By Samantha Papesch
“Blessed are they who have the gift of friends, for it is one of God’s best gifts” ~ Thomas Hughes
I can’t quite believe it, but my daughter turned eight last week. When she was born everyone said “time will go so quickly, don’t forget to enjoy her”. They weren’t wrong. It just feels like yesterday I was stroking her precious cheeks, in teary awe at the beautiful creation before me.
Since then, my daughter has been a sweet force to be reckoned with. Her almond eyes, olive skin, and strawberry curled hair are enough to endear her to most people she meets. But, her ability to articulate and empathise, coupled with her zany confidence and strong moral compass has had many profess that “she’s been here before”.
I couldn’t be prouder of my daughter and her blossoming character, especially a few weeks ago when we started planning for her birthday party.
For a while now we’ve been teaching our children about money; the importance of saving it, giving regularly to charity, and how they can choose to spend their allowance wisely (or not). So, when we sat down together and discussed ideas, we told our daughter she could have any type of party she wanted, as long as it fitted our budget.
While she understood the concept in principle, it only became clear when she realised that the ‘high-end’ horse riding party she’d longed for would only extend to two invitations, plus her younger brother.
But, like most second-graders she has lots of little friends. They attend school together, the same sporting activities, and in a small town where the parents are firmly connected, the bonds of all her friendships are strong, so it was going to be a tough decision.
After a while, I could tell my daughter was having an internal battle with her desires – wanting to celebrate her special day with an exciting experience, but not wanting to choose between the friends with which to share it.
So, I suggested another option – a low key party at home (with some fun activities) and as many friends as she liked.
To help make the decision easier, I asked her “which choice would make you feel happier on the inside?”.
To my joy, she replied “having all my friends would make me feel happier, and it would make all my friends feel happy too, so I think I’d like a party at home”.
It was a moment I’ll never forget. I wouldn’t have judged her decision either way, but my heart exploded with emotion, knowing she’d recognised the value of her friendships, and choosing them above anything else.
Shortly after this momentousness, practicality kicked in and I was suddenly aware that by inviting 15 friends, my daughter was likely to receive an inordinate amount of gifts. As a minimalist, my desire to be free from unnecessary possessions is as strong as renouncing excess consumerism, so this prospect did not sit well with me.
A collective gift seemed like a good idea in this situation, and I knew my daughter would love her own skateboard. But, this was going to be another weighty choice for my seven year old, and I didn’t expect her to conform.
But, after considering the options, she did choose the skateboard. And, I was doubly delighted when one of the Mums (and thoughtful friend), who, knowing my minimalistic inclination, called and offered to coordinate it.
It was a win-win for everyone, and when it came to the day of her party, my daughter was the picture of happiness I’d hoped for. She was surrounded by all her friends, and they were all so excited when she unwrapped her new skateboard, which was then signed by each of them.
Now, when my daughter confidently carves it up and down the pathway, she has a permanent reminder that friendship is one of the most important gifts she could ever hope for.
And, she has learnt, as I have, that by simplifying our decisions, and letting our hearts be our guide, we’ll always find life’s most beautiful treasures at the bottom of it.