Thank You … For Not Saying “Thank You.”

My daughter’s sixth birthday party was a few weekends ago. We (I) like to celebrate usually with an at-home party, a meal’s-worth of food, homemade birthday cake, balloons, tablecloths, opening presents and some sort of entertainment for the kids/guests. It takes a lot of time and energy to execute. A lot of that time and energy is spent making it look like it didn’t take a lot of time and energy to execute. After it’s over, I’m usually exhausted.

I may have mentioned it before, but I’m old. However, I can still remember going to birthday parties when I was a kid. Most of them were low-key, inviting neighborhood friends and friends from school (back then, they were one-in-the-same) to the birthday person’s home for cake and ice cream and present-opening…and playing with said presents. Occasionally, I’d be invited to a party at the skating rink or McDonald’s or the bowling alley. Sometimes there was a piñata. Those were awesome. In late-elementary school, the slumber parties started. The recipe: friends, sleeping bags, pizza, cake, ice cream, movies, scary story for Light-as-a-Feather-Stiff-as-a-Board and a determination to stay up all night. I made and lost great friends at those parties (oh, middle school drama) and have memories of most of them, still. I don’t remember ever leaving a party with a favor. And out of all of the birthday parties I’ve attended and hosted as the birthday girl myself, I’ve never written or received a thank you note for a present.

Until recently.

I mean, is this a new thing? Am I without any manners I *thought* I had? I’m born and raised in the South so it’s not like I’m new here. I have my “Yes, Ma’ams” and “Yes, Sirs” down pact. I’ve gotten engaged and married and had babies – each of those events came with showers where I received presents, carefully catalogued presents, so appropriate, meaningful, SINCERE thanks could be handwritten, addressed and sent to the gift giver. I’m not ungrateful. I just haven’t sent out Thank You cards for my children’s birthday party gifts. Hypocritical, perhaps but NOT ungrateful (wink, wink).

Here’s the thing: A LOT of people are doing it! Oh, the peer pressure. That’s not the only way I can show my gratitude though, right? I’m *almost* feeling guilted into doing it. That’s not the way it’s intended to work, I’m sure.

I’m not just wanting to rant. I hadn’t planned on mentioning this at all. I’d normally just sit and stew in my guilt for forgetting or not having making the time to write my true thanks to each child for coming to the party, for making the party what it was with their laughter and cool, kid enthusiasm. I’d say thanks for the gift and for making my kid so happy on her special day. To the parents, I’d write a thank you for the effort I know it took to come with a present to this party… when I know you could have been doing something anything else with those few hours of your precious weekend. With my child, we talk about how nice it was for her friends to come and how great it is to have received their gifts. She expresses her thankfulness and appreciation again to us, her parents, reiterating what she told everyone at the party. My child is not ungrateful.

If you’re a parent, too – you know. So, thank you.
If you’re a kid that had fun at the party – you know. Thank you for coming.

So, without a plan to rant, here’s what got me thinking about this:
It was present time at my daughter’s party. I choose to have her open presents at the party so everyone can enjoy seeing her open their present. It’s never resulted in any problems – except for some over-zealous “Open THIS one!” gift thrusting by some happy-to-see-what’s-in-the-boxes guests. The children were gathering and the adults were getting a seat while I was scrambling for a trash can to stow the carnage. A friend approached me, thinking she would offer some help. She asked if I’d like her to write down the gifts and the givers. I knew where she was headed. In the middle of everything, I told her that I was going to pass on the Thank You cards this time. I didn’t want to offend her or for her to feel like I was passing judgment on HER. The moment was moving fast, so I threw out, “Who started that anyway?” She smiled, and the party kept moving.

Gifts opened, in-person thank-yous dispensed, happy children playing, food and cake all gone, I started to clean up when I got this text from her:

“Can I take 5 minutes to say thank you? … for being a wonderfully mannered mom with etiquette I can only hope to one day achieve and to hear you say, “Who started that anyway?” Reminds me that not every current social norm is normal or logical or possible. So, thank you because now I don’t have to keep up with who sent/gave what gift to my girl for her birthday.”

This isn’t an ungrateful woman. BY FAR. I know she’s not looking for excuses. I look up to her for so many things, too. But with that text, she told me that we’re both struggling – to keep up. If she is, and if I am, then maybe you are, too. Now, I’ve no doubt that there are hard and fast opinions about the Thank You card thing. It’s a ball in the air that I’ve willingly let drop. If I don’t drop that one, which one do I let hit the floor?

BTW – Don’t think I didn’t Google. Check out the comments on this post from 2009 (Struggle is REAL, y’all.). AND this etiquette post (Ha!).

Kristen is still in the middle of her love story. She and her best friend of four years gave in and finally decided to date. Two years later, she was engaged. Two years after that, she was married. She’ll celebrate her 17th wedding anniversary this May. Mom to Ellen (8) and James (5), she works full time in Human Resources outside of the home. Her children have taught her that motherhood is hard. And wonderful. And HARD. A proud alum of LSU and Johnson and Wales University, she also collects college degrees. (BS in Psychology, AS in Culinary Arts and BS in Culinary Nutrition). She’s lived in Baton Rouge a majority of her life, with sojourns in New Orleans, Charleston, SC and Providence, RI. The south is clearly home. Recovering from a nearly crippling case of adolescent insecurity, she is still the most likely to have the heel of her shoe caught in the hem of her pants.


  1. THANK YOU for this post. I know people who send out the perfectly designed thank you notes that coordinate with their perfectly designed invitations, with their children’s perfectly imperfect signature on said thank you afterteir perfectly themed party. I’mlucky to pull off any kind of party at all other than a small family celebration, but ever 5 years of so we do a destination party of some kind. And while I have the best intentions, those thank you notes rarely get written. But we do express our guests to friends at the party.

  2. Thank you! I so agree. And being an old mom myself (watch fairfield county mom blog this weekend, when someone asks about me being the grandmother and I don’t kill them), I just don’t care to keep up with the joneses. I say it graciously and consistently, and don’t feel the need to write it out.

  3. At MOST I will send the gift giver a text with a photo of my kid playing with their gift in the week or so after the party and simply say it was a hit and much appreciated. I think the idea of me or my 3 year old sending a thank you note for a birthday gift is silly – it was always my understanding that if you were there to say Thank You in person the note wasn’t necessary – which is why for showers and weddings you do send a note because often people aren’t there with their gift when it’s opened? I do very much appreciate you taking on this topic though, much needed!!!!

  4. I think the best solution to this is for the child to send the thank you note. From when I was old enough to write and have birthday parties, I was sending thank you notes to my friends for their gifts – I was probably 7 or 8. This is what I plan to do for my children. It teaches children that they are always expected to thank someone when they receive a gift and gets the habit started early. I haven’t heard of parents sending thank you notes for their children- I would agree that that is unnecessary. However, I think children should learn to send their own thank you notes young, whether to friends, grandparents, or other extended family who take the time to choose and give them gifts.

  5. I’m old school & think children should be taught the importance of saying Thank Youat an early age. Especially thank you notes.

    An idea that I like is to take a group picture of the kids at the party, have them printed, a short thank you on the back (printed or stamped) then signed by birthday child. M ail them as a thank you and momento of the event.


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