The Twoonie Party

Let me just say from the outset that I was highly skeptical of the whole bring-money-instead-of-a-gift birthday party concept.  For a couple of reasons:  I'm a hippie in suburban disguise, and approach money as more of a political device than a cherished collectible.  My kids will be capitalists because that's where we live, but my hope is that they will grow to earn money for what it can do instead of for what it is.  If that makes any sense.  The other reason?  I really like to buy gifts for kids.  I really like to find obscure, retro, or bizarre-but-funny toys, and watch them revel in their awesomeness.  Enough that I am willing to (occasionally) endure any one of the dozens of horrifically loud children's birthday party venues and the strained conversations with the other parents.

The problem is that our house is really small.  The other problem is that the sorts of toys my daughter likes now are not easily passed down, or particularly durable.  She enjoys doing science experiments, building things from Lego, drawing (A LOT) and creating bizarre Playmobil scenarios involving swooping quezalcoatluses and survival-equipped jungle princesses.  And she already has SO MUCH STUFF.  Faced with the prospect of forcing my daughter to cull even more of her precious things in order to make room for new gifts, my initial solution was just to host a much smaller birthday party than she has had in previous years.  Fewer gifts that way, right?  Except, of course, the party is supposed to be about the party, and who I am to make her choose among her best friends just because I don't want a whole bunch more stuff in my house?

Sigh.

Last fall, Danica attended a twoonie party hosted by a playschool friend.  Each guest brought one or more two dollar coins, the kids partied it up in the bouncy castle, and all of us were saved shopping for a child we don't know and then trying to make our own children at least appear to be interested while the birthday kid tore open her loot.  Win!  Danica loved it.  She thought the idea of shopping for her own gift was almost as cool as giving a bunch of money to people who need it.  But when she asked if she could have a twoonie party, I initially said no.  I mean, since when are birthdays supposed to be about money?  And then, of course, we did another purge of her room and, well....

Anyway, Danica's friends and family were incredibly generous.  They came out to play with us at The John Janzen Nature Centre on party day, and tore around in the trees in grand style.  The girl and I spent a few minutes each week looking at different charities and what they do and how her money would be used.  This morning she chose the Food Bank from her short list, and the two of us set off for the grocery store to buy at least one of each item the Food Bank needed most.

I hate shopping.  I especially hate grocery shopping.  My husband does all of our shopping for a reason completely unrelated to feminist principles and misogynistic money dominance.  He does it because I am a complete and total bitch somewhat unfriendly after spending too much time with a wobbly grocery cart and the last shreds of my sanity.  (Or possibly because he loves me and doesn't want to see me suffer.)  Today I got to watch my girl make her choices, compare prices, consult her list, and then hand over the little pink bag that represented half of all of her birthday gifts....  No, I didn't cry in the grocery store.  But it was awfully damn close.

The woman who checked us out was at the end of her shift and fully and completely finished with humanity.  She was unimpressed when I asked if I could quickly run and exchange two dented cans.  She sneered when Danica presented her bag of coins.  But when I explained that this was her birthday money and she had chosen to spend it on groceries for the Food Bank?  That angry old battleaxe positively melted, joyfully counted out the coins, came around the counter to hug my (shocked) little girl, and then shoved the bagging clerk aside to load the groceries into Danica's little cart herself.

My girl and I haven't exactly been best friends, lately.  I'm not sure if we're too similar or too different, or if both of us just have too much going on.  But this afternoon was such a gift, for us.  We did a good thing, and then sat in the sunshine together eating our Kit Kats and watching the birds.

I am so grateful.

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When I'm not hiding behind a stack of textbooks or out at the playground with my six-man crew, I blog about living this life in fiction and reality over at The Valentine 4: Living Each Day.

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