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Parenting Trends Are So…Trendy

By Wendi Aarons

Although my kids are still relatively young, just 10 and 12-years-old, sometimes I feel like I became a mother in the Dark Ages. But 2003 really was kind of like living in a cave, I guess, because we didn’t yet have amazing things like iPhones, Twitter and Facebook. OMG, how did we even survive? How did we make it through early motherhood without being able to show the world 100 pictures of our kid’s first poop in the potty?! I have no idea.

But because I had my kids when I did, I missed many of the trends that have now become permanent fixtures in the life of parents. Some of these trends I like, some of them I don’t, and some of them just make me shake my head and say, “Why? Why? WHY? I don’t want to know that even exists, weird cousin on Facebook! Stop it with the hourly pictures of Elf on the Shelf!”

My (admittedly strong) opinions aside, Alpha Mom wants to know what you think of some of these now commonplace Parenting Trends. Should they Stay? Or should they Go Away? Let us know what you think!

Smash Cakes

smash cake trend
It’s now popular to bake or order a special mini or “smash” cake for your baby’s first birthday party. Basically, this is an individual cake given to the little one to destroy while the parents take as many pictures as humanly possible. Whee! Cake material supplier Wilton and Betty Crocker even have recipes and designs for very elaborate smash cakes on their websites, but I think it seems like a lot of work for something that’ll be wrecked almost immediately. (But please note that I wouldn’t mind getting one of these for my next birthday. I’m in my 40’s. Lemme smash something.)

Elf on the Shelf Shenanigans

inappropriate elf
Years ago, there was no such thing as an elf figurine that parents put in different places every night to “spy” on their kid and report back to Santa. No, we had to make our kids behave the old-fashioned way: With threats and intimidation. But while Elf on the Shelf seems like a lot of fun for some kids, we have to wonder: does it only work if the parents post 1,000 pictures of their elf on social media? Also what about the pictures of the naughty elves snorting fake cocaine? (okay, those Inappropriate Elf pictures are totally for the parents and they’re pretty hilarious.) But why so many elves, people?

Gender Reveal Cakes and Parties

gender reveal cupcakes by sweetpeaskitchen
I didn’t find out the sex of my babies in advance, however, I’m in the minority in that now it’s even become popular to have a big party where the gender of the baby-to-be is announced to friends and family with a grand flourish (in fairness, Alpha Mom did a party craft idea post around it as well, and it was controversial). Sometimes the mother even goes as far as giving the bakery the secret ultrasound results in an envelope, then the bakery makes a cupcake with either a pink or a blue filling that the pregnant woman only sees when she bites into at the party. “I taste boy!” Might be fun, but let’s hope a bakery never screws up and uses green frosting.

Elaborate Pregnancy Announcements

pregnancy annoucements
If you’re pregnant and don’t make your own rap video to announce it like this couple in Utah did, are you really pregnant? Much like wedding proposals, pregnancy news has now become more of a production than simple, happy words you tell your friends and family at a backyard BBQ. There are art-designed cards from places like TinyPrints, original songs, poems and many other creative ways to spread the word. Not to mention the plethora of peed-on pregnancy test sticks we’ve seen posted on Facebook. Yeah. Don’t do that.

Valentine’s Day Cards for Every Kid in Class

class valentines trend

When we were kids, you gave a card to whoever you wanted to have one. Now teachers and schools insist that everyone gives a valentine card to everyone else in class so nobody gets their feelings hurt. (But that doesn’t bother us as much as the handmade fancy cards some moms make and pretend their 3-year-old did it.) We don’t see anything wrong with this, but what do you think?

Decorated School Lockers

decorated school lockers trend
Believe it or not, the boring, metal school lockers that we grew up with are now worthy of their own show on HGTV as they’re sporting shag carpet, decorated mirrors and even working chandeliers. In our opinion, all a school locker needs to be awesome is an 8 x 10 of Shaun Cassidy and a few packs of Bubble Yum, but it seems that times have changed and now parents want to give their students something unique. What do you think? Do lockers need carpet?

