Haley's favorite pastime is hanging out at the beach. Toss some friends into the mix, add a bonfire, throw in the ingredients for s'mores and you've got Haley's utopia. I didn't bother with a BBQ, because that would have been a lot of work. Instead we played games, danced to some awful (oops, I mean fun, music), and hung around the fire roasting marshmallows with our closest family and friends. It sounds simple enough, but it was enough to give me an anxiety attack.....so many little details involved in making her birthday just right. We didn't go overboard with gifts, for once. We stuck to our guns and got her one nice gift, rather than many gifts.
Same thing for Sam. He got to plan his own party this year. His specific requests were: family only, mac'n'cheese, watermelon and a sword-fight. We stuck to his plan, and it was honestly the best party ever. He got to do all of the things a three-year old boy likes to do, and I didn't have the stress of supervising a bunch of kids or entertaining their parents. We also bought Sam a few of his favorite things for his gift: two matchbox cars, a few bags of marbles, and some plastic dinosaurs and bugs. We kept his gift under $30 total, and he didn't know the difference. More isn't always better.
It is so nice of everyone to get the kids thoughtful gifts, but this year it was a little out of control. They received so much stuff that they couldn't even keep track of who got them what. I am not complaining about people's generosity and thoughtfulness at all; but what I am saying is that maybe tons of gifts aren't necessary. On the same tip, were aren't even into October yet, and there is already talk of Santa Claus and more presents. I do not want to raise children who think they need possessions in order to be happy. I want them to appreciate the people who come to their parties more than the gifts that arrive with them.
I think the overabundance of gifts this year was a good thing in a sense, because it really pushed me to have a talk with Haley about how fortunate she is to have what she does. The day after her birthday, we were laying in bed talking about all of her nice things she got, and I suggested that for Christmas, maybe we should only ask for half of the amount of stuff we normally do- and the other half, we should wish for a less fortunate child to get instead. I really wasn't sure how she'd react; I mean, she is six after all, and what six-year old doesn't like to have lots and lots of new toys??? We discussed the local Toys For Tots program, the international program "Smile Train," and "World Vision." Haley decided she wanted her "big gift" this year to be a sponsorship to World Vision, so we decided to look into it further.
When we sat down together in front of the computer and looked up World Vision, we got really excited. She got to pick whether she wanted to sponsor a boy or girl, what age, and factor in similar interests between herself and her new friend. She chose a little girl who was born on her birthday, and who likes to draw and do math. She thinks it's amazing that there is a little girl somewhere across the world, with the same interests, same birthday, whose favorite subject is also math! Each profile comes with a description of the child, their family, and their living and health conditions. Researching the children opened up a dialogue about what it means to live in poverty, what those children have to live without, (things we all take for granted everyday), and what our small monthly donation would give them.
We noticed that half of the kids from that program don't attend school because it's not available and/or they can't afford it. Many of them do not have clean drinking water. Lots of them have dirt floors in their houses. We live such a cooshy life over here in the U. S. of A.; taking for granted our clean water, never having to listen to hungry tummies, and we are disappointed when the last of our 25 gifts have been opened, and there aren't any more. I am really hoping that Haley, our kind and sweet and empathetic Haley, loves this experience. I hope that as a family we can start to live more moderately, and without the need for more, more, more.
Maybe this is a start.