Motherly Collective

When I trekked to the Dollarama last week, I caught the eyes of another mother in the party aisle with a glazed look as she thumbed through some plastic knick-knacks. 

I caught her eyes and nodded, “goodie bags?”.

“Yep,” she sighed.

I nodded in shared sympathy.

I’m not opposed to goodie bags entirely. I remember the thrill of the loot bag lifting me up right as my blood sugar was plummeting after the high of cake, ice cream and games. They’re generally inexpensive consolation prizes to calm the kids who didn’t receive all the presents, little dopamine hits to help lure the partygoers into their shoes and out the door. I’m not a grinch—I get it! 

But as I stood there next to another tired mom, both of us picking up and putting back dinosaur figurines and cheap yo-yos, I once again wondered if it’s worth it. Sure, the items are cheap, but it still takes energy to get to a store, choose what to purchase, and get it to the kids, and almost invariably, the items will be in a landfill within a week. 

I’ve even heard some parents with a rule that loot bag items may never see the inside of their home: Kids can root through them in the car, and then that’s it. Most family homes are already jammed with toys in various states of neglect; do we really need to accommodate the dozens of army guys in their parachutes, plastic rings, and bouncy balls that creep in? In my house, the ensuing wrestling match rarely seems worth the effort to pry the items from my mini-Gollum’s fingers, so often, I end up taking the L and tolerating the bits and pieces until I can safely remove them without the preschooler’s wrath. 

We’ve been to other parties where guests received a lollipop or a cupcake as they were leaving. I like these gifts as they’re consumables, and less likely to end up binned. Last year I made and wrapped cake pops.

Another option for birthday parties without goodie bags is something functional, like a coloring book, sidewalk chalk or the evergreen favorite, bubbles. 

When my daughters turned one and three, we had a fairy party in the park, and I purchased little fairy dolls and sets of wings which I hid in the trees. The children found the wings and put them on and then took the fairy dolls home. They doubled up their purpose and were used not just as favors but as decorations during the party, and I felt good that at least they were used in some capacity. (Psst…more waste-free ideas can be found here.) 

“Who initially decided to make all the parents do this in the first place?! I was never consulted!” I joked to the fellow mom. 

If you’re a parent who takes joy in making and giving goodie bags, all the power to you. I really enjoy choosing a theme and doing a fun cake and cute decorations, but goodie bags are my least favorite aspect of throwing a party. Still, the truth for me is that it’s easiest to take the default route. If my peer parents decided to suddenly stop giving out goodie bags, I would be gladly joining their ranks. At the end of the day, I know that none of the kids need more “things”, and that the party itself is already such an expression of love and community. But bucking the trend seems like more work than following them at this moment in my life.

The mom and I laughed, and I put three packages of bubbles into my cart.

“No kidding” she said, loading up on plastic farm animals. 

“Next year we riot?”, she asked.

“Next year”, I agreed.

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