You’re Going to Disneyland! And We’re Telling You On Camera!

surprise disney trip videos
Why give your kid the exciting news that they’re going on a big trip in private when you can videotape it and post it on YouTube for the world to enjoy instead (especially the epic failures)? We’ve seen a lot of these videos go viral and we’re sure that Disney loves every single one of them. But we have to wonder where all of the “You’re going to the pediatrician for booster shots!?!?” videos are. Those seem like a fun idea, too.

Public Shaming

shaming children in public trend
Posting a picture of your dog on social media wearing a sign around his neck that says, “I Chew Shoes” is bad enough, but at least the dog doesn’t have access to Wi-Fi. Unlike the kids who will someday find the “hilarious” pictures their parents posted of them wearing signs that said things like “I pooped in the bathtub.” We’re guessing they won’t be laughing much. On their therapist’s couch.

Push Presents

Not too long ago, the present a woman got after going through childbirth was….a child. But now we have “push presents” where significant others are made to think they have to give the new mom a piece of jewelry to, I don’t know, reward them for their hard work? I’m not saying I wouldn’t have been happy to get a pair of earrings while recovering from my C-section, but it certainly isn’t something I expected to get. Push Presents apparently started being a thing in the early 90s, but I didn’t get the memo and was happy with the can of Diet Coke my husband brought me from the cafeteria.

Whew, finally got all of that out of my system! Now, tell us what you think about each new parenting trend. And if I forgot any, please let me know that, too. I’m still trying to escape the Dark Ages.

Photo sources: Inappropriate Elf, Gender Reveal Cupcakes, Elaborate Pregnancy Announcement, Class Valentines, Decorated School Lockers.

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About the Author

Wendi Aarons

Wendi Aarons is an award-winning humor writer and blogger who lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two sons. You can usually find her at

Wendi Aarons is an award-winning humor writer and blogger who lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two sons. You can usually find her at Wendi Aarons, The Mouthy Housewives or starting fistfights near the 70% off rack at Target.

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Claire
Guest
Claire

There should be an all of them option. They’re all tripe.

Isabel Kallman
Admin

That’s a great idea. I’ll adjust the poll.

Isabel Kallman
Admin

unfortunately, i can’t add it. Too many parents (yay!?!) have already participated in the poll and it will screw up the data. Thanks for you smart suggestion though.

meg...
Guest
meg...

I can’t pick just three!!!

Hi, I'm Natalie.
Guest
Hi, I'm Natalie.

I’m a big fan of… whatever floats your boat. You’re over-the-moon excited about a pregnancy and want to sing it from the rooftops? I’m happy to share in your joy. You love the wonder and triumph of a toddler making a mess? I’d be happy to take his picture. Mom & Dad are connecting every night over ridiculous Elf poses? I’ll “like” your SM photos and rejoice in the fact that you make time for fun at a stressful time of year. What I don’t like? Anyone feeling pressure to follow a trend. Or anyone ruining the fun because someone… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

Natalie, we’re very aligned on views. And, I feel the same way as you do. But if a mom stumbles across this and feels “bad” about her decision then she needs to rethink why she is doing it. I do over-the-top stuff all the time that others find ridiculous but I don’t care about their opinions because my choices are based on my priorities and what I care about.

But I’m happy that you piped in (as you often do) with your smart thoughts.

Hi, I'm Natalie.
Guest
Hi, I'm Natalie.

Agreed. Everyone should feel confident with their choices, and who cares what anyone thinks!

other natalie
Guest
other natalie

LIKE! Also a big fan of do what you want

flwolff
Guest
flwolff

Um…I had a smash cake at my first birthday and I was born in the 1980s. Most people I knew growing up had one as well…maybe it’s a regional thing that just ‘went viral’? 

