Tuesday, June 8, 2010

No gifts, please.

On Sunday I read this post from The Fabulous Adventures of Mrs. Haid, where she said the following:

I am totally stressing over first birthday party. I don't want DHH to get lots of plastic JUNK. I don't think a one year old needs a theme birthday party or non-family guests. He doesn't have friends! He doesn't get thank you notes! He thinks a hair brush is a toy! However, I have this side [of me] that makes me want to invite lots of extended family members and people with babies that I know and put on this amazing party with lovely decorations and a theme and parting gifts and all that jazz. I have a hard time not idealizing things like this and not getting disappointed when they don't turn out perfectly. I think I will say, "No presents, please!" or suggest a donation his college fund or something. I really want to start a family charity and have all gifts going to that except one. I haven't got that worked out just yet, and people already think I am a nut for saying no to presents, so I'll probably have to give that some time. I have been thinking so much about how I want to raise my child, and spoiled is not an option. Gratitude is. Living simply is. Less stuff is. That sort of thing.

I wanted her to know that I agree.

I didn't always realize I felt that way, though. I wish I came to that conclusion before the first party for my first born. It wasn't until Caleb's 3rd birthday and Sarah's 1st birthday when I came to realize that tons of people and tons of presents just didn't set well with me, and I didn't think it was good for my children either.

Since Caleb and Sarah both have August birthdays, we have always had a celebration for them on the same day. As Sarah's 1st birthday rolled around in August of 2007, I just knew that we could put together something big and fun and coordinate it with Caleb's. We were still relatively new to our town at that point, but we had started making friends, so I decided to invite all of our new friends, Caleb's little friends, and family (extended family included - whoever could make it).

There were a total of 55 people who were able to come and celebrate in our back yard that day. Everyone gathered to see my little Caleb and my little Sarah eat cake and be merry. But as I saw the piles and piles of presents after it was all over, I began to feel convicted about this sort of thing.

On the left, if you look behind Caleb at the table, you can see a glimpse of the gifts sitting there, waiting to be opened. On the right, just a small portion of the collection from the day (Sarah is in the pink shirt).

People may think I'm weird. I've been criticized (and misunderstood) for my similar views about Christmas and Easter. Call me consistent if anything because I do feel the same way about birthday parties for my children.

To celebrate is one thing. I may be jumping ahead a bit with this post - I have so much to say - but as an example, last year we just asked a few of Caleb's friends and a few of Sarah's friends to come over and play in our back yard with a cool new water slide that my parents and Josh's parents got for them. The kids had fun with water, and then we had cupcakes. That was it. They still had tons of fun, we still sang "Happy birthday to you..." and I saw my children's faces light up as they knew the singing was for them.

Simple. Easy. Fun.

On the left, Sarah looking on as I light her number 3. On the right, Caleb smiling as we get ready to sing to him. I pulled a Kate Gosselin and made everyone sing twice...once for Caleb and once for Sarah.

It wasn't all about stuff. It was about recognizing their special day in a simple way.

We did something similar for Gabriel in November for his 1st birthday, asking just a few close friends and family over to watch him smash cake and to sing to him. Kids played and adults visited. It was a nice afternoon.

To me, it's like July 4th or Thanksgiving or New Years Eve...those are examples of people getting together and having a good time celebrating without gifts.

So when do we do gifts in our house?

Fair enough.

Yes, we still do gifts for birthdays and Christmas. It's just on a smaller scale. Our children usually receive one gift from us for their birthdays and one gift from each set of grandparents. When it comes to Christmas, we do three gifts for each child, correlating it with the three gifts Jesus received - one from each wise man.

I just prefer to teach our kids to earn the things that they would like to have. In April we started Caleb on the FPU Junior envelope system (via Dave Ramsey), with a SPEND, SAVE, and GIVE envelope. He has four basic chores that he has to do to earn a set amount. He also has a "fines" list, so if he is unkind or disobeys (and pretty much anything he does "wrong" fits in those to categories) I deduct a portion of his earnings. This has taught him that he has to save for bigger things, and it also teaches him to give his own money at offering time during Sunday school.

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it." 1 Timothy 6:6&7

We try to teach contentment. That is very difficult when they have tons of STUFF.

With all that being said, I will always write, "No gifts, please," on my children's birthday invitations. It's just how we do things. I have a girlfriend who collected gifts for a children's hospital at her little girl's party. I've been at others who collect donations for the Humane Society or even Operation Christmas Child. It's good to know that I'm not alone in this premise.

How do I feel about other birthday parties that don't do it that way?

This is just how our family does it. I know not everyone feels this way. I enjoy seeing other children at their birthday parties, and I go with a small gift in hand. If I didn't think other parents would be offended, I would find gifts at yard sales like my sister-in-law does. She has found the cutest and nicest things for my kids - clothes, toys, etc. - from nice yard sales in her area, and given them as gifts! Very practical, economical, and green!

