Goody Bags: Necessary Evil or Just Plain Evil?


Here's your bag of crap! Thanks for coming!

We all know that birthday parties have become outrageous and ultra-competitive — that’s yesterday’s news. The new frontier is the dreaded goody bag.

The goody bag has always been the bastard of the birthday party. It’s a throwaway. An afterthought. Because it’s the bastard that’s always been full of cheap junk or teeth-rotting candy. It’s a small token that says, I just paid about twelve to fifteen bucks for your kid to come celebrate my kid’s birthday and we appreciate your $12-25 gift so here is your bag of crap. Thanks for coming and see you next month at your kids’ party!

A few years ago I noticed a slight trend where a couple of the parties my kids went to, there was no goody bag. My kids were devastated, but all the moms were thrilled. The few brave souls who ventured into this no-man’s land of goody bag-less parties confessed they’d just had enough of spending hundreds of dollars on a party and then another several hundred on shit that would end up in the trash. I loved this idea. But, of course, it didn’t catch on.

Instead, it appears we’ve gone the opposite direction. Last week, I was sent this article. It seems that the goody bag is a pretty big deal to a lot of parents and the gauntlet has been thrown down as to what constitutes a “good” goody bag.

Nooooo….The goody bag is the bane of my existence. I can barely get it right as it is and now I’m supposed to do better? Ugh!

When I’m throwing a party for my kids I’m too busy trying to find an affordable and fun venue (we have winter birthdays here so the great outdoors is nixed and the heck I’m going to host a bunch of wilding, frosting-covered grade schoolers in my home nor will I ever go to Chuck E. Cheese — my kids think it’s just for other kids’ birthdays) or cute plates that fit the random theme we’ve picked that year (Gomer wants NERF Battle theme this year — yellow plates it is!) that I do not have the time, desire or energy to look for the “perfect” goody bag insert(s). Because of this, my party-goers end up with a bag of cheap junk and teeth-rotting candy. Thanks for coming!

I have seen some really cute, relatively affordable ideas for goody bags that I’ve been dying to try, but so far they haven’t fit my theme. Last year, Gomer was invited to a party at a pottery painting place. The kids painted a ceramic trivet that we kept and they each got a little paint by number set from the dollar bins at Target. I thought it was perfect! I’m trying to convince Adolpha to have a painting party this year so I can do this and look like a semi-over achiever; plus, I love to paint my own pottery. Over the summer, both kids were invited to a birthday party at a petting zoo. Lunch was served and it was a picnic. Each kid got his or her own personalized insulated lunch bag (also from Target) with lunch inside. Loved it! We still use those bags.

See, OAM? It doesn’t need to be a tennis racket or an American Girl doll. Your goody bag should not cost what I spent (or more!) on the gift for your child. That’s just weird. Who does that?! I know it’s hard for the OAMs – and the rest of us really – though, because you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.

The mom who said NO to goody bags was called “cheap” behind her back by some of the moms, the mom who gave out a bag of crap was called “unimaginative and boring” and she obviously hates the environment since all that junk will end up in a landfill, the mom who gave out small packages of Legos made me uncomfortable because all I could think at the time was, Shoot, Gomer is having a Lego party in two weeks and all I’ve got are lollipops and gum. At the last minute I found cute printables online that I thought seemed simple and easy enough. I worked on for HOURS to make the boys their own laminated Lego luggage tag. Won’t do that again for 21 kids!

You see it’s tough being a mom and trying to throw a party for your kid. I’ve been asked, “What is reasonable then, Jen?” I guess I just think back to what made me happy when I was a kid: celebrating with my friends, having cake and ice cream, opening a few presents and enjoying being the birthday girl. Kids haven’t changed that much and I think they’re still fairly easy to please. They’re usually pretty happy if they get a party with a few family and friends and a balloon for everyone when they leave.

This year for my kids’ birthdays I’m thinking of doing something even the over achieving earth moms would approve of. I’m going to have a nature party and every kid who attends gets a tree that I’ll buy in his/her name and then the kids will help me plant them in my yard (bring your own shovel). They can come and visit their “goody tree” anytime they’d like (parental supervision required, of course).

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