always got little baggies for the guest to take home candy from that.

But, after their tenth birthday, I let them know that we couldn't do this anymore. This year we had cake and ice cream with family and let them pick an outing with one friend. Next year, I think it will just be cake and ice cream. The whole thing had just grown out of control. For Jack, we never even started big parties. We'll probably let him have a party with friends for his fifth and tenth birthdays, but that's it.

I think that culture and location do play some role. Around here, party places are common (Chuck E Cheese, skating rink, etc), as are theme parties (DD was just invited to a "Spa" party). But, I don't know anyone renting petting zoos or bouncy houses.


Stacy, mom to 12-year-old boy/girl twins and a three-year-old boy.

"Every man's life is a fairy tale written by God's finger." Hans Christian Andersen
Re: Birthday Parties: SWAG Bags, Games w/ Prizes, Thank You Cards, Opening Presents [message #818797 is a reply to message #818775 ] Mon, 14 November 2016 11:18 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Dimples  is currently offline Dimples
Messages: 1406
Registered: August 2005
Senior Member
Jamie, I grew up with the same type parties.

We did the same as Lisa R. with our dc - all 3 of our dc and dh celebrate their birthdays in January - one each week, so by the end of January NO ONE wants cake! We have a simple party of just family. When the kids were younger (7-9) we would let them have a slumber party with 2 to 3 friends - that's all. One gift from us, homemade cake and ice cream, MAYBE pizza if a slumber party - total cost would be about $50.

Our youngest dd works for a lady that does petting zoos and has attended several of these type of parties and the amount of money that is spent is unfathomable! The petting zoo alone can cost $400 to $600 (depending on the amount of time needed), plus blowups are around $200, cakes with fondant are about $200, plus gifts, Swag bags, etc. Parents can EASILY spend $1,000 on ONE birthday Shocked

And we wonder why the younger generations are struggling with not getting what they want! Embarassed
Re: Birthday Parties: SWAG Bags, Games w/ Prizes, Thank You Cards, Opening Presents [message #818996 is a reply to message #818775 ] Sat, 03 December 2016 16:08 Go to previous message
Lucille  is currently offline Lucille
Messages: 757
Registered: April 2005
Location: S. W. Washington
Senior Member
We had parties until ds was 10. However, it was at home, with 5-8 kids, I made the cake & planned age appropriate games and/or crafts. One year we had a Thanksgiving theme, & each child made an Native American headband or Pilgrim bonnets or hats. Another year we made stained glass Christmas ornaments (from an inexpensive kit). I gave simple prizes, so I did provide swag bags. I got everything very cheaply, like from the Dollar Tree. We had fun.

I agree it is getting crazy!


Lucille
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