Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Teaching Greed or Good Planning?

As an Oregon expatriate who has moved through Washington, Virginia, and finally settled (for now) in Texas, I sometimes feel like a fish out of water. Less so now than I used to, but sometimes events occur that just smack me in the face with shock and confusion. You know, metaphorically-speaking. While these things can be disturbing, they reliably lead to self-examination, research, and eventual growth. Oh, and blogging...can't forget the blogging!

So here's the situation: Last week, Monkey Boy came home from after-school care with a birthday party invitation from one of the girls. Let's call her Amber, for the sake of protecting the innocent and their not-so-innocent parents. Monkey went to preschool with this girl, so they've known each other going on 3 years now, but this is the first time he's received in invite from her. Amber is turning 6. I reviewed the details on the card and was checking his calender when I noticed the last line: "Amber is registered at Toys-R-Us."

Um, what?

I re-read. Oh yes, "Amber is registered at Toys-R-Us." I got it right the first time. My initial response was shock, which quickly turned into more a feeling of oh-my-gosh-did-this-mother-seriously-write-this-on-this-invitation?!?!?! I texted my husband at work, "You are not going to BELIEVE what Monkey brought home!" I put the invitation down and turned to more pertinent matters of the evening, but that sentence continued to bother me.

When did it become socially acceptable to include a gift registry for you child with birthday party invitations? Did I miss something in the mommy rules? And what about the wording, the expectation of a specific present, the sense of entitlement? It wasn't, "If you don't know what to get Amber, she is registered at Toys-R-Us." There was no qualifier on that invitation, just a command to get thee to the store and don't forget your wallet. Yuck.

I posted a status update on Facebook about the invitation (naming no names, of course) and asking for input from my friends. Was I overreacting? Was I out of the mommy loop, as previously suspected? What would other parents do in this situations? Responses were overwhelmingly negative to the birthday gift registry, but some of my friends didn't hate the idea. Some select quotes, for your reading pleasure:

"I have never encountered this, and personally I don't consider it to be in good taste." ~ from a mother of 4 and grandmother of 6, music therapist

"We register for weddings and baby is this any different...hmmm?" ~ newlywed with no children (to which I replied, " someone who didn't register for her baby showers or wedding, I was a little shocked!"

"No like. Doesn't like it? Gift receipt." ~ mother of 1 and fellow ex-Oregonian

"I think it's a little ridiculous. Gift receipt or no gift...that's my 2 cents :-)" ~ my sister, a SAHM of 3, childbirth educator

"At that age, kids might benefit from a gift they didn't know they wanted. They mi
ght gain a new hobby or interest from a surprise gift. I think it's doing the kid a dis-service." ~ pregnant mother of a toddler, research scientist

"Really? Was there an RSVP also...because I would gracefully (which would be a pretty easy job to do...considering the level of grace already present) DECLINE!!! You know me. Why deliver reinforcement following behavior you don't want to be continued in the future?" ~ mother of a teenager and a behavior specialist (clearly, LOL)

"Registering your kid for bday gifts seems unbelieveable to me. When you're getting married and getting started, there are usually things you need. When your kid turns 6, really??? ANOTHER toy???" ~ mother of 2, music therapist

"No. That is odd. Maybe they could say cash or checks only if they don't trust you to pick a gift! :-P ~ mother of 1, speech therapist

"Definitely not something Martha would condone. I have seen people enclose a card with the child's current interests - which I thought was tasteful - but this is over the top. Though, I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing it more and more." ~ newlywed, no children, who also happens to be a pastor

To me, this is an example of Everything's Bigger in Texas gone bad - is materialism something we really want to cultivate and model to our children? I'm tempted to attend this birthday party just to see what happens with the gift registry, but that would be ugly and, besides, we had already RSVP'd to another party that day by the time we received this invitation. I just hope I don't run into Amber's mother anytime soon, as I may not be able to keep my opinions to myself.

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