The Poor Man’s Present


“Mom, we’re sick of giving ‘poor presents.’ Why can’t we go to the store and buy him that big Star Wars Lego set he wants?”

I think that triple digit number to the left of the decimal point escaped their notice while they were checking out all four of General Grievous’s tiny lightsabers included in the set. In fact, I think they forgot they were shopping for a gift, and not their own personal toy cache.

But it’s true. I have become notorious for giving out, what my kids have termed “poor man’s gifts,” at the two dozen or so birthday parties they attend each year. In my defense, I think they are awesome presents. As a parent, I would be thrilled if somebody gave them to my child. I’m sure your curious as to what these gifts include. Note, these “poor gifts” can be combined or given individually.

1.) A custom CD mix. (I’ve collected lots of kid CDs over the years. I uploaded them all and burn princess mixes, lullably mixes, rough and tumble boys mixes, you get the picture.) Most of the time parents and kids alike will tell me how it’s been in their CD player non-stop since the party and has been their most used gift. But somehow my kids feel embarrassed adding their paltry Sharpie inscribed homemade CD in its paper and cellophane case with nothing but a ribbon around it when the kid next to them is hoisting a large, professionally wrapped, sure to be a Deluxe Lego Set onto the pile.

2.) Play-Dough. Even though my mother nicknamed the soft substance “The Enemy” 30 years ago, I still love Play-Dough. It’s fun, it’s cheap and it transcends age. All four of my kids can sit at our kitchen table with a few tubs of Play-Dough and some cookie cutters and have a great time for over an hour. I like to give 4-packs to our toddler friends.

3.) Books. I watch for deals. When my kids bring home those Scholastic Book Order forms, there are almost always a few books on sale for $1 and there are no shipping charges. Even Barnes and Noble will put their Easy Readers on super sale now and then. Everyone likes to build their home library.

4.) An Activity. Together with the party attendee, we make a homemade invitation for the birthday child to do an activity with us. A fancy picnic at the park, an afternoon at the pool, or a day at the zoo (back when we had season passes) have all been hits. I like to make the activity more special than a regular play date by adding Unlimited Rice Krispy Treats, or putting their lunches in shoe boxes that I wrap up like presents.

To my mind, these are clutter free, small pieces free, and debt free presents. For my kids, they are lack luster. They want something with heft to put up on that card table. But I think a little parental embarrassment will eventually add heft to their character.

(By the way, they also find my soccer snacks embarrassing. “You don’t have the snack again today, right Mom? Phew!” I never thought it would be this fun to be an embarrassment.)


3 responses »

  1. As usual my dear Margaret – you have it right on the mark! Good for you! With the economy as it is – all can learn from your ever creative mind.
    I love you! Margaret #1

  2. i think your ideas are so clever. I like the CD mix idea.. Kids are in the car so much these days that it’s a good chance for them to learn some cute songs and sing along. Don’t cave…this will be a story your kids twill ell their kids. (Either it will be a cautionary story or inspirational one.) LOL

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