This is one of those posts that I can't decide how to label: "Things I'm Digging"? Or "Things That Bug"?
I enjoy a good, imaginatively assembled treat bag as much as the next girl. I have been known to come bearing treat bags when treat bags are not, technically, required (to end-of-season soccer parties, for example).
But, at some point, they became a requirement. And that, I guess, is the part that bugs.
Even my own sweet children, who have had the rules of party-guest etiquette drummed into their thick little skulls since Day One, have been known to inquire (of me, or - EXTREME MORTIFICATION MOMENT - of the party host): "Um, where's my treat bag?" Sometimes, in lieu of a treat bag, a mom has sprung for one larger, thematically appropriate parting gift in lieu of random junk in a sack - a pool toy for a swim party, or a superhero cape, or a hat. These tend not to compute, because they are not treat "bags," per se - they don't open at the top, and they aren't tied off with a festive length of curly ribbon. I think that, in the minds of my children and most of their age contemporaries, an ACTUAL BAG IS AN ABSOLUTE REQUIREMENT. Everything else is an add-on, not a substitute.
For the record, although I tend to get a bit jiggy with the party take-homes, I don't have any expectation that other mothers do the same. I truly enjoy assembling all of the party accoutrements down to tiny details, but I understand that others would rather poke themselves in the eye with a sharp stick than hang crepe paper, or assemble treat sacks, and I respect that. As parents, we are all wired differently, we all suffer from our own forms of insanity - and we all have our own unique definitions of what "parenting hell" is. Thus, my darling children have received, on several occasions, The Lecture: "You are NOT entitled to a treat bag. Parents are NOT, in fact, legally required to even THROW a birthday party for their child, let alone hand out gifts to their child's friends. Do you have any idea how much it costs to have a birthday party these days?" Yadda, yadda. The Lecture is sometimes referred to in my household as The Couch Speech - because, one year, after tabulating all of the expenses of the Older One's birthday party, it became apparent to me that the tab for the party was within a couple of dollars of the tab for the couch I had just purchased for the living room. Which, I should point out, was not just any couch - it was Mitchell Gold, and each piece of it was individually slipcovered - and Scotchguarded. Since having this epiphany, I find myself frequently equating child-related expenditures with theoretical furniture purchases ("Do you realize that a week's tuition at Robot Camp could buy me a Pottery Barn ottoman in any of fabric grades A, B or C?").
Now, Treat Bag Insanity has spread to the classroom. Yes, I probably contributed to the problem, every time that I toted snowman-bedecked cups filled with candy cane-striped pencils and Christmas tree-shaped erasers up to the kids' school. But I did so out of the goodness of my own heart - and also because (1) Walgreens had marked the cups down 70% after Christmas the year before and (2) I managed to stash said cups someplace where I actually was able to find them.
This year, I was somewhat surprised to see, on the sign-up sheet for Parker's end-of-year party, not one but TWO blanks for "treat bags." Seriously? If anyone was going to fight the good fight, I expected it to be Ms. Sylvester. She's one of the good ones - we could not have asked for a better kindergarten teacher, and we have been lucky to have had her twice.
So I signed my name in the second blank (the first one having already been taken), primarily so that some treat bag-adverse mother would not have to step up to the plate. Stopped at Target on the way to work, acquired star-shaped sunglasses (the kind with shutters instead of lenses - because little kids are prone to popping out the lenses in the first fifteen seconds), little bottles of bubbles, mini fruit roll-ups, a pad with motivational stickers in the front and sheets with "find the picture" puzzles in the back, and cellophane bags. And then, after finishing my lunch in the breakroom, I cut some of the stickers into strips, used others to decorate the bubble bottles and bags and started folding the puzzle sheets into packets. My coworkers chuckled and shook their heads - and then asked how I wanted the puzzle sheets folded, and did I want the stickers centered on the bubble bottles? Pretty soon, we had quite the assembly line going.
Tonight, I will finish them off with little notes: "My future in first grade is so bright that I have to wear sunglasses." (Yes, I know that the song goes, "I gotta wear shades," but we're trying to encourage literacy here.) And tomorrow morning, the Younger One will march proudly into his classroom, bearing a paper sack with just a little bit of a swagger that will tell the rest of the world, "I COME BEARING TREAT BAGS."
And, I guess, I'm okay with that, all things considered.