July 2 was Mattie Claire’s second birthday. We celebrated her big day with a few friends and a birthday lunch. Because Mattie Claire is the youngest of five children, she has lots of toys to choose from. We have baby dolls, doll houses, Barbies, blocks, puzzles, plastic animals, Legos, gears to build with, trucks and cars, horses – the list could go on and on. Because we have all of these toys, I asked my friends to not buy her a gift. Instead I wanted to do a book exchange. Mattie Claire would end up with a new book as well as her little guests. For the friends who were a little older (other adults or our college grad friend) I asked that they purchase a book and donate it to our local library in honor of Mattie Claire’s second birthday. When she gets older I’ll take her to the library and we will find the books donated in her honor. I thought it was a great idea.
Why is it so hard not to purchase a gift? I started getting calls and messages via email and Facebook. “Are you serious about us not being able to get her a present?” Well …yes, I am serious. She has so many things at her disposal that she really doesn’t need anything else and I don’t want any more stuff, especially toys, around our house. Besides, she’s two and probably won’t remember any of this anyway. She won’t know whether she got two gifts or twenty. Why is it so hard not to purchase a gift? Perhaps because we feel an obligation to give a gift for certain events – it’s almost our price of admission. But it begs the question – do we really mean it when we say we simply want to share the celebration with friends? How can we communicate our intentions?
My friends did pretty well. They came with books in hand to trade and a few were donated to our library in her name. A couple of guests came with some recycled gifts. I love that. Hannah found a little plastic truck with a trailer and some animals in her closet, wrapped it, and gave it to her baby sister. This is one of Mattie’s favorite things right now, and mom didn’t have to spend a penny! Yea!
Mattie Claire had a wonderful birthday. She had a cake with candles, and friends and family around her that day. After all, it’s not really about all of the stuff we get, but that we get to be here and enjoy life with the people we love. Then the sharing becomes the gift.