At a recent party, Dana Glazer had to endure an unfortunate parental moment: At the end of his 4-year-old's birthday party, his 7-year-old asked repeatedly why there weren't presents for him, and inserted his own name into the birthday song. When asked why he did this, the 7-year-old simply said that he got "confused." Thinking about the incident later, Glazer decided that he couldn't blame him for his confusion. Contemporary birthday practice itself "confuses" what he remembers as the real point of the party and presents—"an expression of how much we care about the people close to us," Glazer writes for the Huffington Post.
Many adults remember parents going through herculean yet homey efforts to make a party a special, personal event. These days, it's easier to schedule time at a Gymboree or Chuck E. Cheese—especially since that's often what the kids want. Presents are relegated to a trash bag to be opened later—receipt included—a shallow simulacrum of the bond between gift giver and recipient. "By making these easier choices," writes Glazer, "we are in essence robbing our children (and ourselves) of the real value of birthdays and gift-giving: the recognition that it is an expression of how much we care about the people close to us."