Raising a grateful child is so important to me. Raising a generous child is a priority. And raising an empathetic child is a must.
And those three things are extra important this time of the year but it seems as if during the holiday season it is even more difficult to instill or renew those values.
The “I wants” can be overwhelming when what I wish I could hear was, “I’m grateful for…” or “I want to help…”
I’m sure that as a kid I was the same. I vividly remember sitting on the floor with a giant Sears catalog atop my knees and an ink pen between my teeth poised to circle ALL OF THE STUFF I wanted. But I also, with ease, can recall shopping for less fortunate children with my parents and combing through our toys and clothes to find things that we no longer played with or wore to donate to area charities.
Those lessons — the ones about how there were many who went without — stuck with me. I remember getting a warm, gushy feeling doing that shopping with my mom and dad or packing up some items to take to the Salvation Army.
I am hopeful to pass that message, that greater meaning to this season, on to my own children. So this year Miles — the only one of my two kiddos who’s capable of saying, “I want, I want, I want” — and I chose a little paper angel off of the tree at our church filled with children in need of some help for a brighter Christmas. I looked for a child as close to Miles’ age as possible — we found an 8-year-old boy.
Yesterday afternoon we decided to go shopping, but before I left I picked Miles’ up and pulled him on to my lap.
“Let’s talk,” I said, in my serious tone.
“What mom?” he said in his goofy tone but doing his best to look me in the eye with a serious face (it looked more like a rabid dog, his eyes all wild and crazy and his jaw set.)
“We are going to go to the store but we aren’t going to be buying anything for Miles or Owen or anyone else in our family, OK?”
“Now wait, listen,” I say, pleading he’ll hear this message. “There’s this little boy, and he might not have any presents under his tree for Christmas this year.”
“That’s so sad,” Miles said, truly looking forlorn, his eyes even wetting. “What can we do?”
“We are going to buy him some presents and clothes and food. Do you want to do that?”
So we took off with our paper angel cut-out in tow. Miles gripped on to it tightly, repeatedly telling nearby shoppers we were shopping for his “angel boy.” Toys, clothes and a food essentials as well as a stocking and some candy and other snacks, that Miles proceeded to stuff inside the stocking. He kept holding the angel cut out up to the bright, blue, oversized sock saying, “He wants to see his stocking!”
When we checked out, Miles plainly explained to the cashier what we were doing.
“My angel boy, he didn’t have presents under his tree. So we got him some.”
I’m not going to lie… We didn’t make it out of the toy section without a few protests over why Miles couldn’t get something too. But, after a few deep breaths (on both of our parts) and a reminder of why we were there, he was OK with it.
It’s just one tiny part of a lifetime of lessons about privilege, the joy of giving, civic responsibility and empathy. But I definitely walked out of the store feeling like we’d made some progress. And Miles, even hours later, talked about his angel boy.