So today my son & I have two birthday parties to attend. It’s going to be a loooong day for mom ;), but it should be a fun one. My son’s 5th birthday is next month. I know how quickly the crud can pile up at this age…stuff that he may play with for one week and then it’s stuffed in the toy closet. With a birthday not too long after Christmas, I try not to imagine the toy clutter.
Last year I thought I would do something different. I asked for pet food in lieu of gifts, so my son could donate it to the local ‘Pets for People’ animal shelter. I explained to him how needy some animals were, with no homes or love, and asked if it would be a good idea to bring them gifts instead of opening up a bunch of gifts for himself. He loved the idea. I was worried the day of his party. What if this new 4 year old wouldn’t understand about giving back….only that he wanted something for him on his birthday? After all he was only 4 and the world is all about them at that age…as it should be.
He didn’t bat an eye. He opened each gift bag and unwrapped each cat food or dog treat with as much joy as if someone had given him a power ranger. Although he also got plenty of gifts of his own, we loaded an entire trunk up with pet food. It was a huge donation that my son got to personally deliver. The day of the drop off, he was as excited as could be. He fed some dogs treats and left feeling like he’d done something really good. …He had! This was the best birthday gift I could give him…to understand the value of giving to those in need and recognizing the payoff in how it effected them AND him.
This year he wants to give to FEED THE CHILDREN . He’s really concerned with kids in Africa living in mud homes with no food or education. He’s amazed that they have no grocery stores, and that they have to farm or hunt for their food unless in a program to get help. We already sponsor a child, through Compassion International, who my son loves to send letters too. BUT he knows Feed the Children helps with kids all over, not just Africa.
When I asked him if he wanted to help a charity this year for his birthday, he answered, “Oh yes, but will I get presents for me too?” I told him we’d only ask for $1 to go toward any charity he wanted, and that we wouldn’t ask for the donations to be in replacement of his own gifts this year. Now his gifts would accompany a dollar donation to the charity of his choice. That made him so happy. He’s excited to bring money so that other kids will have food. He even mentioned, “The animals still have plenty to eat from last year…I want to help kids eat this year mom.” My child is an amazingly compassionate kid for his age.
AND Of course I’m not going to be a cruel mom and NOT let him have gifts. I want his birthday to be just about him. I only want him to recognize how blessed he is and to learn to re-pay some of it back. And I think he does. He’s a very civic minded ‘almost’ 5 year old.