Remind me never to …


If ever I get tempted, please remind me never to hold a children’s party ever again, would you?

It seems that two rather managing young mothers got together and decided to send an email to all the parents of their daughters’ classmates, stating that for their forthcoming birthdays, they wanted a ‘class gift’ for them rather than individual offerings. They informed the recipients exactly what the young ladies wanted – a kindle for one, and a desk for the other – and even suggested an amount that parents should contribute (£10) and a couple of alternative methods of paying.

Stunned, another mother, Myleene Klass1, relieved her feelings on Twitter, adding a picture of the email she had received and her reply to it. Her reply was classic, and very funny. She told the two grasping forward-thinking and hopeful mothers that her own daughter would like a real, live unicorn for her birthday and that she herself wouldn’t be averse to a Ferrari, and/or Leonardo DiCaprio. She suggested that money could be donated via a fictitious website’. Having read this email, I think it was a pretty good one. A nice blend of humour, and ‘take you down a peg or two in the nicest possible way’.

Here’s where it gets really silly. The headteacher of the school chose to reprimand Ms Klass for making it public rather than the two instigators for their outrageous and extremely rude begging email, and she was also harangued at the school gates by the other mothers.

There’s no doubt that to publish the email on Twitter was unacceptable, but at least it has brought to light what is going on in our schools today. It may be that it was a private school for the well-heeled and well-connected, but if so, does that make it any better? And this comes not very long after a young boy’s father was sent an invoice for nearly £16 for failing to send his son to a friend’s party, which happened to be held at a dry ski slope.

I’m afraid that to this grouchy old woman who remembers – and holds to – the values of her childhood, this all seems .. well, a mixture of sad, pathetic and absolutely fucking outrageous. And no, I am not going to beg you to excuse the swearword2.

I would like now to give you the reply that would have been forthcoming from me, if anyone had ‘suggested’ that I pay £10 towards a child’s ‘class gift’ when my boys were young.

Dear Managing and Socially Inept Fellow Parent,

Thank you for your email regarding my contribution to your son/daughter’s ‘class gift’ on the occasion of their forthcoming birthday. What a very clever, and rather inspired, thought! But – forgive me – I fear you cannot have thought this through.

You see, there are thirty children in the class, and if I were to do this for each of them, the amount I would need to find on a yearly basis comes to £300. I also have another son, in whose class there are twenty-eight children, which adds another £280 to the bill. Since I cannot afford an extra £580 per annum from my classroom assistant’s wages until such time as my sons leave this school, I must decline to take part, on the basis of fairness to all the other children. After all, since you have shown such an example of inclusiveness, I can hardly contribute to one and fail to spend on them all, can I?

Yours, Affronted of Orton Malborne

This doesn’t even take into account the fact that some parents have three, four, or even five children, and are thus on even tighter budgets than we were. Can you imagine trying to find an extra £1500 each year as a single mother on child benefit? Or are we now judging people on their ability to pay, and discriminating against those who choose larger families? Personally, I can’t imagine the effect all this will have on the kids themselves. I have visions of the ‘haves’ feeling superior to the ‘have nots’3 and the ‘have nots’ being looked down upon and feeling not only inferior in some way, but shamed.

More to the point, really, is that if we go with this horrible new venture, will it not make the children themselves look down their cute little noses at those with different values4 or lifestyles which make it impossible or undesirable for their families to join in? What about the kids whose ‘class present’ email doesn’t bring enough revenue for their desired unicorn gift?

I sometimes get sick to the back teeth with the current politically correct attempt to include everyone, everywhere, all the time, because let’s face it, life isn’t like that and if we are taught to believe that it is, we are doomed to bitter disappointment, but this is … well, let’s just say it’s a step in the wrong direction.

Or maybe I’m way out of date and this now is the done thing. I sincerely hope not. It’s bad enough that there now appear to be rules for holding children’s parties about who gets to win what and which treats have to be provided for each child and when it’s OK to withhold them.

1 So, OK, Myleene Klass happens to be both famous and well-heeled. It is hardly the point.

2 This does not betray my childhood values at all. My father, God rest his soul, swore like the trooper he once was.

3 As has always happened and will continue to happen despite our best endeavours, especially among children.

4 Jehovah’s Witnesses, for instance, who don’t celebrate personal birthdays.

16 thoughts on “Remind me never to …

  1. Kathy G 11th February 2015 / 2:16 pm

    I was reminiscing the other day about my boys’ birthday-party-going years. Granted, they ended almost 20 years ago, but back then you could get by with a $5 present. I wondered what the ‘going rate’ is now–sounds like it’s gone up quite a bit.

    • Jay 11th February 2015 / 11:48 pm

      Exactly, Kathy. We were really quite broke when my sons were young, so parties were fun food on the table plus the cake and squash, and games, mostly without prizes, but there was always Pass The Parcel. I struggled to provide a little bag of cheap toys and sweets to send them home with but nobody expected much in those days and a cheap toy and a few sweets was gladly accepted. And a gift for a friend whose party they were invited to was – as you say – not wildly expensive, but anything was appreciated.

