Saturday, June 24, 2006

Mums Against Party Bags

Wednesday morning: Mum of son's mate stopped me to ask if son was OK with what she felt was a miserly show of a party bag. They had included a note to explain that instead of filling the bag with 'more toys', they had given the money saved to a boy they support in Africa through a charity. The amount given is enough to buy the boy a year of education.

What a good idea, I thought.

Was my son bothered? Did he complain that there were no expensive toys in his party bag? Or colour pencils? Finger puppets? Balloons? Whistle?

Not at all. He was pleased that he had sweets that he normally does not get from us. (And he's going through them very, very slowly.)

Compare that to the previous party where he was given a lot of goodies, including a tamagotchi (or whatever you call it).

Unfortunately the tamagotchi does not work despite our putting two expensive LR44 batteries in it and you can imagine the frustration caused.

Moral of the story: more expensive gifts do not necessarily mean greater enjoyment.

Hmm ... I wonder if I should start a 'MAPB' group: Mums against Party Bags.

Children don't leave parties these days without asking: 'Where's my party bag?'

Before they are 10 feet from the hostess (it's usually the mother) who's been handing out these bags, they will be rummaging through the contents to see what's inside, sometimes throwing away what they decided they do not wish to take home. Pity the hostess (it's usually the mother) who has carefully selected the gifts to put in and they are left behind after the party.

And I do so hate the colourful pla_tic bags they come in. These bags cannot be reused -- you never get enough of the same for your own party. They are too small to be really useful. Worse, some children love to hoard them.

Some parents worry that they don't put enough in the bags and go to a lot of trouble to fill bags with expensive toys.

But should someone buck the trend and put in items considered too pricey, other parents then worry that they cannot keep up with the new standard of party bag contents -- because the children now expect so much more -- and the anxiety sets in.

Or parents would feel guilty: Gosh, this is more than what we spent on the present.

And me? I like the idea of a party once in a while. I have the picture of Jesus teaching about inviting people to a banquet without expecting them to do the same. (This is very hard for us Chinese with our deeply held sense of reciprocity, a bit like the kula ring where gifts go round in a circle.)

Jesus's teaching was: don't bother to invite the rich and famous or the high-ranking politicians, but instead invite the paupers, the homeless, the orphans, the widows and yes, give them a treat. Don't expect any of them to return the gesture or any favours.

But Jesus did not say, throw a banquet and send your guests home with useless trinkets that only clutter up their homes!

Why bother with party bags if (1) the recipients (children) are not (always) happy with what they are given, (2) it makes the host parents anxious about what to give, (3) the guest parents could feel guilty about not giving enough, and (4) the contents are usually appreciated for not much longer than half an hour?

Dare I be the first mother in this group to dispense with party bags?

Oo-Ah! Check back in two years' time.

Back to Organic-Ally.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We took a stand against party bags about 8 years ago when the kids started coming home with rubbish and nasty high-colour sweets from parties. First we made our own bags from brown paper and decorated them with potato prints. We only put a bag of chocolate buttons, a slice of birthday cake and one small useful pressie in. As they got older we decided to give just one book - the 99p mini books by Red Fox pubs and all good authors. Each was wrapped in tissue and ribbon. We have never had a 'wheres my party bag?' query and most of the friends still treasure the books and can tell me which title they have, even though they are now all teenagers. It must be so easy to spend a fortune on the rubbish that fills a party bag and it is such a waste. Lyds