Dear Miss Manners:
Bless me, Judith Martin, for I have sinned. You know those tacky brides who ask for stuff for their weddings? I happen to know some of them myself. A cousin of mine, for instance, wrote on her wedding invitation, "No presents please - we prefer cash". And a couple of years ago, two co-workers of mine invited us to a baby shower they were throwing for their own baby, then proceded to ask us to sign up to bring a dish, as it was a potluck. I shudder at their rudeness, but I cringe to confess, Miss Martin, that I have become one of those people -- I have asked my guests to give me presents.
Like all sinners, I have my excuses. My twins just celebrated their birthday, five days after Christmas. We invited about 10 children to their birthday party. The thought of the potential mountain of toys to be added to our already-full playroom sent me into a panic. We have recently been to a couple of parties where the mothers had specific gift requests (only books, no guns or superheroes). I thought their requests were quite tastefully worded, and I was not offended at all (in fact I sympathized). So I thought, why not? So in my sons' party invitations, I copied the first mother's wording and wrote "Books/puzzles only for presents, please!"
It worked; the boys received some lovely books and puzzles that they love, and the playroom inventory has not increased. But now I am consumed by guilt. Should I have done this? Do my kids' friends' parents now see me as a greedy mom? Perhaps I should have worded it better? For instance,
"Kindly limit presents to a small book or puzzle"
"For those who choose to bring presents, P&J would appreciate limiting presents to books or puzzles"
I don't know. As I have read in your column, there is no way to ask people for presents without sounding greedy and impolite. I am not noble enough to ask people not to bring presents at all, or ask them to make a donation in lieu of buying a present. Perhaps I should have offered my book/puzzle suggestion only when asked. Please tell me, Miss Manners, if I should apologize to these mothers.
(I know I should be grateful for whatever people give my kids. But I also know that people like to see their presents appreciated, and I mean truly appreciated. My kids' toys get played with, discarded for the next new toy, broken and forgotten. On the other hand, there aren't many books my kids don't like, and any book given to them will be loved for a long, long time. At least that's what I'm telling myself to ease the guilt. I know Miss Manners would not approve, but what about other moms out there? Could you (or have you) done anything similar -- wish lists on Amazon, Target, etc..? Smart mom tip or tacky no-no? Saint or sinner? You decide.)
This post was originally published on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog.