I don’t know about you, but with Christmas less than a week away and a very generous Auntie en route to spend the holidays spoiling my kids (not to mention a Mommy who is a pro at finding great deals), I am starting to get nervous about all the STUFF that is about to enter my home. I love my kids more than anything, and I want their Christmas to be filled with wonder and joy, but I have to admit that I am worried about the message that this influx of things will send to two girls who already have more than enough.
A few things have happened over the past couple of weeks that have made me think long and hard about the core values I am instilling in my children.
- After repeated threats to start taking away toys if they were not picked up, I finally did. I filled 4 giant bins with toys and put them away, thinking for sure my kids would beg for at least a few things back, and I would have some major leverage. 3 weeks later, not one thing has been missed–they have been forgotten completely.
- We went to see Santa on Saturday evening and up until the very last minute, Princess could not think of a single thing she wanted to ask for. When the big moment arrived, she asked for a Rapunzel doll–something she already has. Trouble asked for Band-Aids. Clearly they are all set.
- As we walked home after visiting Santa, we passed a Salvation Army angel tree still filled with angels, each one representing a child in our community. I stopped to read the information and saw that the deadline for returning gifts was Saturday, which meant that none of those kids would be receiving gifts this year. It broke my heart.
- On our cruise 2 weeks ago, one of our stops was in Roatan. On our tour of the island, we stopped at a grocery store and were completely surrounded by desperate children selling bracelets and other trinkets. It was very sad, and it made quite an impact. When we got back in the car, we had to explain that those kids are selling stuff just so they and their families will be able to eat. We talked about our OCC shoeboxes, and how they are sent to kids just like that all over the world.
- We took a boat ride to view the Christmas lights (one of our favorite Florida Christmas traditions) and our normally angelic Princess was replaced with an overly tired evil twin in full spoiled brat mode. She threw a fit when she couldn’t have the blanket all to herself. We tried to take the opportunity to talk about how Christmas was a time to put others first, but our lesson fell on deaf ears, and our child, instead of appreciating the lovely evening, spent most of the ride sulking on the floor.
- Someone approached me at church yesterday and very quietly asked if I could help them find coupons for things like toilet paper and laundry detergent–items not covered by food stamps. She quietly admitted she was really struggling, but was too embarrassed to tell anyone. As she talked, I thought about my own stockpile and the 20+ bottles of detergent I had just sitting there at home & I realized I don’t count my blessings often enough.
Perhaps none of these things seem connected, but today they are all rolling around in the back of my mind and I can’t shake the feeling that I need to be doing much more to teach my daughters about the importance of giving versus receiving, about appreciating the blessings we have, and sharing with those who have less.
It’s a tall order, and frankly, I’m not totally sure how I’m going to do it. Clearly it is not something I can just talk about once a year and be done–it has to be an ongoing message. I made the mistake of thinking that because we filled our Operation Christmas Child boxes I was “done” with giving for the year. I could pat myself on the back and check that “lesson” off the list.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Kids are inherently ME-oriented, not because they are bad, but just because they don’t know any better. But selfish, spoiled kids can easily become selfish spoiled adults, and as parents it is our job to teach them how to think about others. It is a hard and thankless job, one that requires many lessons, taught consistently over the course of many years.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a free financial website for kids called Kidworth that allows kids to set goals for saving, spending, and giving, and allows friends and family members to contribute to those goals. I loved the idea of teaching my kids to set money goals and giving them the gift of financial stability. I still do love all those things about Kidworth, but in light of these more recent events, I am also realizing that utilizing the ability for my kids to set giving goals is going to be far more important than helping Princess save money for a plastic Rapunzel tower.
Yesterday afternoon Princess and I spent a few minutes re-assessing her goals and picking out a few more charities. In the few weeks since we set her first goals, Kidworth has added quite a few more organizations so there were a lot to choose from. Ultimately she decided on Alex’s Lemonade Stand, which helps kids set up lemonade stands to raise money for cancer research, and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
I realized that simply setting goals isn’t enough if she has no concrete way of reaching them, so I decided to reinstate our “Diamond Jar” system (which we haven’t been very faithful about using lately), but with a slightly different twist–each diamond earned will be worth $0.25 towards her Kidworth goals, but they must be split equally between her giving, saving, & spending categories.
I have also decided to take some of the gifts I have already purchased and donate them to the Salvation Army’s giving tree, (Local readers–the tree was located at Fisherman’s Village in Punta Gorda. They said as long as the gifts are received before Christmas Eve they can still be distributed to the kids.) While Santa will be dropping off a few small things under the tree, he will also be adding a contribution to their Kidworth account.
I’m not sure these ideas will make a difference but I’m hopeful that they will. I am not opposed to my kids having nice things or fun toys to play with, but I do want them to learn to appreciate what they have and avoid the trap of always wanting more. The lessons are all around us, and ultimately, I just want them to learn that the adage is true: ‘Tis better to give than receive.
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