Monday, 9 February 2015

Birthday bash

Singer and model Myleene Klass has caused huge controversy after suggesting children's birthday presents are getting way over the top and it's just not on to ask parents of schoolmates to donate £10 each for a present.

She says "I know I am in a privileged position compared to many, but I live in the real world and have countless friends who wouldn't be able to put that sort of donation into a schoolbag. Being a parent is expensive enough, without birthdays adding up."

Reaction from other parents was sharply divided. Some told her privately they totally agreed and were glad she spoke up. Others, including the school headmistress, were hostile and claimed she was "attacking the school's community spirit."

She points out that if the parents of all 26 children in her daughter's class gave £10 for each child's birthday, that would be an awful lot of money they could maybe ill afford. She suggests going back to the custom of simpler, cheaper presents that she remembers from her own childhood. "My family simply wouldn't have been able to afford a contribution like that for my schoolfriends' birthday presents."

She adds "If my girlfriends gave me a gift to the value of £300, I wouldn't accept it - and I'm an adult. For a child to get a present of that value is sheer madness."

She complains that kids' parties are out of control as well. If one child has a massive party, the stakes are upped and other parents feel pressure to do the same. "If we were all still giving jelly and custard
and playing pass the parcel and having bouncy castles, this sort of crazy cycle wouldn't happen."

I must say that when I was a kid, birthdays were no big deal and me and my sister were lucky to get a birthday card and some very ordinary present. My parents would never have embarrassed my classmates' families by asking them to shell out for our birthday gifts. We didn't usually have birthday parties either. A birthday cake and a few sweets were seen as more than adequate.

We didn't feel disappointed. We didn't feel our birthdays were a washout. We were quite happy with such a modest celebration.

When did birthdays become such a spree of conspicuous consumption?

Pic: Myleene Klass and her daughter Ava

31 comments:

John Gray said...

Here here myleene
Pretty and sensible

Nick said...

John, I thought you'd say that. You're always full of practical common sense.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Nick,

No fancy birthday presents here. Never have been and never will be! They are rather sad reminders of getting older.....better to do without. Indeed, better to just think of Name days as they have here in Hungary........no counting involved and they come round once a year!

Nick said...

Jane and Lance: Oh, I rather like birthday presents, however advanced the age that prompts them. I think about the present rather than the age. As for name days, the birthday of St Nicholas is just five days before my own birthday. Perhaps I could celebrate them both and get two lots of presents?

Cheerful Monk said...

We didn't have birthday parties when we were kids --- we just got to choose the dinner meal that night. And, of course, we received presents. I don't think the modern method is doing kids any favors.

Nick said...

Jean: I don't think I even got to choose the evening meal! If I had, it would probably have been fish and chips.

susie said...

I know this woman who has five sons. They had everything. One year, she asked for pet gifts and she donated to the Humane Society.

Bijoux said...

My girls were happy to just have a few girls over for a slumber party on their birthdays. I noticed the craziness by the time my son was in elementary school and he was being invited to out of town, overnight parties at waterpark resorts.

Jennifer said...

When I was a kid, birthday parties were very small, generally only for very young children, and took place either at home or a park. There was cake and ice cream, party hats, and games were played. The kids attending might bring a small present, but even added all together the gifts wouldn't have equaled $300! I can't even fathom that! As we grew up, birthdays generally became a family meal, maybe a gift or two, and probably a friend spending the night. Simple. Reasonable.

Now, however....I've seen people buying 3 year olds pricey tablets and by the time the kids reach elementary school they have iphones and video games and the kinds of expensive stuff I never had until I grew up, got a job, and bought them myself!

It can't be good for them.

Nick said...

Susie: If it's the idea of being obliged to give something that puts people off, I guess some parents wouldn't be too happy about donating to the Humane Society either.

Bijoux: Overnight parties at waterpark resorts? That's bonkers.

Nick said...

Jennifer: Elementary school kids having all the latest electronic gadgets - that's absurd. All I had at primary school was pens and stationery! Yes, and what's wrong with cake and ice cream, party hats and games? I think a lot of kids today are spoilt rotten, and likely to grow up into greedy, grasping adults.

Liz Hinds said...

