Happy Birthday, Noah!

Noah is FOUR years old today! He's so beside himself excited - I think this is the first birthday where he really "gets" that this day is all about him. Four years ago today I was shouting in pain in a hospital, begging for an epidural that the harried anaesthesia team was too busy to give me. Ah, memories!

Noah's birthday (and my recent job loss) have got me thinking a lot lately about material comforts. So far today, Noah's opened 4 gifts - one from his father and me, one from one set of grandparents, one from the other set of grandparents, and one from his great-grandmother. And it's only 8:30 am. This day, I'm sure, will be FILLED with gifts, not to mention what will take place after the party we're having for him on the weekend. When I sent out the invitations, I have to admit it crossed my mind to write "No gifts, please" on the invitation and asking people to spend their money making a donation to charity instead. I mean, Noah has a ridiculous amount of toys. It's to the point where people are asking me what they can get him for his birthday and I'm at a loss to even answer the question because he has SO. MANY. TOYS!

But I didn't write it. I thought it was mean to spoil the fun of a birthday party for a four-year old, who's probably not quite developmentally ready to understand the concept of going without in order to help someone less fortunate. And now I'm kicking myself for not doing it. Because let's face it: kids expect parties and presents because we condition them to. As I watch Sam crawling around the floor, oblivious to the whole concept of "birthday" and "presents" and all the rest of it, that becomes very clear to me. Surely I could have come up with a way to get Noah to understand that he has so many toys and that his birthday gift was that all his friends were giving toys from Noah to children that didn't have any. 

Anyway, I don't think it's too late. I think I've got a real opportunity here to make the right kind of impression. When the party's over and we've got all the gifts in the house, I'm going to ask him to pick a few that we can give away. And after school, he and I can drive together to a place that accepts donations. He's definitely old enough to understand that concept, especially if I try to make it very concrete. Because in the midst of this economic tumult, in the wake of my recent layoff, and with so very many families and children being forced to go without - what better birthday gift could I give Noah than the gift of teaching him to be caring and compassionate? It may not be as fun for him as the Spiderman action figure he got this morning, but I think in the long run, it'll be a gift that keeps on giving.

Happy birthday, Noah - I love you!

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