Thursday, July 19, 2007

Competition Blues

A week from today will be Ann's fourth birthday. (Same as yours, Ezzie). On the day of her birthday, I'll be going to her day camp with the standard school/camp party implements as dictated by the school.

The school asks for either a bought cake or bought cupcakes, and a half-gallon of juice. They provide plates and cups. Elsewhere on the memo, clearly stated, are the words "We do not permit the distribution of any party bags or favors. Each birthday child may present the class with a gift of a small book or tape if you wish."

Ann and I went to choose a CD of children's music ($5.99) and wrapped it for the occasion. I've got juice in the house, and we'll get the cupcakes next week. The usual cupcake choice has been mini-cupcakes that come 18 to a package, with alternating rows of rainbow sprinkles and chocolate sprinkles on top. They are small and don't cost much.

I was quite surprised when Ann came home from camp today with a substantial "goody bag." It was the first birthday party this summer, and I'm really ticked off that by flouting school policy, this child's mom has upped the ante. A party hat, a few little chachke toys, a sheet of stickers, some crayons, and, my personal least favorite, a giant lollipop, all came home with Ann today. Grrr.

Ann is not a demanding child (though I can already see that Andy's got a whole different temperament). And until now, we've celebrated her birthday by making a small barbeque in my parents' backyard for us, my parents, and my brother who lives locally with his family. (11 people, mostly cousins, in total at this point) I either bake the cake or buy one.

When we go to Toys R Us for diapers, or Amazing Savings for foil tins, and don't buy anything else in the face of toys and chachkes galore, I almost never hear any protests or requests from Ann. But of course, after camp today, Ann told me that she was excited to give out "surprises" to her friends next week too.

I know how kids are at four years old, and if I stick stuanchly to my original plan, Ann will certainly hear from some of the other kids about why she didn't give anything out for her birthday when "Child A" did last week. She's not a fighter, but it will hurt her. And why should she always be the one to be the understanding "big girl" that I'm often asking her to be? I don't think it is fair or realistic to expect a child Ann's age to have the grace and fortitude to calmly reply, "Well, I did give a CD to the class, and besides, we aren't supposed to give out goody bags."

I can think of a couple of other bloggers who are likely to disagree with me, or at least strongly share in my frustration, but I think that at this point, my hands are tied and I need to come up with some modicum of party favor. Perhaps something actually useful or appreciated, like an inexpensive little book or coloring book (I'm open to ideas). It won't be because I wanted to.

I had no issue with the goody bags when Ann was invited to a birthday party held outside of school. I felt that it was unneccesary in that child's case for the parents to go all out at a dance studio, but it was not subject to school policy, and fortunately, it was the only party as far as I know.

Tonight, (before I lost my nerve!), I called the head counselor in Ann's group, who was also her ganenet/teacher the previous year, and expressed my surprise and disappointment that this had occurred altogether, and a week before Ann's own party to boot. She agreed with me, although I understand that from her perspective, having this other mom simply show up with a birthday boy with 20 prepared yet unnanounced bags really barred her from creating an ugly scene and prohibiting her from distributing them. She understood where I was coming from, sympathized, and understands why I'll be showing up with something for Ann to give out (albeit small). Thanks, teach.

Sigh. The whole thing irks me, though.


mother in israel said...

I can think of a couple of other bloggers who are likely to disagree with me, or at least strongly share in my frustration,


Seriously, I share your pain. The ganenet was a wimp LOL, although I see her problem.

EitansMom said...

BTDT. School policy of buying a class gift and no goody bags, but everyone does and the teachers just hold on to them and let the birthday child distribute before everyone leaves.

My recommendation is to go to a party store or a dollar store and get the little bubbles. It doesn't matter what else is in those bags, Ann will be remembered for bringing the bubbles. I don't know a kid who doesn't like bubbles. Bubbles, smallish bouncy balls and stickers are always winners with the 4-6 set here (even my 8 year old). Silly plastic toys cost money and break and the kids don't even like them that much.

Anonymous said...

very true...bubbles are always a sage bet...especially in the summer when moms won't get so upset because they can be used outside.

Anonymous said...

safe bet...bubbles area safe bet.

Honestly Frum said...

Try Party City. You can usually pick up bags of chachkes for a few $$. I feel a similar frustration when my son comes home from birthday parties with bags full of candy. I do not understand why parents do not use common sense when putting together a party bag for a 4 year old.

Ezzie said...

Oooo, bubbles! I like that idea. (I still have fond memories of being 4 and blowing bubbles. Or is that pictures I remember? Whatever.)

I won't disagree, but I will say that lowering the ante would help; you need to do *something* or kids will make Ann feel bad, but - especially if it's in a different 'class' of goodie (like bubbles) - kids will be happy even if it's not "as much".

RaggedyMom said...

MiI - LOL. I didn't mention any names . . ! I was surprised that the ganenet didn't take a tougher stand, but it's a sticky situation all around.

Eitan's Mom, & Anon - I actually had to look up BTDT - and found out that it's "been there, done that" - that was useful! I neglected to mention that among the myriad of chachkes in "Child A"'s party bag was a full-sized bottle of bubbles! But I like the suggestion a lot.

Honestly Frum - I agree, this mom did not show much common sense. Why give 21 4-year-olds a lollipop the size of their heads?! And all those little toys are a real 'thanks but no thanks'.

Ezzie - You're right, there is no sense in trying to match or top this mom. It's not my style anyhow.

Update - I hit Party City (never been in there before, no strong desire to revisit!) on my way home from the doctor's, and picked up a few packs of mini-bubbles sold in 6-packs and a couple of tubes of mini-Play-Doh containers sold in 10-packs. I'll attach the bubbles and Play-Doh to each other with double-sided tape, and call it a day. It was relatively inexpensive, and something that kids would actually enjoy using. I think we're set.

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Good luck hope it's a fun party.

SephardiLady said...

I feel for you. It STINKS to have to make these decisions.

Quite honestly I'm not sure why birthday parties (put on by parents) are regular affairs inside of schools (and camps).

But I must say there is no purpose of putting a rule on the books that does not get enforced. These rules should be enforced for everyone's sake.

RaggedyMom said...

SWFM - Thanks! I think this is one of those things that's fun any way it goes.

SL - Though it'll be nice no matter what, I'm with you - unnecessary decisions, deliberations, expense, and worry. I'm more of a "good girl" regarding the rules, and wouldn't deliberately go against a school request, but this other mom is clearly cut from a different cloth.

Maybe as I 'grow up' with my kids, I'll have the confidence to swim totally against the tide and stick to my guns more absolutely! For this time, though, I took a look at Ann's face and gave in . .

Jack's Shack said...

I know that story far too well.

triLcat said...

Total sympathy from over here. I think you're right that it's just too much to ask for Ann to understand and handle the situation.

Really rotten of the other mom to do that!