When I was in my first years of parenthood, I spent months planning the birthday parties of my firstborn. I’d come up with a theme, make decorations by hand, cook up a feast for the friends and family who would attend, and invest in lavish loot bags for her friends to take home.
It was exhausting and expensive. Three children later, I now do things a little differently. I lighten the invite list, I let my children choose the activity of choice and I skip the fancy fare in favour of store-bought snacks. But one thing that I still haven’t been able to shake is those senseless goody bags.
Every year I select a bag full of swag to give as a parting gift to each party guest and every year, I’m left wondering if it’s even worthwhile.
Isn’tthe purpose of a birthday party is to celebrate someone else?
Why are we working so hard to please the guests, when the purpose is to celebrate the guest of honour?
We as a society have trained our kids to believe that they should be rewarded for every action that they make, and by doing so, we are failing our children.
Giving out treat bags at the end of a child’s birthday party is like giving every participant the same ribbon on sports day, or giving every child the same grade - regardless of their efforts. We’ve become so concerned with “everyone should be treated equally” that we’ve disallowed anyone to enjoy a moment in the spotlight - even at their own birthday party.
What was originally meant to be a gesture of appreciation, has become an overly-extravagant expectation, and it’s taking away from the true purpose of the party.
My favourite parties are those that involve the guests making a special craft that they can take home as a keepsake. The sacs of spontaneous dollar store items can be costly and wasteful, and few parents enjoy giving or receiving such loot.
A lot of effort, energy and expense goes into planning a party, and I’m so grateful when my child is invited to participate in a fun activity to fete their friends.
If it were up to me, we’d do away with loot bags altogether and end the party with a thank you and a wave goodbye.
The problem is, while many parents I know agree with the idea of tossing the treat bag tradition, no one wants to make the first move. Children have become so accustomed to accepting gifts in honour of someone else’s special day that a change could result in utter chaos.
We no longer give goody bags because it’s something we enjoy, we do it because everyone else is doing it. We seem more focused on one-upping other parents, instead of focusing on the only one who should be receiving the gifts: the birthday child.
It’s time for us party-planning parents to band together and ban the blasted bags. If we’re willing to wipe the tears and focus on the gift of giving instead of the thrill of getting, our kids would be better off - and so would we.
Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, writer, editor, and marketing consultant. Find her on Twitter and Instagram