The mother set up a fundraising page to ask for money towards the pricey present, writing, in her son’s voice: “My birthday is coming up and I would be so excited to play on an outdoor play-set. To contribute to my birthday present, please donate to the fundraiser.”
This landed her in hot water with fellow parents, who initially thought something bad had happened when they first saw the crowdfunding page.
One mother wrote: “Usually when the ‘GoFundMes’ pop up on my feed it is because someone is sick or something tragic has happened – so momentarily I was worried.
“But only momentarily, because rather than some sort of horrible news or cause that she needed help with (which for the record I am glad it wasn’t), the fundraiser was to raise money for the very ‘worthy’ cause, her four-year-old son’s pricey birthday present.”
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The mum pointed out that the fundraiser didn’t appear to be motivated by financial hardship, adding: “When did fundraising become so self-indulgent and really, plain selfish?”
I hear what she’s saying, of course – nobody should ‘expect’ presents for their children, even if they’re throwing a party. In fact, I’ve recently discovered a trend of parents writing at the bottom of invitations to not bring presents at all.
After all, one thing the world does not need is more plastic. Especially when you consider that plastic toys account for 90% of the market, according to a plastics trade magazine. What’s more, they’re cheap, have shorter life spans than high-quality toys and are virtually impossible to recycle.
I had to enforce a strict “one present rule” at Christmas to stop the besotted grandparents spoiling my children silly. I learned that the hard way, after watching my first-born drowning under a sea of gifts that would take her days to open, full of beautiful things she simply had no need for.
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The amount spent, whilst coming from a place of love, felt ostentatious and unnecessary. And I didn’t want my children to grow up thinking that to show you care, you have to give people things. Time and empathy are far more important.
So, should we really be criticising someone for acknowledging that their child doesn’t need any more toys – and providing an alternative way for parents to contribute, if they so wish? After all, it’s not mandatory. And as the woman who raised the issue pointed out, at the time of writing, “there have been zero donations”.
Some people (especially grandparents) will want to buy children gifts, no matter what. So let’s stop the stressful search for presents and give them a more sensible route to do so – especially if that means a donation towards something long-lasting that a child really wants – and won’t have forgotten about by their next birthday.