Sunday, June 11, 2006

More blessed to give than to receive

It is a cliche. (Sorry I haven't learned how to put the accents in.) But we learned this lesson in a different way recently.

It was my son's sixth birthday. He is allowed a party on alternate birthdays.

My rationale is 'us Chinese don't celebrate birthdays'. We made it special for him last year by taking him and a mate to his favourite theme park.

The year previous to that, I went to a lot of trouble to organize a party with an entertainer, healthy food (as if children care!), nice party bags, and even issued parking coupons to allow parents to park on our road.

A friend was on 'traffic warden watch' as the permit does not kick in for 15 minutes after they arrived. Otherwise I would have had to give each parent an extra parking coupon at £1.50 each. I decided to be, uhm, miserly.

Son disappeared into the kitchen as soon as the entertainer began and kept away for much of the party. He was quite overwhelmed. I toughed it out for two hours and then sent the guests on their way.

Present opening time was 'fun' but it was soon obvious that he had been given far too much. There were duplicate toys and unsuitable books and puzzles, etc. A lot of frustration was manifested in the week following the party as he tried to play with all the toys. To avoid this situation, we hatched a plan.

We wrote on our invites that 'instead of presents, please could parents give £2.00 towards a present of son's choice'. We also noted that 'any surplus would be given to the charity that their school has adopted for this term in the name of the class'.

Party day. Children and parents came. Many parents gave £2.00. Several gave a lot more. Two brought presents. When son finally made his choice of construction set, we had £30.00 left over! It was more than the amont we needed for his chosen construction set.

I sent son in with the money for the charity (RNLI in this instance) with a letter explaining how we raised it. The older boys at school happened to be visiting the RNLI that week. They took the money and a poster drawn by son's classmate and presented these to them. That Friday, son came back with the School Shield -- again.

The School Shield is given to the boy for showing the most consideration to others. It is usually not won by any one boy more than once a year, if ever. Son had already won this early in the school year and we did not expect the Shield to come home again till next year.

In the school newsletter, the headteacher explained why he was given the Shield. This I found quite embarrassing as we were able to give only because of the generosity of the other parents. I went to the headteacher about this. I certainly didn't want to give the impression that a boy could 'buy' the Shield.

Her answer was: No, she stated clearly the money had come from the other parents, but son was very considerate to give up his other presents, etc, etc. Not many children realize just how much they are blessed and they want to encourage such behaviour.

Last week, weeks after his birthday, son received a personal 'Thank you' letter from the RNLI and three collar pins. Immediately, he gave one away to the boy who drew the poster for RNLI. And the thought that came to me was: a simple idea to avoid the frustration of unsuitable and surplus presents have actually turned out to be such a blessing for us.

At least another two parents expressed that they think it is a good idea. Husband says our son has started a trend. But we all agree that young children these days simply have too much. It does not hurt them to learn from a young age to start giving away.

Before any reader even thinks of trying this, please ensure that you first have your child's full cooperation. This is probably not suitable for very young children, used to seeing friends receiving many presents.

It was easy for our child because he has other doting relatives who would buy him anything he wanted. (This year's list included a stopwatch, roller skates and Roald Dahl books.) So he was not entirely deprived of the opportunity to open some lovely presents.

(I want to say 'Thanks' to a reader who asked if my failure to blog was due to my hayfever. (Yay! I do have a fan club!) Actually I'd been rather busy with organizing a Summer Fair at my son's school. We raised about £1200 last Saturday. That's not bad for a school with fewer than 200 students. Hayfever is keeping me awake at night and I'm therefore often tired in the day.)

Back to Organic-Ally.


Mandyz said...

Wow, I want to express how much I love this idea! I always struggle over gift-giving for children. Usually I give a book, although I've decided to start savings accounts for my nieces.

tarma said...

my son is too young for this now (only 3) but definately a great idea when he can understand the concept. thanks for sharing

2steps said...

That's a great idea :) and well done to your son, so kind