In years past we have always done some sort of donation for the boys' birthdays. We just noted on the invitations that instead of gifts we would be donating x to Operation Breakthrough & if they would like to join us they too could bring x instead of a gift.
I for one loved the idea of picking a charity close to our heart and helping out in whichever way we could. For each of their first birthdays we did diapers. For each of their second birthdays we did books. For Kaden's third birthday (and probably Logan's too) we did toothbrushes and toothpaste. Each time our friends and family gave graciously & together we donated well over 200 books, 2500 diapers & 100 toothbrushes and toothpaste. Remarkable. But again, made possible by our wonderful family & friends.
Justin and I felt as though it was important to teach our boys the act of giving & that giving can be more fulfilling & heartwarming than anything we may receive. We wanted, well want, them to know that there are boys and girls that don't have books to read at night or a toothbrush to use at bedtime. & since Justin and I are fortunate to give our boys everything they need & more, we felt collecting donations at birthday parties in lieu of gifts was a win, win. Once they got a little older they would get to take those donations with me to drop off & meet some of the children they were helping out.
I won't lie, this year I struggled with what to do--do we continue with this tradition that we have started or do we leave off the donation wording & if gifts are brought then we let him open those gifts. I, well we, went back and forth on what to do but in the end we felt that as parents it was our job to not only raise children who appreciate what they have but also children who can receive graciously. So for birthday number 4 we changed the rules, a little…
We didn't put the donation wording on the invitation. We didn't contact Operation Breakthrough to see what they needed. We watched as present after present was escorted into the house. The week leading up to the birthday party Kaden & I had numerous conversations around presents--the ones which his friends might bring over. We talked about how we needed to open each card before opening the presents. We talked about how he needed to say thank you to each person, not just a quick thank you shout out, but a "Thanks Grandma Sara" or "Thanks Jake & Hannah". He nodded & agreed but I was still crossing my fingers that he REALLY got it.
When present time came I was nervous. As I brought down the gifts and sat them down the kids started talking about how it was time to open presents & I could hear Kaden saying, "those aren't yours, these are my presents, its my birthday." & yes, technically he was right but he was sounding a little bossy too. For the most part he did great. He opened the gifts one by one & thanked each person. There were a couple times I needed to remind him with a "what do you say?" & he would instantly chime right in with a big grin. He might not have been the most gracious gift receiver known to man but he did a pretty darn good job for his first REAL go at it.
It was nice seeing him get to enjoy one of the many joys of being the birthday boy...but we still want him to grow up knowing how great giving feels & what a difference it can make to the person on the other end. On Saturday we are taking him to the toy store--he never has really been-- and we are picking out a few toys for boys that are his age & on Monday we will take them to Operation Breakthrough. & since these donations won't be as impactful to Operation Breakthrough, I am going to steal an idea that my SIL pinned on Pinterest. When the Elf arrives on Thanksgiving, he will be bringing two empty boxes with a note telling the boys they need to fill their box with a few of their toys to donate to those same boys and girls we see on Monday.
So there you have it, why there were gifts at Kaden's party this past weekend. It's hard knowing what lessons to teach & when to teach them to your boys. It's hard trying to make sure they grow up well rounded men but hopefully we are on the right track or at least not headed for the dead end.