I’m not sure if this is global, but: here in the suburbs of [Deep Harbor + Angular Music Building], when you give a tween/teen birthday party, you get A LOAD OF RUBBISHY PRESENTS which then lie around, getting dusty and waiting to be stepped on.
You may imagine me surrounded by bottles of pink bath gel with collars of pink fur and sparkles around the neck (the bottles, not me). DSD (14) hates pink and we all shower – quickly! Bring on the regifting box and the home made presents!
I am not knocking DSD’s friends. They’re just doing what “everyone” does. But anyone who is trying to get over being consumerist would definitely get a boost looking at what kids swap for presents around here. Some of the ways we are trying to cope:
- We try not to “open presents” AT the party. That way, the nicer presents (assuming we have enough in the category already) can be regifted. Important to remember who they came from so people don’t get their own back. We have a stack of four BIG document boxes filled with brand new stuff just waiting for the right occasion (or a yard sale).
- Some of them (including DSD) are making collages for each other instead of presents. It’s great to collect a collage of pictures of you and your friends with mushy stickers like Besties 4 Ever & even original artwork if you are in the mood. (Social note: last year they were using these phrases seriously and this year they are using them ironically, while still meaning the sentiment.) Other presents that take time/care are custom MySpace layouts and photoshopped montages.
- They’re also being smart in some cases by talking beforehand and deciding to get group presents, either pooled money or some one thing the girl really wants.
Here’s an older Salon article on a related topic (K Mieszkowski interviews P Paul):
What is your advice to parents who want to avoid being suckered?
At the most basic level reuse, recycle, repurpose. The average American child gets 70 new toys a year. That is just so far beyond what is necessary. Most child gear, toys, books are a lot cheaper, relatively speaking, than they were decades ago. In the aggregate it ends up being a lot more expensive, because we’re buying a lot more of it, but kids just don’t need that many toys. Kids lose out when things become less special.
Actually I think we’re just ahead of economic shocks (and more expensive transport) that will make this topic seem quaint and academic – very soon. (I started writing this in March. Should have posted it then!) Nevertheless, advice or anecdotes welcome!