This following post was an entry in our Blog to Inspire contest. The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and not necessarily those of Eco Baby Steps or Parenting By Nature.
Recently our family and friends celebrated my eldest daughters fifth birthday. Born on Halloween, she shares her day with a growing commercial holiday. We do our best to set her celebration apart, choosing a theme that reflects who she is, what she likes and the season in which she was born. This year we talked about what to do, who to invite and what she might like to put on her wish list.
Since Mommy, Daddy and her close family members would buy her gifts; I suggested that we ask her friends not to bring presents. After all, we had so many toys already. What, I asked, could we do instead?
She thought about it for a moment, and then made a suggestion…..
“Well, how about we ask my friends to make me a craft?”
With a big smile and a sigh of relief, I praised her for coming up with such an amazing idea! I could not have thought of anything more appropriate myself, especially given Paige’s love for all things crafty. The evites were sent, with a request for her friends to make and share a special handmade craft instead of a traditional present.
Keeping to the theme, I sewed an owl print nightie, a colourful blouse and a wool felt birthday crown. I avoided filling loot bags with junk food and other novel items. Instead, we baked owl shaped cookies, added wooden covered notebooks and puzzles, daffodil bulbs to be planted, and story books about fall themes such as harvest, owls, and nests for winter.
I gently suggested that family follow suit, either making something, or in choosing a gift from her humble wish list which included a unicorn stuffie, a doll bed, a toy iron and ironing board and a pretend toaster. My Mother and Father, for example, brought a toy wooden bunk bed set that had been my mother’s as a girl.
The birthday party was a ‘hoot’. It was an owl theme at Mountsburg Conservation area. The children (20 including younger siblings!) delighted in a craft, puppet show and nature walk to view various birds of prey. As the party came to an end, we sang happy birthday, ate home made cupcakes and opened the lovingly made gifts (complete with proud faces)!
I could not have been more proud of Paige, who without any direction from us, took time carefully opening and studying each gift. I believe she truly felt the love and careful attention put into each creation, made especially for her by her friends!
As parents, we oftentimes follow a set of unwritten rules and customs at birthdays and during holidays, even when they are not the best choices for our families. It is not easy to go against the grain, to do something different than what is being done. If we don’t break the mold, how do we begin to teach our children to want less, conserve more, and to appreciate the true spirit of giving, outside of the trap of commercialism and materialism?
Christmas is coming and I urge you to try. Try giving handmade gifts (they don’t have to be made by you! You can support WAHM’s and grass root businesses), gifts of conscience for the environment and for our world’s children. World vision, UNICEF, Red Cross and World Wildlife fund provide many excellent ideas, just to name a few.
For a teacher, for example, donate a backpack with school supplies for a child in need, for a pet lover; adopt an endangered species, for a beloved child, buy a repurposed or sustainably made eco toy. There are many eco friendly options available to us at like minded businesses.
It is a fine balance, to add meaning to what we buy, what we give and why we give it but it is possible. To prove this point, I have a very happy and loved five year old, who understands the value of a toy from the past and the care that goes into a handmade present. She takes pleasure in a toy found in nature or those made with natural materials. Simply put, she is learning, along with her mama, that there is a more natural and purposeful way to live.
Read about the Blog to Inspire contest and read posts by the finalists and by the rest of the entrants. Forty-four bloggers reached out to inspire on the topics of cloth diapers, babywearing, breastfeeding, and natural parenting.