Five days after his Golden Birthday, my son will host a BIG birthday party. Big, meaning we invited 29 boys and I think 27 are coming! With that many guests it usually means there will be that many gifts. Don’t forget Christmas is only a couple weeks after the party so it just adds up to a crazy amount of toys! Too many toys means too many messes. Am I letting my own issues stand in the way of the joy and wonder that my son could have as he opens 20+ gifts at his party? You betcha! The thought of all that “stuff” paralyzes me. My husband's fear of too many toys is worse than mine. He laid down the law: If we have a big party then we cannot accept any gifts.
Well, I have conflicting feelings. On one hand, I find joy in buying gifts for the birthday celebrant. I feel like when we are asked not to give a gift it takes away from the receiver and more importantly, the giver misses out too. Also, some people, like me, hate to show up to a party empty-handed (without a gift). Parents spell out "Your presence is our gift" or "No Gifts Please" on the invitation but I never want to be the ass who shows up without a gift. I know it’s bad, but I completely ignore that part of the invite when it’s included. So on the other hand, I completely understand why parents ask us not to bring a gift.
I had to figure out a way to make this a work for everybody. My son and I went over the list of the items he asked from us for his birthday. A football/baseball training net. Vikings football gloves. A Nerf gun (not sure we’ll be getting him this). Army men. Packs of gum. And a muffler - it’s what the QBs use to keep their hands warm between plays. I asked him if he would rather have these specific items from us or 20+ gifts from his buddies. Being a very serious kid who thinks about life way too much, he actually chose the gifts from us. He is going to accept $10 donations from each of his party guests in lieu of a gift. I will match the amount and triple it in order to get him everything on his wish list. Mary's Place is the foundation he chose to support. I can’t really say I’m surprised that he was quick to get on board with this idea. This is the same kid who loves to send his Halloween candy to a soldier over seas and come with me when I volunteer to pack food for those in need.
Similarly, we collected $20 from each guest that came to my daughter’s birthday party last year. The girls sat around and discussed 5 foundations or charities that could benefit from their $20 contribution. I loved hearing them discuss among themselves the pros and cons of each charity. They voted and picked Paws with a Cause as the charity that would receive their money. It was decided that the total amount collected would make a bigger impact than a little bit of money going to several charities. I felt very proud to hear these 8 year olds having the discussion. It was precious to witness.
Another “non-gift” party idea is to have a book exchange. Each guest brings a new book that is wrapped instead of a gift for the celebrant. The books are put in a pile and each guest gets to choose a book to take home with them. It worked great when we did this a couple of years ago for my daughter’s tea party-themed birthday party. So we plan to have a book exchange again this year for her Snoopy-themed party.
I am starting to think I may change the name of my blog to "Win-Win." I feel like lately my posts have been giving examples of how everyone wins if people are thoughtful. My son’s party is a win-win because parents do not have to shop and wrap a gift. Guests are bringing a $10 donation so no awkward empty-hand-syndrome. Mary’s Place will benefit from the money collected. My son will get everything on his birthday wish list while reinforcing what it means to give. Thank you notes will be simple. Everyone’s a winner.