88879319I’ve heard of people requesting that guests don’t bring gifts to their child’s birthday party. I get it – your child has too many toys. Why bring anymore crap into an overcrowded kid’s room – even though kids love presents and you are ruining everything? But I just can’t get behind the idea of asking for “college fund” money in lieu of gifts, like one father did this week:

This year I want to tell people that they do not need to bring a gift. But if they absolutely must bring something, then to please add to their college fund. My wife doesn’t want us to write this on the cards, but to tell people if they ask. I think this will lead to people still bringing gifts to the party if it’s not spelled out.

I actually think both ideas are pretty terrible. Skipping gifts is such a bummer for your child; it’s his birthday, not yours. But to ask your guests to contribute to a college fund instead? When did gifts for children become something that has to be practical? This isn’t a baby shower and it’s not a wedding registry – it’s a birthday. Also – how much is this really going to help your kid’s college fund? Not enough to excuse the awkwardness of the whole idea.

The thing about monetary gifts is, they put a tremendous amount of pressure on the giver, don’t they? I mean, what if you only had ten bucks to spend and planned on putting together something thoughtful and crafty? The ceremony around birthday parties is supposed to be festive and fun. There’s also the small but important fact that kids love opening presents. If I got an invitation to a party that said “in lieu of gifts, you can donate to Junior’s college fund,” I have to admit I would be pretty eye-role-y.

Maybe it’s actually a great idea – maybe I’m too married to the birthday parties that I grew up with. My kids are young enough that I have yet to experience the competitive nature of gift-giving that I hear some parents complain about. I just think it’s best to not mention gifts at all. Let your guests do whatever they feel comfortable doing – and return or give away whatever gifts your kid doesn’t want. That’s how we all grew up doing it and I don’t remember there being any major disasters that transpired because of it.

(photo: Getty Images)