Isabel Kallman
Admin

That’s really interesting! Maybe it was a viral thing.

casey
Guest
casey

I was about the say the same. The smash cake, valentines cards and lockers I had growing up in the middle of now where in the 80’s and 90’s!

Isabel Kallman
Admin

posters in lockers is nothing new. Tiger beat was created for that. 🙂 We’re talking about specific wallpaper and chandeliers for your locker. That was available when you were growing up?

I had never heard of mini cakes specifically made for 1 year olds to smash until the past few years. Where did you grow up?

And for valentines day, i grew up in the 70s and 80s and they were not required class-wide. perhaps it was on a school by school basis? Now it’s standard policy.

Arnebya
Guest

When I was growing up we didn’t call it a smash cake. We just let the babies take a fistful of (or smash, or stick a finger in, or whatever the temparent of the kid) the regular cake and then we ate the rest of it. I like people to do whatever they like. Fun is fun. But I agree with Isabel that when it becomes unfun for someone who is made to feel like something is a “should”, there’s an issue (although, I kind of have an issue too with someone feeling like she “has to” follow a trend.)… Read more »

Jaida
Guest
Jaida

You know what parenting trend I’m really over? Crapping all over someone else’s fun. Don’t like what someone posts on Facebook? Unfollow. Hide. Whatever you need to do. Don’t want to be involved in someone’s excitement over finding out the gender of their baby? Politely decline the invitation. Do you really desire to be served a piece of cake that’s had a drooly baby fist in it? This type of article really bums me out. There are so many moms that read here that will have hurt feelings because they choose to do some or all of these things. For… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

I was hoping other parents like you and Natalie would pipe in. Thanks for speaking up. Originally, in the drafts, we had a little poll below each “trend” asking whether you think it should “stay” or “go away.” But it looked too cumbersome for the reader. Now I wish we had included it. You’re right, we should have included as our final “trend” online judginess of fun. That would have been a good one to end the post on. I’ve actually participated in two of these “trends” and find this just interesting from an anthropological standpoint and was curious to… Read more »

Jillian Descaro
Guest
Jillian Descaro

I posted something on facebook about how I thought elf on the shelf was a bit ridiculous.  The idea of having to lie to your children for A MONTH, the santa surveillance, and also I’d want my children to be good for “goodness sake”.  Being good should be its own reward.  Well let me tell you, parents got SO defensive over my post.  It got down right ugly.  I also was told I shouldn’t have an opinion, because I dont have kids yet.  I wasn’t trying to attack anyone’s parenting styles, just a gimic.   For one reason or another,… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

Jillian, when/if you do have children just wait for the comments you get about issues that actually matter in their lives.

Marinka
Guest

I read about “sleepunders” today. Where everyone comes over, hangs out and then goes the hell home to sleep in their own bed. I think it’s less of a trend and more of a sanity thing.

Isabel Kallman
Admin

oh, that reminds me of Chicken Pox parties. What’s up with that?

Wendi
Guest

Yes! I think they all share the same lollypop so they all get the chicken pox.

Isabel Kallman
Admin

also, anything that gets its own name is means it has become a trend.

hokgardner
Guest

I’m spending less and less time on facebook and twitter because I just can’t keep up with the competitive trends – elf on the shelf, fancy announcements, gender reveals. I’m just done seeing it. Other parents want to spend their time with those shenanigans, more power to them. They just aren’t my thing. 

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor
Guest

You had me at Shaun Cassidy poster and Bubble Yum. Great article.

Lulu
Guest
Lulu

You are hilarious as usual. You know what parenting trend I can’t stand? Moms who lose their sense of humor. I do the elf nonsense and even post pics but my feelings aren’t hurt by reading this. I laughed. Can’t we laugh at ourselves people? Thankfully I neverI succumbed to the smash cake… Cut the kid the first damn piece of cake and be done with it.

Wendi
Guest

Thanks, Lulu! Love your perspective.

Hip-Baby Mama
Guest

I’m sticking with fear and intimidation instead of a creepy doll. 

