Childrearing

World’s Rudest Mom Tells Party Guest to Go Exchange Gift and Bring Something Else

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(There better not be a book in there, I tell you what. iStockPhoto/chaiyon021)

People, people, people! Do we need to have a refresher course in basic etiquette for everyone in the world? Because having a child does not give a person permission to regress to a childlike state of oblivious entitlement, and yet some parents are engaging in feats of rudeness so bad I can only hope the dead are not watching us, because I don’t want poor Emily Post to have to hear about it.

Children’s birthday parties bring out the worst in people. If it were the children acting badly, that would be expected. You can’t give a bunch of 6-year-olds a giant cake and access to a big stack of toys without expecting a bit of drama. But children’s birthday parties appear to bring out the worst in parents, as well, like this one mother who actually handed back one of her son’s gifts and told the guest to return it and come back with something else.

According to The Stir, columnist Liz Dashwood of The Pool took her son to a birthday party for one of his friends recently. She bought a book as a present and wrapped it. Then she went to the party with her son and handed the gift to the birthday boy’s mother, who then handed the book back to her and told her to go get something else.

“She took it in one hand and gave it back to me in the other, saying, ‘Marco doesn’t really like books – anything else would be fine.’ And sort of gestured in the general direction of the shops,” Dashwood writes. She says the mother really did mean for her to go out and buy a new present right there.

I think I need the smelling salts now. This situation is an onion of horrible behavior. Every time I think I’ve peeled back one sort of madness, there’s another one underneath. First of all, merely handing the book back in the first place is terrible. The gift should have been graciously accepted, and then if she wanted to return it to the store later, that’s fine. Regift it or donate it. And it’s just extra absurd that the woman actually expected Dashwood to go out and get a new present right that minute.

OK, so maybe the kid doesn’t like books. Not every gift is going to be perfect. Some years you’ll get socks. Some years you’ll get five Rainbow Looms. Parents must roll with these events, because if our kids see us acting like entitled little shits over suboptimal gifts, they’re going to think it’s OK to grow up to be entitled little shits themselves.

And underneath all that, there’s the simple issue that it’s a book. This might be my own bookish prejudice showing, but if one’s six-year-old “doesn’t like books,” should the response really to shrug and say, “Oh well, no books in the house then!”? Maybe let the book gifts in the house, and give the kid the opportunity to find one he likes.

Dashwood says she did not go running out to buy the nearest non-literary toy she could find, though. When the other mother wasn’t looking, she hid the book on the gift table and took off.

How does a person even get to the point where she thinks it’s OK to hand back a child’s birthday gift and ask a guest to go buy something else? Maybe it comes from not reading books.