What's been dubbed the "most demanding 1st birthday invite ever" starts out reasonably enough. But the viral invite quickly becomes a near-perfect example of over-controlling, entitled parenting – the joyless, bossy, micromanaged approach to raising kids that is ruining birthday parties.
The invite was sent out April 12 and then posted on Reddit by a user whose co-worker received it.
"With [kid's name redacted] birthday coming up, we thought we'd ask for 4 items that he will really get a lot of use out of in the coming months," the invite begins. "I provided my mom and sister-in-law with a list of 4 other items that [name redacted] would like for his birthday so that they can buy from their list and avoid duplication. We're asking for gifts only from grandparents and the direct aunt/uncle for [the kid's] birthday party, and similar to Christmas, would like to restrict it to 2 items total per household."
As a fellow parent, I nod along to every word of it. If you think it's wrong to put limits and conditions on gifts, I will bet every birthday present I get for the next five years that you don't have kids. By the time your child reaches her first birthday, you are swimming in crap you don't need. You also realize pretty quickly that there's no point in showering one-year-olds with gifts. Because they're one-year-olds!
Eventually, many parents will put conditions on birthday gifts, most of the time in a very polite tone, whether it's "please, no gifts" or in lieu of a present making a donation to a charity of the kid's choosing.
If the invitation ended with the above brief note and the list of the four desired items, it would never have become a viral sensation that's been viewed over one million times. But, oh man, does it not end there.
"A few other important items," reads the invite, marking the point where it turns from perfectly reasonable to just the worst.
"If you choose to get [the kid] something that isn't on this list, anytime regardless of birthdays or holidays, please be sure to always include a receipt going forward. When we return items without receipts, we only get about 50% of the value, so it's like throwing away money if you don't include a receipt with the gifts."
The note also asks people not to buy the child any more books and then there's this gem:
"Please refrain from any personalized gifts that would be used outside of the house. Clothing with names is the #1 thing that leads to kidnapping, so we don't need to broadcast [the child's] name on clothing or toys."
Did you know that clothing with names on it is the number one cause of kidnapping? I bet you didn't.
Then there's this absolute kick-in-the-pants ending: "By the way, a formal invite from [the child] will be arriving in your mailboxes soon."
Reddit users have responded with mockery and rage.
"To RSVP, initial here, here, and here, sign here, and be sure to have this form notarized and returned within a week," wrote one commenter.
Others have suggested buying the child gifts that would irritate the parents, including a "ton" of Play-Doh and a drum set.
"Get him a trumpet from a pawn shop and then tell his parents how special it is to you because your grandfather gave it to you the day he died," one commenter wrote.
"These people sound like the most obnoxious parents ever," wrote another.
That may be true, but they are dealing with a problem familiar to so many other parents. Kids get way too much stuff for their birthdays. Of course, it is a special occasion and children deserve a few wonderful things. Parents today are stuck trying to avoid a tsunami of gifts – each one, by the way, becoming less and less special with each toy that gets added to the pile – and still making the day special for their children.
It's not easy, but nor is it so hard that you should have to send out an itemized memo to your loved ones listing your demands. Maybe when parents stop treating birthday parties like a meeting of middle managers they will understand that.