It’s time to toss the treat bags and let the birthday child have the spotlight
My son was recently at a birthday party. When I picked him up and prompted him to thank the party hosts, he hesitated, looked at me with a long face, and then scanned the room before muttering “thanks for having me.”
As I took his hand and pulled him away from the venue, his eyes began to fill with tears.
“But I didn’t get a goodie bag,” he wailed.
I watched in horror as he mourned the absence of a parting gift, and worried that I had failed him as a parent. How could I have raised my son to think so selfishly about himself when the purpose of a party is to celebrate someone else?
That’s when it hit me.
As a society, we have trained our kids to believe that they should be rewarded for every action they make. 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 all children the same grade — regardless of their efforts. We’ve become so concerned with “everyone should be treated equally” that we’ve disallowed people being able to enjoy a moment in the spotlight — even at their own birthday parties.
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 sacks 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 bags, 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 goodie bags because we like to, we do it because everyone else is doing it. 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.