Saturday, June 24, 2006

Mums Against Party Bags

Wednesday morning: Mum of son's mate stopped me to ask if son was OK with what she felt was a miserly show of a party bag. They had included a note to explain that instead of filling the bag with 'more toys', they had given the money saved to a boy they support in Africa through a charity. The amount given is enough to buy the boy a year of education.

What a good idea, I thought.

Was my son bothered? Did he complain that there were no expensive toys in his party bag? Or colour pencils? Finger puppets? Balloons? Whistle?

Not at all. He was pleased that he had sweets that he normally does not get from us. (And he's going through them very, very slowly.)

Compare that to the previous party where he was given a lot of goodies, including a tamagotchi (or whatever you call it).

Unfortunately the tamagotchi does not work despite our putting two expensive LR44 batteries in it and you can imagine the frustration caused.

Moral of the story: more expensive gifts do not necessarily mean greater enjoyment.

Hmm ... I wonder if I should start a 'MAPB' group: Mums against Party Bags.

Children don't leave parties these days without asking: 'Where's my party bag?'

Before they are 10 feet from the hostess (it's usually the mother) who's been handing out these bags, they will be rummaging through the contents to see what's inside, sometimes throwing away what they decided they do not wish to take home. Pity the hostess (it's usually the mother) who has carefully selected the gifts to put in and they are left behind after the party.

And I do so hate the colourful pla_tic bags they come in. These bags cannot be reused -- you never get enough of the same for your own party. They are too small to be really useful. Worse, some children love to hoard them.

Some parents worry that they don't put enough in the bags and go to a lot of trouble to fill bags with expensive toys.

But should someone buck the trend and put in items considered too pricey, other parents then worry that they cannot keep up with the new standard of party bag contents -- because the children now expect so much more -- and the anxiety sets in.

Or parents would feel guilty: Gosh, this is more than what we spent on the present.

And me? I like the idea of a party once in a while. I have the picture of Jesus teaching about inviting people to a banquet without expecting them to do the same. (This is very hard for us Chinese with our deeply held sense of reciprocity, a bit like the kula ring where gifts go round in a circle.)

Jesus's teaching was: don't bother to invite the rich and famous or the high-ranking politicians, but instead invite the paupers, the homeless, the orphans, the widows and yes, give them a treat. Don't expect any of them to return the gesture or any favours.

But Jesus did not say, throw a banquet and send your guests home with useless trinkets that only clutter up their homes!

Why bother with party bags if (1) the recipients (children) are not (always) happy with what they are given, (2) it makes the host parents anxious about what to give, (3) the guest parents could feel guilty about not giving enough, and (4) the contents are usually appreciated for not much longer than half an hour?

Dare I be the first mother in this group to dispense with party bags?

Oo-Ah! Check back in two years' time.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Hayfever Update (who cares?)

Hayfever bad over last weekend. It was so bad last Friday I used up all my hankies (could not turn them around quickly enough). Even borrowed some of my son's old hankies. When even these ran out, I had to resort to paper.

Big mistake. Nose was already pink from constant pressure of nose-blowing. Within minutes of using paper, nose turned a bright red. It was painful and I had to take to bed. Sunday morning was still bad and I had to take to bed instead of going to church.

Monday morning, met my ladies for prayer as usual and they prayed for some relief for me. Found myself saying, 'It's not that bad because I know it's not going to last forever.'

Have been trying a new regime now for the week:

(1) wipe nose with soft cloth hankie (organic cotton of course),

(2) smear Vaseline all over nose area to prevent chafing and inside nostrils to trap pollen, and

(3) slick on some Vicks Vapourub if necessary to clear the air channels.

High pollen count in the last few days but hayfever is still tolerable. A result?? Some days I only needed two or three hankies. That is not bad at all.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Trend-setting

Following from last post: my son has just received a birthday 'post-invitation'. We'd be invited, made our responses and now the map to get to the venue was given.

On it we've been told, the birthday boy is 'equally happy' to receive £2 towards a collective present.

So it's confirmed: we have started a trend.

Yay!

If you've done something like this, or plan to, do share your experience with us so we can compare notes. Thank you.

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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.)


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