  2. Rob Lenihan 11th February 2015 / 2:22 pm

    As a non-parent, I’m a bit out of step with this trend, Jay, but having your post, I must say it creeps me out.

    When I was growing up you got the gift (actually your parents paid for it), went to the party and gave it to your friends. Nobody submitted plans, directives, or pre-orders. It was just…normal?

    Of course back then we didn’t have emails or Twitter, so people just did what they thought was right without all the groupthink. Maybe we were on to something.

    • Jay 11th February 2015 / 11:51 pm

      That’s my memory of the way it went, too, Rob. My parents threw a very simple party with sandwiches, jelly and cake, we had games, and we received (or gave) simple, fun gifts. And that’s the way it should be. All parties were different because everyone had different ideas and different customs – and THAT’S the way it should be too. It’s good for kids to experience the way other people do things, and learn to accept them without getting prissy about the differences.

  3. nick 11th February 2015 / 2:23 pm

    Well, you know my views on that one, as I blogged on the same subject! If my parents had been asked for a £10 “donation” to each classmate’s birthday present, not only would they have been unable to afford it, but my already bad-tempered father would have given himself a coronary with rage. My sister and I considered ourselves lucky to get a birthday card and some very modest present.

    • Jay 11th February 2015 / 11:54 pm

      I had no idea you’d written about it too, but I’m comforted that you did. As I wrote, I began to wonder if it was me that was out of step with the world!

      We didn’t have huge presents either. It wasn’t the point! It was to remember that we’d made it through another year of life and to celebrate that fact. It was fun to get new toys etc, but .. do you know, I don’t think I ever asked for anything particular for my birthday. Christmas, yes (‘I would like a pony!!’) but not birthdays. You got what you were given, and that was that.

  4. Valerie Daggatt 11th February 2015 / 3:05 pm

    This is a great post, one that should be shown everywhere. It is the greed and audacity of parents that act this way yet I believe it is passed off as wanting the best for their kids. If the latter is what they think then they talk a load of rubbish since kids are better off with lesser gifts. In my day …. but I won’t go there. Suffice to say greed wasn’t heard of while gratitude had it’s rightful place.

    • Jay 11th February 2015 / 11:55 pm

      Thanks, Valerie! How kind of you.

      You’re right, I think. It’s the parents who are grasping on behalf of their kids and I’m sure they have convinced themselves it’s altruistic and perfectly normal, but to me it simply is not.

  5. Carol 11th February 2015 / 5:55 pm

    Gotta agree with you here. If parents want their child to have a Kindle, they should buy it for them. Better yet, give the kid some age-appropriate jobs for which they can be paid (by the parents) and let them earn the money to buy the Kindle.

    • Jay 11th February 2015 / 11:57 pm

      Yes!! We gave our children minimal pocket money, but ample opportunity to earn more if they wanted it. People used to sometimes say that we shouldn’t be bribing them to do things, that they should do chores for nothing. I used to answer that if we were honest, very few of us would go out to work if we didn’t get paid for it. 😉

  6. Jake 12th February 2015 / 7:39 am

    Dear Mrs. Puddle-Duck

    I just thought that I should let you see the attached email – it seems your daughters are impersonating you in an attempt to steal money from unsuspecting parents taking their children to their birthday party.

    I have to confess, when first I saw it, I wondered whether the message might have been genuine! Of course, I soon realised my mistake; the writing is clearly that of a ten-year-old. I apologise sincerely for thinking for a second that you might have been so crass as to try and embarrass your fellow parents into pre-order birthday presents for your children.


    • Jay 12th February 2015 / 10:30 am

      Ha! Your reply is so much better than mine, Jake. I should clearly consult you first, next time.

  7. houndstooth4 12th February 2015 / 2:15 pm

    Well, I teach PreK and I’ve never seen this happen at our school. I view this more as someone’s extremely poor judgement without thinking a lot of things through. However, our society continues to become more and more self-centered, and I see it from older people as often as those who are younger.

    • Jay 12th February 2015 / 5:13 pm

      You’re right – it’s a problem of society, and yet another sign of its decline.

      So, would your head-teacher have handled it the same way? Or would they have been more inclined to have a word with the two women who sent the email asking for money for a ‘class gift’?

      It’s good to know that it isn’t some universal new custom of which I was unaware, anyway!

  8. Katherine 13th February 2015 / 1:16 am

    OK… that is HYSTERICAL! I can’t believe it! I laughed out loud about the live unicorn. BRILLIANT.

    I can’t imagine having the mindset to send an email like that. I wonder what those kids will turn out like in the end. “I deserve this and this…”

    And your picture? PERFECT!!!!

    • Jay 13th February 2015 / 1:47 pm

      It is kind of funny, isn’t it? And it would be funnier still if it weren’t true. As it is, it’s also a rather sad indictment of today’s society.

      As to the picture – yes! I thought it was absolutely perfect. It’s not mine, I got it from Morguefile, but thanks. 🙂

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