Every once in a while, I come up with an idea that I think is pretty great, and then almost immediately I begin doubting that it’s a good idea at all, and I bashfully share it with a few people whose opinions will determine whether or not I follow through on it. This is how I end up having so many false starts. I am a professional fizzler. When I am gone, my headstone will read: “Here lies Monique. She finally finished something.” This pattern makes the times that my ideas do pan out all the more satisfying.
The Boy turned five in August, and his birthday has traditionally been a grand event. Lots of kids, lots of food, lots of presents. I am generally pro-birthday party, but my kid already owns way too many toys, and the prospect of adding more to the stash was not appealing. Plus, I don’t like the idea of guests feeling like they have to match the gift to the tastes of the kid and the preferences of the parents. It’s hard! The Boy had no interest in pruning his guest list, so I suggested an alternative. He could invite anyone he wanted, but instead of birthday gifts, he would ask his guests to bring a small donation to a charity.
Being an animal lover, The Boy chose to collect donations for a local shelter that takes in stray and surrendered cats and dogs. We printed a wish list of items from their website, and included it with invitations to the party.
Admittedly, I was a bit worried about how the request would be received by the parents of the invitees. I didn’t want it to come off like we thought we were too good for regular birthday presents, and I also was hyper-aware of The Boy’s feelings about it all. He seemed to understand the concept, so I stuck with it.
The day of the party came, and the guests were unbelievably generous with their donations. A couple of the parents shared with me how much fun it was for their kids to choose gifts for the animals. We left all the donations on a table, skipped the traditional “gift” opening in favour of more play time, and dug in once everyone had gone home.
Every time I look at that picture, I am reminded of the wonderful people we have come to know over the years.
A few days after the party, we piled my mom’s minivan high with all the donations and took them to the shelter. The staff met us and offered us a tour, so The Boy got to meet some of the animals he was helping.
I had been thinking for a long time how I would begin to foster the spirit of generosity in my child in a way that was age appropriate. This was the purrfect way to drive home the message that helping others feels good.