Ask Sassy: Birthday gift pressure from room parent, cool or not cool?

In Holidays & Parties, Kids by Guest Writer4 Comments

headdeskDear Sassy:

My son was recently invited to a classmate’s birthday party. When buying gifts for a child, I usually spend no more than $20, otherwise we’d go broke buying gifts for all the parties we attend. No sooner than I had received the invitation, I got another email from our room mom asking each family to chip in $30 so that we could send the little girl and her twin sister to Disneyland – a life long dream of the two of them (if you can call it life long because they are only 5!). While I realize it is a nice gesture, I feel it was overstepping boundaries and asking a lot of parents who may or may not have that kind of cash to spend on one present. So, was this mom meddling or just being nice? For the record, I caved and gave the $30…

Dear Caver:

I had to get some ice for my forehead because I have a bruise there from when it hit my desk.

I mean, what?! Is there a reason that these little girls deserve a trip to Disneyland funded by the rest of your child’s classmates’ parents? Are they dying? I’m going to assume something terrible happened to their family and this was a sympathy move, because can you imagine if for every birthday boy or girl you were asked to pitch in $30 for a huge gift like that? I’d say that’s a good case for homeschooling.

Please, people, use common sense and good manners. My desk can’t take much more of this.

If not, your kids must go to one fancy school. But that doesn’t mean you are beholden to the pressures of what everyone else is doing, even if the room mom is in your face about it.

If you’re a regular person like most of us reading this site, then let’s address these high-priced guilt-trip gift-request pleas in general. Parents of school-aged kids are constantly harangued to pitch in money for anything under the sun, and this is not limited to public schools — private schools experience the same thing. Class parties. Teacher gifts. Volunteer gifts. Teacher Appreciation Week. Back to school welcome lunches. Fundraisers. School supplies.

Side note: I know you are asking for validation regarding that weird room mom, but can you silently pass on something to the parents of those twins, please? When you have a birthday party for multiple kids at once, it is proper to make it clear that gifts are not expected for both kids, especially when inviting guests who are friends with only one sibling. In fact, it is even more proper to not expect gifts at all. The point of a party is to celebrate the child’s survival for another year. (And you should consider a bottle of tequila for her parent. I mean, who does the real work here?)

A room parent is supposed to handle things that happen in the classroom at school, not go as far as organizing birthday gifts, which are your choice as the party guest. When Room Mom starts getting overzealous with her gestures of generosity, keep these things in mind:

  • Your participation is voluntary.
  • You’re probably not the only parent who thinks that this extravagant gift is a little much.
  • Your guilt over whether or not to contribute is YOUR guilt. It has nothing to do with anyone else, no matter what they say or do. The wonderful thing about that is that it is yours to release. You can choose not to feel guilty! You can look at your budget, decide that the extra $30 is simply not there, and tell the room parent that you are not able to contribute at this time. Bam! Problem solved.

As for that room mom? She was meddling AND being nice. Some people can’t tell the difference. I’d give her the benefit of the doubt, but maybe not follow her lead. Next time something like this comes up and you feel unsure about it, check with the children’s parents first to make sure the gift is something they can use in the first place.

Please, people, use common sense and good manners. My desk can’t take much more of this.

Send in your problem for Sassy to solve, whether it’s a parenting question, relationship dilemma, or a snafu with social etiquette and it may get answered in a future column. Sassy is here to help! Submit your question for Ask Sassy here!

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  1. I can’t help but think the room mom is either A) Best friends with the birthday girls mom or B) Was asked by the birthday girls mom to do this. I wouldn’t have pitched in the $30 just in spite. Plus, my kids like picking out gifts and watching their friends open it.

  2. I have to agree. WTF? We give $25 gift cards. At one point, if you included the card I had to put it in, it was close to $30. Now I have my kid make the damn card. I’m sorry but that is over the top. You cannot ask someone to bring anything, ever. You invite the guest b/c you want the kid to celebrate this day with your kid. Presents are a bonus. Yes, I always bring one but that is my choice and to actually “fundraise”? I gotta go. My head hurts too.

  3. Desiree, you sly fox. As judgy as I can be about other people’s actions, it would never have occurred to me that those moms might have been conspiring to get that extravagant gift. Floored.

  4. It is not judgmental thinking, it is logical thinking. Who in their right mind would plan such an extravagant, organized gift for someone in a blind decision? What if the girls hated Disneyland? What if they had annual passes? What if their parents were going to take them for Christmas? The room mom had to have been informed that it was their dream and was somehow unmanageable for the family to do themselves. I did not say it was necessarily a scheme to get free tickets, but that is what happened right?

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