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"Your presence is my present"

If you have kids, then you also have invitations to other kid's birthday parties.

The two go hand in hand, particularly if the kids are in school of any sort. And you have probably planned a few birthday parties for your own kids, too.

As a parent, you have sat down and decided who to invite with input from your excited child, when it should be, and the all important where it should be. The truly brave are those people who invite the children into their own home. The rest of us shell out money for a place that will let 18 preschoolers run wild.

Then there is the all important gift aspect.

So let's just set the record straight once and for all.

1. All of our kids have way too much "stuff."

2. None of us want to appear greedy.

3. None of us wants our kids to grow up with a "gimme" attitude.

The above three rules apply to nearly everyone I know who has played host a child's birthday party.

Given this, it is probably not a surprise that parents still resort to feeling it necessary to write on the invitations, "no presents please."

Pet peeve? This would be mine.

Yes, I know you don't want to appear greedy, that you want to teach your child there is more to life than gifts and that your child probably has way too many toys already. (Just like my kids do.)

But... you just can't go to a party empty-handed. People LIKE buying gifts for children. And by allowing us to bring a gift you are assisting me in teaching my child about generosity and how to choose an appropriate gift for his friend. My son (as with most children) loves to carry a gift into a party. He clamors for the child to open his gift.

Teaching giving and generosity is every bit as important as teaching a child to accept a gift graciously and say thank you.

Etiquette says you should never write "no presents please" because you are indicating that a gift was warranted for the occasion. Sure, I buy this... but let's not forget about how uncomfortable people are when they follow the rules and show up empty-handed while half the other parents ignored the request and brought a gift anyways.

Or how about putting the parents on the spot to explain to your child why they could bring a birthday gift to Andrew's party but not to Jack's party.

The gray area falls in gift "exchanges." Dubbed so because gifts are brought, but every child leaves with a gift. I never used to have a problem with this until recently at one of these my son saw a child open the gift he brought (apparently my son didn't get the "exchange" part I tried to impart) and cried, "Hey, that boy opened the gift I brought for 'David.' Mommy, he is taking 'David's' toy away!"

Yes, I explained that we, too, were taking a gift away that someone else had brought. Little AB told me, "but it isn't my birthday." See, we had just gone over the whole "you only get presents on your birthday" thing a few weeks before when it was my daughter's birthday.

I have found myself sitting on the fence with the gift exchange practice. Good idea when communicated on the invitation so I can prepare my child for the exchange. Bad idea when a child opens something completely inappropriate to their age or gender.

Or he opens his exchange gift to find the nicest toy in the room, leaving you feeling uncomfortable about what to do next?

Pry the thing from his fingers and hand to the birthday boy — sure to cause a scene.

Or sneak out quietly... taking the gift you had told your child to put on their wish list for next year.