Ever since my daughter turned one, she is invited to one birthday party every month. And she loves them. Why wouldn't she? Balloons, cakes, ice-cream - all the things she loves are there. And then the magician, the tattoo artist, the bubble floater, the dance troupe, the candy floss man, the game zone - just about everything and everyone is there. My heart goes out to the parents who have to organise this extravaganza and then struggle to up the quotient every year. It doesn't end there. There's a theme and gifts galore for all the games played and oh yes, there are the return gifts!
I remember our birthdays where a simple box of chocolates for our classmates and some cake cutting in the evening followed by a sweet dish made by mom for dinner was enough to give us a whole year of happy memories. That's it. No fuss, no one month of organising and no stress of buying the ultimate return gifts for the children who attended our birthday parties.
It was clear that the birthday kid was the special one that day and only he was entitled to gifts that day. The rest would have to do with the eatables available and patiently wait for their birthdays to arrive which we all did. It was the rule and it was graciously accepted by one and all. Today my daughter thinks that someone else's birthday is a ticket for her to bring home gifts galore. It's no more about what to give but more about what we will get.
Though I am not against the return gifts as a token for kids to feel good, I object to it becoming a status symbol and a matter of reputation for the parents. I mean how precious will the birthday gift look if the return gift is mammoth enough in value to overshadow it. No matter what I choose for the birthday kid, my gift will always pale in comparison to what he is going to give everyone in return.
Subtly, even the birthday kid thrives in the knowledge that he is giving bigger and more valuable gifts to his classmates who have so endearingly brought him something out of love. But where is the space for love and affection in this whole commercially-driven affair? The whole birthday party is then remembered for the return gift and not for the happy times one had.
Plus, it adds to the stress of the parents whose kids attended it. It's now their turn to hunt for bigger return gifts to compensate for what their kids brought home. And so the saga continues.
I, for one, have lost all interest in attending such birthday parties. Birthday parties are supposed to be pure fun for the kids, not an arena where monetary affluence is showcased. For a kid, balloons and ice-cream provide enough of joy if we let them feel that joy.
A kid whose birthday party literally brings the whole mall at his feet will never value or feel this joy. He will just demand more and more every year and it will never be enough. I think we, as parents, have an immense responsibility of not corrupting these simple joys of life for our kids.
Give them the sand and not the castles, gift them the colours of life, not the colour of money.
A kid who can find joy in the simplest of things today will learn to find happiness in every small thing in life. Let's not steal this ability from them. Let them not become our tickets to compete for status and commercial success.
Let the birthday have the ring of good wishes and cheer and not the pile of coins spent in organising it. We decide what our kids grow into. Let's give them the gift of happiness on their birthdays and they will always thank you for it. Even the birthday song says it: "From old friends and new, May good luck go with you, Happy birthday to you!" Who needs a return gift when you have friends and luck by your side? I rest my case.
Till my next post! You can write to me at http://mammamania.in