Do we really need more junk?

I am quite certain that on several occasions I have already said words similar to what I am going to write, but here I go again.

Most of us have too much stuff/junk. Kids especially. Do you remember when Valentine's Day at school meant filling out a box of cards for your classmates and getting cards in return? Now, parents feel obligated to send in candy with those cards. And a simple lollipop or bite-size candy bar is no longer enough; now most parents send in treat bags that consist of several pieces of candy, perhaps one of those annoying foil-wrapped pencils that are nearly impossible to sharpen, tiny erasers that are too small to be useful, and some stickers or fake tattoos. Halloween works much the same way. And some parents even send in small gifts for the class for the Christmas party. Don't even get me started on birthday parties, which now involve take-homes for each party guest as well.

You might be wondering why I am bringing this up now. I will tell you, but only if one of you can promise to talk me down from the ledge/soap box. One of the moms at school thought we should have a "fun" day for the kids two weeks before they make their first communion (a big deal in a Catholic's life; however, most seven- and eight-year olds have little understanding what it is all about). Personally, I don't think the kids need this pizza-and-craft party; they have several parties throughout the year, and they are having a day-long event the day before their first communion anyway (which will mostly be "work" but no doubt some religious crafts and fun foods will be on the docket). However, as a homeroom assistant, not one to rock the boat (and just someone who realizes she might be a little too uptight!), I agreed to help. Now I find out we are not allowed to give the kids pizza that day because it is holy week. No idea why you cannot have pizza during holy week (it is not taking place on Good Friday, when Catholics of a certain age should abstain from meat and fast), but if that is what the principal says...

So the new plan was to go forward with a pizza-less fun day that still includes a craft and some treat bags (yeehaw, more worthless junk the kids don't need!) and then have a small pizza celebration the week after communion. I, being all about my kid getting as much education for my money as possible, emailed the homeroom mother and recommended we move the fun day to the pizza day (that is, combine the two), suggesting it might be harder to get parents involved with two days. I wanted to suggest we just skip the pizza event altogether, but I know another mom volunteered to make the pizzas, so I let that one go. Fortunately, I just got an email back informing me that we are probably going to forgo the pizza day. Victory!

However, the issue that bugs me as much, but for a different reason, is the treat bag. The homeroom mother asked for willing parents to buy small treats/trinkets for the kids, but since I am so against the idea, I cannot be one of those parents. Believe it or not, it is not (really) about the money; I am certain I can pick something up for everyone for under $5. It is just that the kids don't need more junk! And I don't even know what the craft is going to be. Already someone volunteered to buy pencils, no doubt those frustrating foil-wrapped ones, and I just can't help but think it will go in the garbage (I am sorry, but we have too many already!). Another parents is picking up some silly bands, so I guess Jordan can add those to her collection, which is pretty much gathering dust since they are not allowed to wear them at school. No doubt teeth-rotting candy will be included in those bags as well. I have to wonder how many kids make use of these things and how much of it goes in a landfill. Can't the money be better spent (or not spent at all)?

Am I the no-fun mom? Is it perfectly fine for the kids to have a couple of fun hours over a couple of days and come home with some stuff? Or can you agree with or understand anything I am saying? Let me have it. I can take it!


Sherri said…
I am anti-trinket. In my kids' party bags, I try to include something useful. Like at my 5 yr old's b-day party, I put instant cocoa and hand warmers in since the party was in Jan. We have waaaaay too many little erasers and pencils. At Oakland Catholic, they do a Santa's breakfast and the bags are great - an age-appropriate stuffed animal, a paperback book, etc. If done right, can be effective party favors... if not - yes, just more junk.

Why don't you make a coloring book? Do a cover - a couple of pages with verbal directives - like "My First Communion Class" - "Me on my Big Day" - whatever. You can print B & W at home and staple it. The kids can draw pictures and mom and dad have a keepsake too :-).
Lynnette said…
Personally, I hate the treat/gift bag concept. It's totally stupid. No one wants to spend a lot of money on them, so instead, they fill them with cheap, stupid gifts that I HATE having in my house. If it were up to me, I'd pitch the whole thing every time my daughter walks in the door with one. But then she whines, "But I really, really want that!" And then she never, ever, ever, ever, ever plays with it. And it just collects dust, and fills up the junk drawer, which I swore yesterday I was going to clean out this weekend. And how in the world can they say no to pizza during holy week, but ok to treat bags that might contain some junk food? I don't get it. What the heck is that all about?

Lastly, for the one birthday party we had for my daughter where we invited kids, I did do a treat bag, but it was a real treat bag. The party was doggy-themed, so I made homemade cookies in the shape of a dog bone, and put maybe two cookies in each bag (a doggy bag, to boot... how cute is that?). Wouldn't you much rather have a few good, homemade cookies than a bunch of cheap crappy toys and some processed food? Ok, maybe I'm a little biased, but I thought it was a way better idea than any others we've seen.
Facie said…
Sherri: Great idea about the book. But I think the HR mother pretty much has the day planned. Clearly I should have posted this post earlier! Oh, and I think that winter-themed treat bag was original and useful.

Lynnette: Fortunately, b/c Jordan tends to get all the crap at once (has not been invited to a party in eons so we are talking class holiday parties), I am able to pitch most of it withour her knowing. No doubt Lila's treat bags were yummy.
chris h. said…
I never met a mom who wished her kid had more little bits of nothing lying around the house. I think you are right to challenge this new norm. That kids are showered with trinkets on every possible occasion (and that there are so many occasions now) makes everything they get -- even the big stuff -- less meaningful. Another day, another treat bag -- ho hum.
Kim said…
Facie, It is very refreshing to hear you write this. And yes, I do remember when a valentine's day card from our classmates WAS the treat! I am a mother of 4 yr old twins. Since I am just entering the world of b-days and parties, I am just learning about these seemingly unspoken 'rules' & expectations.

I'm sorry, but I cannot talk you down 'from the ledge/soap box'...but will JOIN YOU!!!

Let's group together as minimalistic mothers and stop this nonsense.
* What do we need to prove?
* Does it make us better moms?
* What do the children need it for?
* Who really is winning?

Winner is - X company. They invent these things and go to China to ask them to replicate it cheaply (so they put in lead & other unmentionables).

When my son said his Chuckie Cheese ring didn't work, I used it as a mini-lesson. I explained how it will now be thrown in the trash and because it's plastic, it will not decompose. It will be there forever, with all the other children's Chuckie Cheese rings.

He got it. We took a walk a few weeks later as the snow was melting and starting seeing plastic emerge from under wet, decomposing leaves. "Mommy, will this ever go away?" (meaning the plastic reminant of a candy wrapper). I answered no, of course, and he picked it up to put into the trash.

I understand it, Facie, when you say it's not about the money. I hope I meet all of you & your children in my upcoming years at school...let's stick together! No more 'goodie-bags'!
Facie said…
Kim: You have even better/more reasons than I thought of! And what great lessons you are teaching your kids. If I am the HR mother next year, I would love to institute a no-treat bag rule at events, but yet I hate to hurt the feelings of the moms, even if I disgree with what they are doing. What to do!

Chris: You are right that the treat bags have lessened the effects of other things. As for moms not wanting more junk for their kids, the treat bags for J's fun day are going to have something like 5 or 6 things. I was pretty much the only mom from the "list" who did not volunteer to pick something up. Just don't get it!

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