POST: Nightmare Parents Write Letter About Baby’s Nightmare Birthday Party

Ah, interwebs… You never cease to entertain me.

The other day I was mindlessly trolling Feedly, when I came across this post from Jezebel:

Nightmare Parents Write Letter about Baby’s Nightmare Birthday Party

I clicked on the link, and prepared myself for feeling morally superior in every way. And then… not so much.

You see, the Nightmare Parents in question have sent an email out to everyone invited to their child’s birthday party with very specific instructions for gift giving. There are only four items on the list. That’s it. Only four, and pleas not to deviate from this list in any way, shape, or form. Other highlights include:

On straying from the list:

If you are unable to get these items, please let us know so that we can buy them right away for him.

It should be noted that none of the requested presents are imminently life saving. We’re talking about a water table or a play tent here. Where is the urgency, I wonder?

On including receipts with presents not on the list:

When we return items without receipts, we only get about 50% of the value, so it is like throwing away money if you don’t include the receipt with the gifts.

Most people harbor the illusion that their gifts are so fabulous, returns will be unwarranted. No one buys a present and thinks “I’m so happy I’m going to be throwing away money on this present for XXX!”

On encouraging literacy:

We suggest no more books beyond the Cheerios one cited above. Right now, XXX has 32 board books on his shelf, and 25 additional books waiting for him in storage.

The book nerd in me thinks 32 isn’t enough, but we all have our preferences.

On permission to buy anything else than what is on the list, just in case you were thinking about it:

Please let us know if you have any questions about any items not on this list that you are considering purchasing, and we can let you know if we already have it or if is in storage waiting for him.

Noted. Do not stray from the list. This couple has a magical, never-ending storage facility somewhere that produces age appropriate toys upon request.

As much as I think this is nutty, I also saw a wee bit of myself in this– particularly after creating the registry this weekend. There is just enough pragmatism to this that I can see how they justified it. I mean, I get the impulse. If people are going to be spending the money on you, you might as well get what you think you need, right? I would be lying if I said I didn’t think some of these exact same thoughts. The only difference is that this couple had the balls to write it down and hit send.

Lost in all this, of course, is the very purpose of gift giving. It is meant to honor the person receiving it as an expression of love from the person giving the actual present. On a large scale, none of this is really about the accumulation of things. It is about showing support. It is about caring. Ultimately, who the hell cares if this couple gets a 33rd book (NOT THE CHEERIOS ONE!) if it comes from a place of enthusiasm for the future happiness of their kid?



  1. Molly · April 24, 2015

    I saw this last week and I almost choked on my water. Much as it would be so nice to be so specific about gifts, I couldn’t imagine actually putting this in writing! Plus, I can’t help but think that sometimes the random things that you never would have thought of yourself end up being the thing that a child values the most.

    • thecommonostrich · April 27, 2015

      I had the same reaction– I can imagine the urge to write this, but I could never convince myself to hit send. It also made me take a step back and think about the purpose of gift giving in general. It isn’t about the accumulation of stuff, but about people expressing what they care about. Some of my favorite presents as a kid were so special to me because of the person who gave them, not because of the thing itself.

  2. positivelypeachie · April 25, 2015

    I definitely see how excessive gifts for kids can get – but the entitlement in this email is BRUTAL! I suspect their family and friends are used to it but still – I would be extremely irritated by an email like that. There are lots of better ways this could be worded that is less offensive if they truly think it has to be said. But really…how about just being thankful there are so many people who love your son enough to take the time to shop for something they think he’ll like?

    • thecommonostrich · April 27, 2015

      It’s a tricky balance, I think. You want people to be supportive (and gifts are one way to show that) but you also can’t dictate how someone expresses it. Consequently, you can end up with a whole bunch of stuff in your house that doesn’t reflect your values. (I’m grappling with this myself as I desperately try to register for things that aren’t overtly gendered.)

      Which is why I understand the impulse. I really do. BUT I also could never bring myself to insist on anyone’s way of expressing their excitement. Just say “Thank you!”… then promptly head to the store to return it. ;_)

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