Your Presence Is Present Enough
October 21st, 2012
One reason that I had delayed organizing an “official” birthday party for Miss Mouse was my ambivalence about the gifts that accompany such events. We try hard to keep the amount of “stuff” our kids accumulate from overrunning the house and the prospect of hosting a party that would yield half a dozen or more presents was unnerving.
But how do you tell people – “Please don’t buy my four-year-old a birthday present. No, really. Don’t.” – ?
We decided to combine our desire to start introducing Miss Mouse to the concept of philanthropy with our desire to avoid birthday presents by encouraging the guests of her party to bring a donation to Toys For Tots instead of a gift for the birthday girl.
All in all, I think it worked pretty well. We talked with Miss Mouse about it in the days leading up to the party and she understood the plan. We had been laying groundwork for a few weeks by talking about how kids in other places (and even in our own area) didn’t have some of the things that she did — from food to parents to toys. We explained that she’d be getting a number of special presents from us and other family and close friends but that any gifts that arrived at her party were going to be shared with kids who didn’t get birthday presents.
It was hard on our guests and a couple people simply could not bring themselves to follow our instructions and brought gifts for Miss Mouse in addition to their donated toys. (Which she loved, of course!) But mostly it worked. I actually thought the best “compromise” was one mom who had her daughters each pick a toy to donate, but then also let them pick out a pack of stickers to include in a card for Miss Mouse. That was just perfect. It honored our request for “no toys” but also gave Miss Mouse a little treat.
If I could change one thing, I would simply ask guests to make a donation to a particular charity, rather than bringing something along (unless that something is food). Although she was on-board with the idea, Miss Mouse did struggle a bit “in the moment” when people showed up at the party with presents that weren’t for her. Fair enough!
Has anyone experimented with “philanthropic birthday” activities? How did it go?