Expensive perfume, a designer bag and a £200 gift experience. These are just some of the luxury items on the gift list that I was expected to purchase.

But I didn’t treat a dear family member or a good friend who was celebrating an important birthday.

No, the loot was for a seven year old girl who goes to school with my daughter, and the list came with an invitation to her birthday party. When I looked through the catalogue of goodies I also saw a £250 Barbie DreamHouse and a £50+ Barbie Campervan.

My first emotion was shock, before I felt anger.

I could barely contain my anger after receiving FOUR invitations to children’s parties, complete with gift lists containing presents costing up to £250

Some parents are demanding that guests bring increasingly lavish gifts to children’s parties

A Barbie DreamHouse - costing £250 - was on the gift list for a child's party

A Barbie DreamHouse – costing £250 – was on the gift list for a child’s party

There was a QR code on the cute cardboard invitation that I had to scan to respond. So far, quite normal for children’s parties these days. But when I clicked ‘send’, I was automatically taken to another page called thingstogetme.com.

At first I thought it was an advertisement. Or a joke.

Sadly, it was neither, but an act of breathtaking audacity that left me stunned and enraged. As a teacher, I was also concerned about the impact such an attitude to gift-giving could have on a class, creating jealousy, resentment and an obsession with consumerism.

Unfortunately, it seems that there is a small group of parents who think differently. Because ten months after that first catchy invitation, I have now received three more with similar gift lists and now I refuse to even talk to them.

Although we live in a nice area of ​​Kent, it’s not overly affluent or flashy. My kids — I also have a five-year-old son — run for local state primaries, where there’s a mix of stay-at-home moms and working moms with professional careers.

No one is extravagant and standard birthday party etiquette has always been for guests to arrive with a token gift such as a book, hair ties or sweets costing less than £10.

Not anymore.

These wish lists work exactly like a wedding gift list. You select the item you want (or feel obligated) to buy, order and pay for it online, and have it delivered to your home or directly to the birthday boy or girl.

I felt cornered when that first invitation arrived, so I picked the cheapest item on the list for £25 – a bottle of Marc Jacobs perfume, which seems an unusual gift for a seven-year-old – and had it delivered to my house so I could at least wrap it up and have my daughter give it to her friend in person.

If that bothers you (like me), I was shocked to see a section where parents could send money instead. It said, “If you want to contribute more or can’t afford the items on her list, you can send money instead.” What a slut!

It wasn’t long before the WhatsApp chat I’m on with half a dozen other mothers began pinging with messages of shared horror. Screenshots of wishlists were accompanied by comments like “Did anyone else get this?” and “What the hell is going on?”

Despite our indignation, the seven of us eventually reluctantly joined, none wanting to leave the ranks for fear of being judged by the child’s parents or even the birthday girl herself. In fact, we didn’t want our children to be judged if they didn’t buy one of the prescribed gifts.

This first invitation came from one of the more affluent families at school. They live in a large house and the mother runs her own yoga studio, while the father is a family doctor. Perhaps their expectations were higher or they felt like they were the first to start the trend. Or maybe they thought they were within their rights, since they were throwing an expensive ‘spa-themed’ party.

I reluctantly showed my daughter that first list and suggested that we buy the perfume, because normally we would pick something out for her friends. She asked in surprise, “Shouldn’t she ask her mommy and daddy for all those big things?” She was, thankfully, just as shocked as I was.

The grossness of what she saw was not lost on her, even at her age.

At the party itself, my mom friends and I exchanged eye rolls and raised eyebrows as the girls were pampered with manicures next to a table groaning with presents. Afterwards, we exchanged messages expressing our anger and our hope that this was truly a one-off. We didn’t even get a thank you note.

Exactly one month later, my daughter came home with a new party invitation, which linked to the same gift site I had responded to.

I was angry again and felt I had no choice but to pick out a gift – and it happened to be a perfume, as it was the cheapest item on the list, at around £30. A bargain compared to the Pandora bracelets and charms that were also in demand.

This time I didn’t share it with my daughter because I don’t want her to think it’s acceptable to hand out a list with a party invite. I hope we raise her not to ask for something similar when her birthday comes around, but peer pressure wasn’t taken into account.

Even a £25 bottle of Marc Jacobs fragrance seems like an extraordinary gift for a seven-year-old

Even a £25 bottle of Marc Jacobs fragrance seems like an extraordinary gift for a seven-year-old

A friend suggested that these lists actually save other parents the wasted expense of a gift that is not wanted or used. That would be fine if the spending limit was £10.

But nothing can convince me that these wish lists mean anything other than a sense of entitlement, especially as the cost of living soars.

It’s just not okay to make these assumptions about people’s finances. It makes kids more focused on the things they’re getting than on who’s coming to their party or birthday party and how much fun it’s going to be to celebrate together.

Anyway, isn’t the point of a gift to spend time thinking about what you’re going to give, and to choose something sincere that you think the recipient will enjoy and find meaningful? Numbly clicking through a list of demands doesn’t give you the same warm, fuzzy feeling.

By the time wishlist number three arrived earlier this year, I had completely overcome my fear of judgement and reverted to my old rule of budgeting £10 per gift. I told my mum friends that if we didn’t take a stand, we would never break the cycle.

Arriving at the party knowing I had ignored the list was immensely satisfying and opened the floodgates as my friends followed suit. Again, we didn’t even get a thank you note, but I didn’t care. I marked my territory.

I also don’t care what the mothers sending out these lists think of my failure to comply, or my increasingly public grumbling. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to confront another mother unless she felt the need to complain to my face about a gift we bought.

As a teacher, I hear more and more stories about birthday wish lists from outraged parents who think it is a terrible idea.

But apparently we’re in the minority. Gift registry site Wishbob reported a 373 percent increase in purchases in the first quarter of 2024.

Meanwhile, My Wishlist reports that new registrations are up 42 percent this year.

One thing is for sure, if any of my kids ever ask for a list like this, they will get very little in return. I will be quick to remind them that the best birthday gift is to have the chance to celebrate with their friends around them.

As told to Sadie Nicholas