Today my daughter turned 14 years old. I think I am still in a bit of shock at how quickly the years passed. This afternoon, we will celebrate with cupcakes with fellow students at Duke Ellington’s Instrumental Music Summer Intensive. And then Nalah and I will have a lovely dinner with my mom and her Daddy Joe. It’s a far cry from the birthday celebrations I put on many years ago. Despite all of the time and resources I spent to make sure each birthday celebration was better than the last, to this day my daughter’s favorite was her 8th – the party where she didn’t receive any gifts. Why? Because she didn’t need a single thing.
I wasn’t a minimalist six years ago but as Nalah’s birthday neared I started to receive the texts, “What does Nalah want?” When I asked her response was, “I can’t think of anything.” That’s because her room was already overflowing with Build-A-Bears, Lego blocks, books, a personal DVD player, American Girl dolls and all her many accessories. The list could go on and on. And I imagined Nalah’s friends showing up with more toys and things that she didn’t need and wouldn’t use. So I had an idea – what if I asked everyone to bring a canned good instead?
Nalah has always had compassion so when I mentioned the idea to her, she loved it! And her friends and their parents did as well. The kids raided their pantries and went to the store to purchase multiple perishable and non-perishable items that were donated to the Bowie Interfaith Food Pantry. When we dropped off our donation, I cried. The parking lot was full of families who had fallen on hard times. It was a jarring reminder of how blessed we were.
There are so many ways to have meaningful birthday celebrations without incurring more things. However, if you need need items I would recommend being specific. I can assure you that your guests will be happy to comply. Gifting is often a challenge for parents as well. Also, look at local non-profit organizations to see what their needs are and ask how you can help. Back-to-School initiatives, clothing drives… get creative and have fun! (You can view the Facebook album of Nalah’s Charity Birthday Party here.)
Happy Birthday, Nalah!