For me, it is one of those dreaded times of year again: birthday party time. A Good Mom probably cherishes these milestone moments and decorates for hours, bakes a cake from scratch, plans fun games and then sits back and enjoys watching her wee one having the time of his or her little life with perfectly well-behaved and polite little friends at The Birthday Party.
I, however, have come to rather dread The Birthday Party. For me it symbolizes a time of excess, greed and waste. Just call me Birthday Scrooge. I have grown tired of watching my kids rip wrapping paper off yet another toy we don’t need, only to toss it aside to rip the paper off the next one, as all the other kids “ooh” and “aah” with envy.This year I decided to suggest something different to my daughter. Having recently spent a lot of time at the local Humane Society shelter adopting a dog and three cats to add to our already large menagerie, I suggested that this year we have a Humane Society birthday where we would ask guests to bring an item for the shelter animals instead of the usual gift. My daughter loves animals and understands that many animals are homeless, but I wasn’t sure that a 7 year-old could be altruistic enough to forgo the excitement of birthday presents.
I picked my moment carefully (after we had finished sorting out a bunch of old, unplayed-with toys to donate) and made the suggestion:
“Every year at your birthday party you always get a lot of toys like these that you never play with and that just clutter up the house. How about this year we ask everyone to bring pet food, or something for all those homeless animals at the shelter instead?”
“Oh yes, yes, yes!!!” she said. Even her little brother asked if he could do that for his birthday too (we’ll see if he still wants to when his time comes next June).
We asked our cat sitter, who works at the Humane Society, to tell us what they really needed most right now. We put this list on an insert inside the party invitations. My daughter was very excited to help make the insert requesting donations instead of gifts. We even added some photos of our recent shelter adoptees.
We had the party on Saturday, and as you can see from the photo, the eight guests were extremely generous in their donations of food and toys for the animals! The parents all commented on what a great idea our party was. I am sure they were happier spending their money on food for the homeless animals than on a cheap toy for the child who has too much.
Today after school is the really exciting moment. I will pick my children up from school and we will take everything down to the shelter to give to them. My daughter can’t wait!
I must say that as I write this, I feel every bit the Proud Mama. My daughter, at only age 7, was able to derive pleasure from giving rather than receiving. For once, this was a truly enjoyable birthday party for us all!