My son likes to have a big birthday party. I have a large group of friends whom I met at the local Early Years Centre and have met a lot of other wonderful moms during my time as a stay at home mom. The birthdays are often a time for both the adults and the kids to re-connect and reminisce about our “babies”. There’s something warm and fuzzy about celebrating the birth of my child – seeing his excitement and enthusiasm, and his moments of pure bliss, running around wild with his friends. There is one sore point, however, that I feel when I think of a big birthday party; excessive gifts. The volumes upon volumes of presents he has received in the past, quite honestly makes me cringe. We already have too many toys in our house, and they just seem to keep accumulating, even though I try to donate unused ones regularly.
Creative Idea – The Toonie Party
This year my son will be turning 5. He has come to know and expect that birthdays come with presents. And I have to admit I enjoy getting a special gift or two on my birthday as well. It’s the quantity I’m most concerned about. I was trying to think of a creative way to cut down on the amount of presents my son will receive, when a friend of mine asked if I had ever heard of a toonie party. I had not. But when she explained it to me, I thought it was brilliant! For a toonie party, each child that comes to the party brings a toonie for the birthday child and a toonie for a charity of the birthday child’s choice. No gifts involved! With his toonies, my son will be able to go to the store and buy a gift of his choice.
For those of you reading this wondering what the heck a toonie is, it is the nickname given to a 2 dollar coin here in Canada. Back in 1987, Canada discontinued the 1 dollar bill and introduced the 1 dollar coin which bears the design of the Great Northern Loon on its face. It was then affectionately nicknamed the “Loonie”. So when its cousin the 2 dollar coin came around in 1996, it was named the “Toonie”.
The Giving is the Gift
I brought up the idea to my son and he was all for it. He’s excited about going shopping for his own gift in celebration of turning 5. And he knows that the arts and music studio where he takes piano lessons sponsors two children through World Vision. He wants to donate to this charity so that “the children can have food and go to school”, in his words. At 5 years old, I think it’s appropriate for him to know he’s helping these children. I haven’t burdened him with the true state of affairs in their country, as I feel he’s too young, but he is old enough to feel proud that he is helping them out.
The toonie party is all the buzz in our house right now. My 3 ½ year old daughter has decided she wants to have a toonie party when she turns 4, and several of my friends have also shown a keen interest in it. I, for one, am looking forward to all aspects of his birthday party now. In the past, the sheer volume of gifts has really made me uncomfortable, and even my son has tired of opening them. To me, it represents a type of mass consumerism and greed that’s not necessary. The joy and pride I hear in his voice when he tells others about his toonie party re-affirms something I already knew. My children don’t want or need “things” to make them happy. They want experiences, love, attention and interaction. He wants to play with his friends. He wants to eat birthday cake. He’s proud that he’s going to be helping others. At 5 years old, my son is learning that sometimes giving can be just as rewarding as receiving. He’s turning into quite a compassionate little guy, and I for one, couldn’t be more proud of him!