When I was a kid, inviting a small handful of friends round to my house for my birthday party was one of the highlights of my year (along with Christmas).
Parties were simple, we played musical chairs and pass the parcel. Then we ate a birthday treats – sandwiches, chips and of course – birthday cake.
There would have been presents too – but I don't remember them as much as I remember the excitement I felt when the doorbell went, signalling the arrival of a party guest and therefore – the start of the fun.
Kids' birthday parties have moved on a long way since then. In fact, it's not unusual for birthday parties to feature an entertainer, extravagant party bags (a friend of mine recently told me her six year old came home from a party with an iPad) and show-stopping cakes.
But when it comes to gift giving, things have become even more complicated, as writer Liz Dashwood experienced first hand. Writing for the Pool, Dashwood a mother of one, explains that took her six year old to a party with a book for a present only to have the gift rejected by the birthday boy's mother.
Recounting the event she writes: "It was Marco's birthday party, so I wrapped a book up for him, got Thomas to write 'Happy Birthday' – or at least 'Hapee burthda' – on the paper, because I'd lost the frigging card I'd bought, went to the party and handed it to his mother with a smile.
"She took it in one hand and gave it back to me in the other, saying, 'Marco doesn't really like books – anything else would be fine.' And sort of gestured in the general direction of the shops."
Dashwood explains that she always buys books as gifts because they are easier to get right than toys that go in and out of favour. "I think of books as an unmitigated Good Thing. I basically reckon that the quality of anyone's life is improved by adding a book to it. Yes, even if they 'don't really like books". How are they going to learn to like books if they are never exposed to them?" she adds.
I'm with Dashwood on this one. My own kids have more toys than they can play with and every birthday brings a stash of more (very gratefully received) stuff. Books on the other hand – well surely no one can have too many books?
But regardless, since when did we reject gifts our kids won't like? Surely whatever the gift, it's the thought that counts?
Dashwood didn't go back to the shops to choose an alternative gift – instead she hid the book on the present table and left (good for her!). As for Marco's mum – we hope that someone buys her a book on manners!