Further to my earlier post about birthday parties and the resulting truckload of stuff that takes over my home, I’ve been wrestling what to do with Nikki’s party next week. As some of you have mentioned, we don’t plan large parties, so it’s not like I have twenty kids giving her gifts. But even four gifts, when you add it to everything she gets from her aunties and uncles and grandparents, ends up being a lot. I also don’t give away traditional goodie bags. Instead, I’ve done things like take a picture of the party gang, print it on photo paper and put it in a funky (and cheap) frame for them to take home. I’ve also printed the picture on iron-on paper and then ironed it onto pillow cases. I’d rather give them a meaningful momento of the party than a bunch of crap that will end up in the landfill site.

But, despite these attempts to keep our parties within reason, I keep wrestling with the thought that there is still too much excess, and most of the gifts bought are probably made by some impoverished peasant working in a sweatshop and living on less than a dollar a day. I’ve tried to convince the girls that they should consider asking their friends to donate to a worthy cause instead of buying presents, but so far, they haven’t been willing to make the sacrifice entirely. (Julie has given some of her birthday money away to the foster child sponsored by the children’s community at church, but she didn’t entirely forego gifts.)

This year, I’ve stumbled onto an idea that I think might be a hit. We live really close to Ten Thousand Villages, our favourite fair trade store. The girls and I love visiting this store and we often buy the gifts they bring to their friends’ parties from there. They have interesting things from all over the world, and Nikki goes gaga over their funky jewellery.

So I’m going to suggest that instead of bringing gifts, her friends bring her a small amount of money and together we’ll all go shopping for a few gifts for her from Ten Thousand Villages. It’s a win-win situation. She’ll still get gifts, but at least there will be some small amount of justice in the purchases made. I’ve contacted the store to see if they can help me make it even more meaningful and fun for the girls. Perhaps we’ll include some storytelling about the things that they’re buying and the places they come from, or some kind of scavenger hunt in the store.

Maybe, just maybe, a few ten and eleven-year-old girls will be inspired to put a little thought into what they purchase and why. If nothing else, I won’t feel as overwhelmed by the clutter that another birthday party brings to my house.

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