So there's another one of those different perspectives from me. We can still be friends, even if we don't agree, right? :o)

Talk About it Tuesday


Katie's Journey said...

I think that it is so easy to get consumed in gifts instead of remembering why we are having the celebration. Instead of having guests bring a gift for my child, I think it would be so wonderful to have everyone bring a gift that could be delivered to the local children's home here. I think too often we take for granted all of the things that we have and are just more interested in more materialistic things. So glad that you did this post!

thechattymommy said...

This is such a hard area as it always has people giving their 2 cents (in-laws, friends, other kids' parents).
But more and more, I am so sick of all the toys my kids have. We try to move stuff around or sell it at yard sales, but any time I have to touch things or clean things or try to talk the kids into giving things up is time wasted that I could be doing something else.
I have yet to make a big decision about how to handle birthdays.
I really enjoy the Jeub family. They have one huge birthday for all their kids and they ask that if you want to get them a gift, make it something they can all play with, like an outside toy.

I have yet to convince my husband into this.
Thanks for bringing this up.

All to often, I only think about this sort of thing when the birthday is right around the corner.
Enjoy your day!

Mrs. Haid said...

How about saying, "Your presence is present enough!" I how cheesy it is.

Thanks for sharing your perspective on this, Chrissy. I am glad to see that it did not negatively affected a 3rd or 5th birthday party!

Wendy said...

I find myself struggling with the same issue. I have reminded friends and family "no gifts are necessary", but many of them say..."well he's getting one anyway". My son's birthday is 12-31 7 days AFTER Christmas! Does he really NEED anything?

I've tried to get grandparents to work together to buy a large item, like a swing set--they'd pitch in, but still would buy him something separate.

My son is easy on toys, too. He has a few he loves and plays with mostly. The others he shares well and will ultimately donate to our foster children who have nothing.

I find it really hard to find ways of teaching my values when others disagree with them. You put it perfectly & I will try some of your ideas mentioned. (Especially the envelope system...what a nice way of teaching value, economics, responsibility!)

Thanks for sharing!

Jennifer said...

We started the 3 gifts this year at Christmas. We also do stockings, but those are our "Santa" gifts. For Henry's first birthday we just had a small family party and fortunately that kept him from getting a ton of gifts.
I have had to work at retraining my thinking because gifts is one of my major love languages. Finding the perfect, thoughtful gift has become my goal rather than finding a ton of junky gifts.

kimberly said...

I am kind of following you on this subject. Jim and I decided that we are to give Bailee 3 gifts for Christmas. Ever since your Christmas post this subject has weighed heavily with me. And made me start thinking about my birthdays and Christmas gifts. Do I remember what I got for birthdays and Christmas? Nope! But I can tell you about our traditions and how much I enjoyed the day making memories and being with family and friends! I think that is what counts and what I want my child will remember! Thank you for influencing me!

This Daddy said...

Ya'll (southern voice) are such nice people. I wonder sometimes well alot of times if I am as nice as I could be. You all (meaning YOU and JOSH) are very smart too. I like reading your blog Chrissy, it makes me want to be a nicer person.

Mrs. Haid said...

I thought there would be some heated debates on this! Whoo hoo. Maybe this means I won't run into a lot of opposition from others when I regulate his gifts!

Chrissy said...

Pretty sure the ones who didn't agree did not comment. I saw a post on someone's blog on the same day that said, "Yes, we do gifts," neatly tucked within an entry.

Jamie said...

I totally agree with you. I disguised a birthday party as a fall get-together for my daughter's 2nd birthday, (otherwise I knew they'd bring gifts even though I always write "no gifts please" on any invitations). They don't need more stuff, but it is fun to just celebrate THEM! I'm thinking that when they get older I'll have them pick a charity and people could bring gifts for that but right now it's just TOO much, even with grandparents, they seem to go crazy and it's hard to reign them in on that one! We don't live close to our family so we usually just have a very small intimate party, especially since they are both still under 4. Once they get older and have more friends it'll be more interesting! Thanks for your post! Makes me want to go and donate half the toys that are taking over my living room!

Cheryl Sybert said...

For our daughters birthday's they have always received an overabundance of gifts! I have often thought about how we really should have a birthday party with no gifts involved, just a fun get together to celebrate the day with our family, games, and still cake and ice cream - of course!!
This year my oldest daughter is turning 13. She approached me and had the idea to have a party where everyone brings their favorite recipe for her instead of gifts (she loves to cook!). I almost broke out in tears. She still gets it even though she has been spoiled with presents all these years. She knows that she does not go without and her heart is filled with so much compassion for the ones who do. She has also decided that since she is having a "recipe" themed party she wants everyone to bring non-perishable food items for the Caring Center Food Pantry. I just thank God that WE haven't ruined her and that she has such a heart for the people in this world who go without!!

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you, but yes, we can still be friends! :) (ok, so I don't 'disagree' b/c I completely see why you do what you do, but we just see it differently! That's what makes the world go 'round, right?) :)

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