Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wasteless Birthday Parties for Kids

My daughter brought up the subject of her upcoming 4th birthday on the very day that my husband was laid off from work. Perfect. Now, as I was desperately trying to scrape together a revised, even-more-stripped-down-than-usual budget, I had to add “fantastic birthday party” to the extra column of our budget spreadsheet dangerously labeled “miscellaneous”?

How could I pull this off without letting someone down: my stressed-out husband, my trusting daughter, or my own conscience that rebels against the abhorrent waste that surrounds the mega-business of the party industry?

My salvation came from 2 unexpected sources: my grandmother’s estate, and my daughter’s words.

First, my daughter. Far from being immune to the Great Marketing Machine, my daughter wanted a “Barbie Rapunzel Birthday” with all the little girls in her preschool class. Here we go- the plates, the dream castle, the plastic and goodie bags and themed games and on and on and on…right?

No. When questioned further, my precious 4-year-old-to-be clarified that a Barbie Rapunzel Birthday meant that you had a Barbie candle on your cake.

Seriously? That’s it? CAN DO, sweetie. One Barbie candle. Check.

The second lifeline came from something I initially begrudged: my inherited “demitasse set” from my late grandmother’s estate- you know, those tiny, tiny little fragile teacups you never see anymore. Too nice to give away, too fancy for my usual style, too small for my monstrous caffeine requirements.

But quality. And fancy. And completely useless unless used. Even if it’s by clumsy little hands that may break one or two in the process, these cups were meant to be used, and now they will be, in my daughter’s Barbie Rapunzel - Fancy Dress Birthday Tea Party. It’ll be fabulous, fancy, and completely free of waste. And free of destructive boys.

My daughter’s true wishes revealed and the gift from my grandmother provided me two lessons about how to avoid wasteful spending, energy, and consumption in children’s parties: 1) Our children’s wishes are simpler than we think, and 2) the best inspiration for a party can come out of desire to use something great you already have.

What do you have at your disposal that would make for a great party? A huge sandbox in your backyard for a beach party? A chef’s kitchen perfect for a cooking party? A large garden for aspiring gardeners? A trunk full of flowered hats? A collection of old 45’s for a sock hop?
Give your possessions a new life rather than condemn a bunch of paper and plastic to an instant eternity in a landfill. The only person that will notice the lack of costly disposable extras will be you

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