Advice

Carolyn Hax: Twins’ birthday needn’t be a gift bonanza

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: This is the first year my 7-year-old twins are in separate classes and each has invited 10 classmates to their joint birthday party, some of whom know the other twin. Many do not. Family and friends who know both equally well will be in attendance as well.

I am concerned some of the classmates will feel obligated to bring a gift for both, which seems unfair to me since they might not know the other birthday girl. Is it appropriate to say, “No gifts necessary but if you choose to bring a gift, rest assured you only need to bring one”? Thanks for your thoughts!

Gifts

So, you’re looking at a low estimate of 20 gifts (10 + 10 classmates, each bearing one joint gift) and a high of 40 (10 + 10 classmates, each bearing two gifts), not including what family members give?

We need, reflexively, to see that as disgusting. It’s a judgmental word, but one I’m applying to the culture, versus any individual in it. No kid needs 20 new non-essential things, and no family needs 40. Please social-engineer your way around this. Here are three possible ways:

▪  Specify no gifts. It’s an etiquette no-no to put that on invitations but, again, I see materialism as the greater evil. Make it clear to your girls that the relatives and classmates who attend are providing the gift of their presence. By all means, also get your girls some gifts as a family — they’re 7 after all — but let the village off the hook.

▪  Or, specify that in lieu of gifts for the birthday girls, you’re collecting toys for (favorite apolitical children’s charity here, such as a homeless shelter). Have your girls decide from among a few local ones, and make sure they come with you when you deliver the gifts. Giving brings more happiness than receiving (http://1 .usa.gov/177U67N), so, if you think about it, we serve our children ill when we train them to expect a one-way flow of gifts. Again, some gifts from the family, at home, will suffice as something to unwrap.

▪  Announce a “grab bag” system: Have each guest bring a wrapped, unmarked gift — set a dollar limit, 10-15-20 bucks — to be placed in a bin at the party. Everyone who brings a gift can then take one home. This has the benefit of obviating the Goodie Bag, that cheap plastic pox upon parents of children under 10.

Other suggestions entertained. And no, it’s not terrible to deny gifts to kids this age. They’re having a 30-ish-person party!

Re: Twins’ gift: Turn it into a book gift party — “please bring your favorite book” — that signals one gift only [and not one for each twin]. Give any duplicates from your own books to charity.

Anonymous

Yes, this too, thanks. Can’t overdo books. (Get it, overdo/ue? I slay me.)

Dear Carolyn:

What do you do when your friend suddenly announces that she needs your reference for adopting an infant? Said friend has never — in the 20 years I’ve known her — expressed any interest whatsoever in babies. In fact, she flees from them. This all will be just fine, right?

Anonymous

Her past interest in babies is irrelevant, yes. All that matters is her character.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.

  Comments