I always had a birthday party and we still make a fuss over birthdays but Mylene Klass is perfectly right: it has gone way over the top and is ridiculous.

Some children have shared birthday parties so imagine if there were 3 birthday children each demanding £10! £30 in one week out of many people's budgets is going to mean a struggle.

Nick said...

Liz: Absolutely, £30 for some people is simply money they don't have, if they're living from hand to mouth as a lot of people are nowadays.

Grannymar said...

We had a family birthday tea for our celebration. The only difference to the cake of other days was the candle/s on top, these increased until the age of five and then reverted back to a single one each year. My eldest brother had a birthday two days before mine so the celebration was always on the day in between. We had the one cake and candle. Since I was younger, I got to blow the candle out first, then it was relit and we sang happy birthday again for my brother. To this day, if we are together around our birthdays we will share a cake! No presents involved.

Nick said...

Grannymar: That all sounds much more sensible than the birthday madness that prevails nowadays. I like the idea of your blowing out the candle and then your brother blowing it out again!

Secret Agent Woman said...

I've never heard of anyone asking for money for their kid's gifts. That's bizarre. I went to many simple birthday parties as a kid and threw many for my own. Usually "themed" - cowboys, or dinosaurs, or pirates or whatever. But always home-made by me, never extravagant. I can't even imagine asking for money from the guests!

Nick said...

Agent: Interesting that you've never heard of parents asking for money in the States (or Tennessee at any rate). Funny, it seems more like an American custom! I like the idea of themed parties.

Wisewebwoman said...

That and weddings, completely out of control driven by mammoth corporate media more more more.

/rant.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: Weddings are even more over the top. Guests are often expected to travel to some distant location at considerable cost. Plus donating expensive wedding gifts. Very selfish of the spouses-to-be in my opinion.

Dave Martin said...

Bringing to light just another example of the ridiculous keeping-up-with-the-Jones's, considerably-richer-than-you bullshit that's so popular with the yummy mummy brigade with their school run armoured personnel carriers and bottle blonde hair.
Well done Myleene for showing up these people for the shallow soulless individuals they are!

Nick said...

Dave: Ooh, that's a bit harsh. You've really got it in for school-run parents! I expect most of them are as bright as you or me, but they get sucked into this competitive bigger-and-better syndrome. And if they try to resist it, they get frosty looks (and worse).

Jay, Sparking Synapse said...

Great minds, Nick, great minds. I hadn't read your blog when I wrote mine in response to hearing the news relayed by a shocked OH, but it doesn't surprise me that you feel the same. Bring back the jelly and custard and the simple gifts. I think it's outrageous the way people are being pressured into this kind of thing.

Nick said...

Jay: Great minds indeed! I think the term emotional blackmail is appropriate. And what you might call social blackmail - pay up or we'll badmouth you. Anyway, it's my birthday next month - jelly and custard would be rather fun....

Jay, Sparking Synapse said...

I'll come and help you eat it. Can it be green jelly? I love green jelly!

Nick said...

Jay: I'll order the green jelly straightaway. And the bright yellow custard. And the neapolitan ice cream.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Why would asking for money seem more American when the article is about a British woman? Extravagant parties may be common here, but people pay for them on their own.

Nick said...

Agent: Just my casual prejudice about Americans - that they do everything bigger and better and at greater expense. Totally untrue, I'm sure, like most of those prejudices about other countries. Anyway, I'm going to the States again soon so I can check out my stereotypes against the reality!

Secret Agent Woman said...

I'm not arguing against the stereotype that Americans do everything better and more extravagantly, just the one that they'd expect anyone else to help pay for it. If anything, the stereotype of fierce independence would argue against that.

Nick said...

Agent: I see what you mean. As you say, fierce independence is very American. It makes us Brits look like a nation of cadgers!

Rummuser said...

You have got to see what happens here with young parents with more money than style spend on birthday parties for their children. It is a vicious cycle as each child has to reciprocate when it is that child's party and the gift giving is completely insane. Frankly I cannot understand the phenomenon.

Nick said...

Ramana: That's the thing, the whole crazy business escalates indefinitely until everyone's spending obscene amounts of money just to keep up with the other parents. Someone (like Myleene) needs to call a halt!