A few years ago my Mother-in-law read an article in a national magazine that suggested children request donations for charity instead of gifts at birthday parties. MIL thought this was a wonderful idea and proceeded to press the issue with me, suggesting that I do this for my children’s parties. She says that kids these days get too much stuff.
My two youngest children (5 and 8) have birthdays just a few weeks apart. Every year we plan a modest party for each where they can invite a few friends (usually five or six), play some games, have some treats, and celebrate. Each year I nod and smile at her suggestion and then we do our own thing. This year she is very insistent, sending emails and articles about teaching kids to be community minded and generous. Just this week she brought it up in front of my future sister-in-law after she asked about the kids birthday’s this year. I’d had enough. I told MIL that I thought it was a terrible idea and that we would not be doing it this year, or ever.
Now I feel an ogre for shutting down the charity idea. I mean, who doesn’t want to give to charity? But I have so many problems with this.
1) We have birthday parties to celebrate the occasion with friends. If they choose to bring gifts, that is a nice gesture on their part. I don’t want to ask them to bring anything, and certainly not to bring money to a charity of our choosing. They may not even support this hypothetical charity.
2) How much does one give at a “charity party” (that term even squicks me out). You can buy a nice, simple gift for under $5.00. I don’t like knowing what someone is giving, and I don’t like putting them in the position of having to give more than they can afford because they feel they should.
3) There are plenty of opportunities to teach our children about generosity. They take part in food bank drives, donate gently used clothes, books and toys, and buy toys for the toy drive at Christmas. And giving does not always involve money. We can be generous with our time. Both my husband and I volunteer in the community and the kids see this and sometimes take part. Birthday parties don’t need to be part of this learning experience.
4) Finally, our kids don’t get a lot of stuff. We are not the kind of parents who spend unnecessarily. New toys are restricted to special occasions. I don’t think it’s a bad thing for the kids to get a few new toys and treats from their friends at birthdays. They certainly enjoy picking out gifts to give their friends. It’s a two way thing.
Still, a part of me feels like a gimmie pig for saying no. Is there something in the big book of etiquette that says parties should not be used for charity? 1107-11
There are parties hosted all the time that are used for charity. They are called fundraisers. There is nothing inherently wrong with hosting a party in which the main objective is to raise funds for one’s favorite charity. MIL’s problem is that she is insistent on hijacking her grandchildren’s birthday parties in order to have a different theme than one would expect from a birthday celebration. It is commendable to teach children to be generous and charitable but MIL had her chance to raise her children to have the values she wanted to instill in them and if she made a mistake, do-overs with the grandkids are not appropriate.
If MIL is that concerned for the moral character development of her grandkids, MIL should be setting the example for them by doing charitable work and community service and taking them along with her to learn it firsthand and by observation.