Mom guilt hit me hard a few weeks ago. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I realized my oldest daughter wasn’t going to have a birthday party this year.
Her fourth birthday was fast approaching, and due to my advanced procrastination skills (combined with being eight months pregnant with our third kid, and having my husband out of town for her big day) brought me to the decision to just scrap the whole thing.
Cancelling the party we never started planning in the first place was a huge relief, but that mom guilt still lingered over me. Then, one day when we went to pick up our mail I had a genius idea. She loves getting mail—LOVES it. On the walk over to the mailbox she constantly asks if she’s getting anything. Then, we let her open the mailbox and she goes through each piece to make sure there isn’t something for her nestled inside.
Since my husband was away, and since the party was off the table, I decided to bring the celebration to her. So about two weeks before her birthday, I put a call out on Facebook for our friends and family across the world to send her a birthday card. The response I got was overwhelming.
More than 60 people asked for our address, and promised to send her a piece of snail mail. Not only that, but two days later they started coming in, and even though her birthday was at the beginning of March, they’re still trickling in! So far she’s received close to 40 cards!
We don’t live near our family and many of our friends (joys of being a military family), so the fact that all of these people sent them to her, and not only that, but made each card special, completely warms my heart. My friends’ kids drew her pictures and spelled out “Happy Birthday,” in that adorable, first-time spelling kind of way; she got stickers, and actual 4th birthday cards; and some generous people even sent her some money and small gifts!
Seeing the excitement on her face as she embraced the entire ordeal of getting mail was simply joyful. She’d look at the envelope and open it “all by herself,” (and sometimes she’d save the envelope because it was “pretty” and covered in stickers), then she’d try to read it and ask me to help her out, while she soaked in every word, and wanted to know who sent it. Then—the best part—she’d go through each card multiple times, just admiring it them. I love how something so simple could make someone so happy.
My mom was in town for her actual birthday, so we tried to spoil her that day—cupcakes, a trip to the beach, dinner at Chick-fil-A (her favorite, of course), and then we went to the mailbox at the end of the day, and picked up more cards just for her. Surprisingly, she never brought up the idea of having a party again.
I love birthday parties, and getting together with our friends/family to celebrate the life of our little ones, but sometimes birthday parties are straight-up stressful. Had there been extra hands helping me out, I’m sure we still would’ve had one for her, but she’s also still young enough that not having one won’t torment her for years to come.
Her cards are currently hanging up in our living room, and I know it will be a sad day (for everyone) when we have to take them down. It’s amazing what the power of a simple card can do to lift someone’s spirits and share the love.
Since she’s a huge fan of reading and writing, I decided it’s time for her to start being respectful and send some thank you cards to a few of the people who sent her things. While I didn’t have her write dozens of thank-yous, I did have her send a few (picked up a small pack of cards in the one-spot section of Target) to family and a few friends.
While I don’t know if I’ll do this particular project again next year (mostly because I don’t want to annoy our friends/family), it does make me want to send more snail mail to the people I care about. We get sent so much junk in our lives that pausing to see a fun card in the mail can certainly brighten up someone’s entire day.