Wendi
Guest

Fear and Intimidation are timeless parenting tools.

Em
Guest
Em

I have a 2 yo and expecting a second this spring and have not participated in any of the baby/ pregnancy/ young child items listed above. So there are still plenty of “old school” folks out there not jumping on these bandwagons. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of your own pregnancy and forget that most folks will not be so interested in the gender, each development, etc as you and your spouse may be.  I personally find the push present particularly offensive but I’m cool with whatever works for people. 

Amy
Guest

I gave birth in 2011 and still missed all of these…what’s my excuse? Maybe that they’re all really annoying. Except maybe push presents. I would have been okay with that.

Practical Mama
Guest

Parents’ using children’s photos or videos to go viral really irritates me. I am not talking about, “oh i got lucky and caught this funny thing on camera” type of stuff but deliberate attempts to make the child do something. Similar to “We are going to Disney” videos.
it’s the first time I’ve heard about push presents. Too much “push” on consumption.

Stephanie
Guest
Stephanie

A child of the 80s, I definitely remember having to bring Valentine’s Day cards to all of the kids in my class.

Rachel
Guest
Rachel

Born and raised in Texas, and there is a picture of me and my younger cousin (he’s around 20 now, I’m 27) with his smash cake from his first birthday. I don’t know if I had one or not. Also, at my elementary school everyone in the class received Valentine’s Day cards, but I went to a small Christian school so that was probably policy. The class sizes were very small for most of the years I went there (there were about 9 kids in my 5th grade class). I’m pregnant with my first and don’t really have a problem… Read more »

Rachel
Guest
Rachel

I wil say that I have trouble understanding the parents who actually find out the gender of their baby at a gender reveal party with the rest of their friends and family. I don’t really have a problem with the party itself (provided the parents throw it and don’t expect anyone else to chip in unless it’s offered) but finding out the sex of your baby seems intensely personal to me, and I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else judging my reaction to having a little boy (which was along the lines of…uh, really? Are you sure? Holy crap…).

Stace
Guest

Well, I thought a “push present” was something else entirely.  😉

After five kids, I don’t have the energy to move that elf off the shelf it landed on two years ago. And gender-reveal parties? For me, it was more of a “sobbing in my OB/GYN office because the stick turned positive” party. I thought number five was a kidney infection. Seriously. 

traci
Guest
traci

Another 80’s kid here. Grew up in WA. I had a smash cake at my 1st birthday. I’ve never seen a 1st birthday without one. Most of the grocery stores in WA give you a free one when you buy the big cake for the party. Also, valentines for everyone in my public school. Lockers were decorated as well. I was surprised to see them listed as new trends. I’ve also heard/seen presents for new moms (usually a birthstone item) but they were never referred to as push presents. I agree that some of these are rediculous. I still don’t… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

This is so interesting about the smash cakes being sold along with a regular cake! And “decorated” lockers, we really do mean with wallpaper and camera-ready, not Tiger Beat posters. I am so surprised about that. 🙂 Perhaps they only seem new and widespread because the internet amplifies so many things now.

Deborah
Guest
Deborah

I grew up in the mid 70s to mid 90s. None of the stuff on here bothers me if others want to do them (except maybe the public shaming). We did have to do valentine’s for everyone in the class. However, some of my children are now having to do small Christmas presents for everyone in the class! That is annoying! Not because I can’t think of some glow stick or such for my child to give, but because it means that he is coming home with 25 or so small, cheap gifts to have to clean up and do… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

I’m with you. None of these “bother” me, except the public shaming one. But, let’s all agree some of this has gone over the top and does annoy the heck out of some. It’s not the individual act, but the collective amplification that has pushed some too far. I do eyeroll-worthy things too, but I own it. And, then try to laugh at myself when others poke fun at me. 😉

Lydia
Guest
Lydia

Ah, I totally agree with everything you said! I mostly hate-read my What to Expect birth month forum because I thought everyone was so ridiculous with their gender reveals and elaborate baby showers. Thank goodness I don’t do Facebook. Here’s another trend for you- public ultrasounds (hiring one to come to your house for your gender reveal!)

