Monday, October 03, 2005

Birthday Guest Post

The following is a guest post that's been in the hopper for several weeks. It raises some interesting thoughts.

Although it’s been almost 30 years since then, I remember clearly the day of my classmate’s birthday party. 23 little girls, dressed in their shabbos best, munching on potato chips and playing musical chairs. I was having a ball.

Until that dreaded announcement came: “everybody gather ‘round – we’re opening the gifts!”. I sat slumped in my chair as each gaily wrapped box was opened to the “oohs”and “aahs” of my friends, and of the birthday girl’s mother. As the pile of unopened gifts grew smaller and smaller, I prayed that my father would arrive to pick me up early. I knew what lay ahead.

Mine was one of the last. The birthday girl read my name off the tag, ripped off the wrapping and stared at the cheap toy I had given her. Silence. There were no “oohs” or “aahs”. I knew it was a crummy gift, but my parents struggled just to pay the rent. I hung my head in shame.

This memory has never faded. I would never allow this tradition at my own childrens’ celebrations, but I have seen it over and over again at other childrens’ parties. Parents of the birthday child – please realize that there are people out there who just can’t afford to buy expensive gifts every time they are invited somewhere. Sometimes, an invitation will be declined for this reason. Someone else may spend money they can ill afford to in order to avoid public humiliation. And sometimes, a child will feel shame because he or she has come empty-handed, or knows that his or her gift is not up to par with the rest. Parents, when your child is fortunate enough to receive 20, 30 or 50 gifts at a celebration, is it necessary to show them off as well?

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