We get a lot of birthday invitations that read, “please, no gifts.” I understand that impulse. Filling the house with more plastic is not my idea of progress, and I hate the idea that someone would feel burdened upon being invited to one of our parties.
Prior to one of Carter’s preschool year parties I tried it- I sent out invites with a cute, “your presence is our present” message and promptly got a phone call from the mom of one of his best buddies at school.
Friend’s mom: Amy? Your invitation says no gifts.
Friend’s Mom: Are you serious?
Me: Um, well, yes. Well, blah blah plastic and the environment, blah blah budget and plenty-
Friend’s Mom: Hm. My son has already been talking about shopping for Carter and he’s very excited about it, so I’m sure you won’t begrudge him a chance to give a good gift, will you? I mean isn’t that part of the fun of birthdays?
I started paying attention to what Carter was learning and doing on gift-giving occasions. Even at a young age, he was a generous and thoughtful giver. When he scours catalogs, he isn’t only looking at things he enjoys- he lists which items would be perfect for which friends and why. We’ve never wandered Target aimlessly searching for a ticket into the party, we’ve headed out with a mission, Carter listing the qualities that would make the gift “perfect.”
Since that year, Carter has received homemade gifts, stories, pictures, action heroes and books for his birthdays- he enjoys all of them, but I think what he enjoys most is thinking about those people thinking about him. Giving a gift says, “hey- I thought of you when you weren’t here- you stay in my heart.”
As to the plastic accumulation, there are several alternatives. Coupons for special events, tickets to the movies, parts to a toy he already has like Legos or K-nex are all things that don’t contribute to further clutter in our home. Sharing a book you have already read and treasured or finding the perfect used toy is a way to reduce the impact on the environment. One of Archie’s favorite gifts is a robot made of cardboard boxes, aluminum cans and duct tape. It truly is the thought, and communicating it, that counts.Tags: birthday parties, gifts, kids, relationships