As I said yesterday, we have asked our friends NOT to give Lia gifts for her birthday this year. Apparently this is equivalent to throwing a spoke in the proverbial wheel, a cosmic hiccup, an puzzling action.
There have been a number of requests of “can’t I give her just a leetle present?” Or–the milder reaction–well, if I can’t bring a gift, can I bring something else? I’ve even had some dirty looks. (Now everyone is trying to remember if they gave me a dirty look, hehe).
Our birthday party invitation says–
“This year we are asking for you to bring the Gifts of Love, Friendship, Investment, and Celebration (that would mean NO GIFTS please, we’re building intrinsic values here!)”
We’ve tried to develop a meaningful, purposeful praxis (putting a theory into practice) for our family with regards to presents. Christmas is a time to give to other people, as a family, in honor of Christ who gave His life. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are times of family gifts (Vita Mix, camping tent, garden stuff, something the whole family can enjoy). Birthdays are the time for individual gifts. So this year, we got Lia two things that we know she will love, enjoy, and use. And being that we have virtually everything and more that she needs and wants (last year’s birthday gifts are still being put to good use!), we think that two is enough.
What is with this compulsion to shower our children with STUFF? I mean, gifting is fun, and it is a legitimate love language, but what is so unusual about saying, hey, my three year old doesn’t need lots of presents this year?
(A small side note for my mother who has had a hard time with our decisions in this matter, and for Devo’s mom–we completely understand that grandparents who are very far away want to be involved in their grandchildren’s lives in a tangible way. Grandparent gifts are welcome and wanted here…and we are so glad that you choose good, useful, meaningful gifts).
But back to my discussion–I am just finding people’s gut reactions so ironic because everyone says and agrees that it doesn’t matter what material things you give to your children, the most important things are intrinsic–time, value, love, conversation. And so this year we are asking for the important things.
I know, I know, it’s an unusual thing to do. And what happens when Lia gets older and realizes that everyone else gets tons of presents on their birthdays? I don’t know what happens, we’ll deal with it then. But I do know this: If we do not want our children to be ‘gimme gimme’ children and ultimately selfish, irresponsible adults, we need to be proactive! Go against the norm! Say no to status quo! Be creative, be thoughtful, be purposeful!
If you are a gifter by nature, by all means, give the gifts that REALLY matter. Commit to love my children now and when they are awkward teenagers and when they start families of their own, be involved in their lives and their development, teach them the joy of celebration and the importance of community and friendship!
Lia is really looking forward to her birthday party tomorrow night–she is excited that some of her most favorite people are coming, she is excited that there is going to be a party, and she is excited about the cake. What more could a little girl ask for?
***Disclaimer***Let me just say that this is not a treatise to say “never give me or anyone in my family gifts again”. We really do like getting gifts! Some of the things we love and use the most are gifts from our friends and family, and we enjoyed receiving them and appreciate them fully! We will, in all likelihood, ask for gifts again next year because she will have finally outgrown all the toys and clothes she got for her birthday LAST year. Take this post as a discussion of alternative ways to parent, an affirmation of the things we think are most important (PEOPLE), and an expanded version of the blip on our evite.
A few phrases to widen the scope of society’s compulsion to buy things–
Theology of Enough
“There is enough for every man’s need, but not enough for every man’s greed.” – Mahatma Gandhi (ironically, you can buy a t-shirt with this quote on it here).