Navigating the world of kids' birthday parties can be tricky. Is the younger sibling welcome? Can you drop off or do you need to stay and supervise? Was everyone in the class invited? There's a whole host of party etiquette to be aware of before you can bite into that grocery-store cupcake, but one thing you shouldn't question is that little note at the bottom of the invite that says "no gifts please." When someone includes that, they mean it.
Before I was deep into kid birthday party politics with my own sons, I was invited to my first first birthday party that specified no gifts. But how could I show up with nothing?! Would that be rude? Maybe it would be okay to bring something small? Or is it rude to bring a gift when they specifically requested that I not? In the end, I showed up empty handed and was a little nervous about it, but when I arrived and there was not a single gift bag in sight I breathed a sigh of relief. Now that I've hosted my own share of birthday parties with the no-gift policy, I firmly understand the sentiment.
My kids have a lot of toys — so many toys that I do a clean out before every gift-giving holiday and regularly donate ones they don't play with. They get a lot of hand-me-downs so we are good to go on clothes. Their grandparents and aunts and uncles like to send gifts so there is plenty for them to open on their special days. So when I request no gifts from everyone else, I really mean it.
I don't want another copy of a book we already have. I'd rather not deal with toys that have a thousand tiny parts. I prefer to keep certain things, like play guns, out of the rotation. And honestly, I don't want any more sh*t in my house! But most importantly, I don't want my kids to focus on gifts as a big part of their celebration. I don't want to send the message that with every birthday also comes a truckload of toys. There are better ways for my 3-year-old to spend his time than unwrapping packages for an hour.
I totally understand the urge to come with a present in hand and appreciate the gesture behind it, but please know that I really am okay with the lack of gifts. In fact, that's what I prefer (you know, since it was on the invitation and all). And if you ever feel guilty about arriving empty-handed, think about how the people that actually followed the instruction feel when they walk in and see a few gift bags on the table.
So let's just agree — you really don't need to bring a gift when I request that you don't. And I promise not to send you home with a goody bag filled with crap.