I've followed Myleene Klass on twitter and Instagram for quite a while now, and her no nonsense photos and tweets make me chuckle. Yes, she's a very glamorous lady with an enviable figure and a celebrity lifestyle, but she's also a mum who seems not afraid to call a spade a spade. Something I admire in people.
So when I saw this tweet from her the other day containing a screenshot of an email from schoolmums requesting money as a present for one of her daughter's classmates' birthday party, I was shocked. Apparently the two birthday girls would like a Kindle and a writing desk ("both educational") so money to purchase these would be greatly appreciated.
Myleene's reply was spot-on, telling the original senders that they should contribute to her daughter's desired present of a unicorn and that they could donate at www.getwhatyouregivenandendthismadness.com.
When on Earth did it become socially acceptable to email people that you don't really know requesting money for your child's birthday present? When did it become ok to presume that the attendee would even give a present?! Of course it is polite to give the birthday girl/boy a small present as a token, but don't presume! And don't email around the class telling people that's what is going to happen.
Last year The Boy had a joint birthday party with his then best friend. Born 12 hours apart, they attended the same school although the boys were in separate classes in the year group. The other mum and I had been chatting several months before and discovered that we had both intended to have a party for our boys at the same venue on the same day, and therefore decided it would be easier to share the cost and effort. That way we'd be inviting all 36 children in the year group as the boys would invite the children in their own class to the joint party (only 25 came).
Of course what I didn't take into account was that parents would feel obliged to buy for both boys, at the time I assumed they'd just buy for the classmate who had invited them. In hindsight, I actually wish I'd asked for no presents as I feel terrible that parents had to find the money to give to both. Most presents that The Boy received were between the £5-10 monetary value mark and were spot on for him; he enjoyed every single present, but I was shocked at the generosity. I also felt embarrassed to have put parents in that situation, especially when one child gave both of the boys a £20 Toys R Us voucher each! The most appreciated present he had was a pack of Top Trumps, which I consider to be most appropriate for a classmate's party; under £5.00 and a small token for the birthday boy.
It's rude to ask for money in the first place, isn't that called begging? With people that you don't really know it's crass and lacks class. Presents should be personal, they should show that the giver has sat down and thought long and hard about what that person likes and would truly appreciate. Vouchers and money have never been a present that I've been comfortable giving, and neither do I particularly like receiving them; in the past I've actually found it hurtful (depending upon the giver) that they knew me so little to not be able to find something for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not completely adverse to it should occasion demand, as in the past the family has got together and bought joint presents for family members, but that was appropriate for siblings and parents.
However with regards to the original story, don't even get me started on the fact that classmates were being asked to buy such an expensive present! If her friends were buying a Kindle or writing desk, what on Earth would the child receive from her parents?! Surely that's a large present that is given by a family member?
Myleene was right to 'call out' these near-total strangers for their inappropriate behaviour. Birthday party presents should be small and thoughtful, and for children it's the joy of giving and receiving a present. It is wrong to presume and expect presents of a certain value, and it is even more wrong to assume it's ok to ask.
After all you know what they say about the word 'ass-u-me'.