DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: This is in regards to "Confused by the cash demand", whose sister-in-law asked for cash donations for her child's education in lieu of a birthday present. I have both a sister with a two-year-old and a best friend with a three-year-old. Both of them had too many toys and books and gadgets for their children, and they specified for their child's previous birthdays that they do not want gifts. They don't want their children spoiled, and their house littered with stuff their children never use. When people ignored their requests of not buying gifts, they were not happy.
Here are some things I have done, after talking with the parents, that were very productive for us: Taken both children to a big, adventure indoor-play structure; visited the Children's Museum; bought the parents gift cards for supper, while I had a babysitting play date; made a donation in place of a gift to a children's charity. There is a better way. -- 32-Year-old Uncle and Friend.
Dear Uncle: Refusing gifts and requesting money for an education fund is crass, any way you try to justify it. The letter that sparked this issue was about two parents earning six figures each. The birthday child doesn't get to open any presents at their party, while the parents stand by feeling virtuous about an education fund they could well afford themselves.
That's a sure feeling of confusion and disappointment for the young child, who has been to other kids' birthday parties and knows what happens there. Other kids get little gifts at their parties and open them after blowing out the candles. Who is this birthday party for, anyway -- the child or the parents? You know, less gift litter, more funding. Your play-date gifts were thoughtful, but buying the parents dinner out so you can babysit? It's not their birthdays!
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I think the family asking for cash gifts for a child's birthday isn't trying to be rude or greedy. They're trying to reduce the number of toys and junk in their house. Our house is full of stuff, and my husband and I bought next to none of it. People are so generous, but everyone wants to be the "fun" gift-giver. The grandparents in our life spend hundreds of dollars on each grandkid but have flat-out refused to skip the fun toys and contribute to the RESP. When they ask me what my kids need, I laugh out loud. The things they actually need -- such as diapers, swimming lessons, RESP contributions -- they don't want to buy. I'm grateful for what they do buy, believe me, but a lot of it ends up getting donated or broken within a year.
By asking everyone, these parents are just trying to put them all on even ground, which is pretty smart. An option might be donating to a charity like the Winnipeg Humane Society in honour of the child's birthday or planning a special event/outing. If people assumed the best instead of the worst, you'd be out of a job. -- Too Many Toys.
Dear Too Many Toys: How about the gift-giver who knows the child intimately? How many want to give cash to the parents for an RESP contribution? A donation to a charity? What happened to personal little gifts, picked out specially for the child, given after some cake? Isn't it about the little one having some fun in way a child can enjoy -- blowing out candles and opening up some presents wrapped in kooky paper and ribbon? As for the nasty dig at me, I won't dignify that with a reply.
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