Kelcey Kintner
Guest

I think I’m jealous that people have time to set up an Elf on the Shelf hot tub with Barbies b/c it seems hilarious. I don’t think we should take any of this too seriously. It’s all fun and funny and now I’m off to decorate my 1988 locker. Great job Wendi.

Sabrina
Guest

I am 34. We always had to give valentines to everyone in the class. My kids are too little still for elf on a shelf but seems like a cute idea- I thought the point was the fun or the elf getting into things and being naughty being fun, not because they reported to santa?

Rachel
Guest
Rachel

I was a child of the 80s/90s, and we always brought valentines for every kid in the class. I don’t remember it being a policy, but they’d often hand out class lists before Valentine’s Day so you could remember everyone. Most parents made kids bring one for everyone, because it was the kind thing to do. Of course, you could make more elaborate ones for your closest friends and such, but it was about not making the less popular kids feel left out. And we had locker decorations as well. I remember whole sections of Target filled with locker shelves,… Read more »

Sam
Guest
Sam

I was a kid in the 80s and we all had to bring valentines for everyone. We just gave out bigger or “extra” ones for closer friends. We totally also had locker decorations with special things you could hang up, etc. I also had a smash cake of sorts-my mother made them for my sister and myself although they didn’t have a cute name.  (and I’m from the middle of nowhere midwest and I was not middle class so this isn’t a wealth thing) I agree with some of the other commentators who said that what really upsets them is… Read more »

Kerry
Guest
Kerry

I can really relate to this post- there seems to be so much pressure to have a pinterest-worthy pregnancy and parenting experience!

In my personal experience (as a current teacher)- it is the parents who keep track of how many Valentines their child receives compared to the other kids and then whine to the teachers about it.  (And they also claim this type of Valentine exclusion is “bullying.”)  So I’m guessing a lot of teachers enforce this rule to keep parents off their back. Plus, it is a convenient way to make everyone feel liked/included.

Carey
Guest
Carey

I have a 14 month old and haven’t done any of these trends, although I wouldn’t have minded a “push present.” I’m facebook friends with other parents and they don’t seem to practice them either. I hope my son doesn’t ever ask me for an elf on the shelf, I’ll have to say no. It’s just too creepy!

Katie
Guest
Katie

Most of the things on this list (except the public shaming), I would think are mostly harmless and even cute. (My niece tried to share her smash cake and refused to eat it until the rest of us had our pieces of the big cake.) But I seriously dislike the enforced Valentine’s Day cards. When I was in elementary school, we had to give Valentine’s Day cards to everyone. I gave out the standard, generic boxed cards, and I made three special cards for my best friends, which I also gave out. Right after the exchange, my teacher pulled me… Read more »

Susan:)
Guest
Susan:)

Smash cakes have been around for a long time. Where I used to live in Florida, the grocery store would give you one for a baby’s first birthday, when you bought a regular cake. I’ve never heard of push presents. Gender reveal parties seem over the top, but I do like a simple and sweet gender reveal video. I’ve seen some cute ones. I personally don’t like Elf on the shelf, but I know lots of people who do and they have fun with it. Whatever floats your boat, right? Valentines for everyone makes sense to me, so no one… Read more »

Vme
Guest
Vme

Smash cakes – not a new thing, but a slice of the big cake or a cupcake works just as well. No need for a personalized cake, but as others have stated: Whatever flips your switch. V-Day cards for everyone – Um, I never made my own as a child, always those box ones with your favorite characters from cartoons on them and of course everyone got one, even gave them to girls too. Why exclude people? My stance, if you don’t want to give to everyone, then don’t do it. Again: Whatever tickles your fancy. Push presents – Missed… Read more »