Season of Giving

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We have officially entered the season of giving thanks! This weekend, the holiday warm fuzzies started to hit me. My family is already making Thanksgiving Day plans and I have signed up for my menu contribution (roasted root veggies – YUM). We have been enjoying some chilly weather dinners this week (think comfort food!), and the temperature has dropped to a seasonably cold 30 degrees at night!!

I am currently teaching Finn about being thankful for all that he has, as well as trying to help him understand the idea of giving to those who are in need. I have recently had some opportunities to try and explain, but I’m not sure he really understands.

I want my family to be consciously thankful for the small things that happen in our normal, everyday. I am finding that the subject of “need” is hard to communicate to a child without confusion. When I try to explain the donation of food we recently sent to school to be given to our town food pantry, he didn’t understand that there are families in need of something as basic as groceries.

I can tell that he is trying to process this information. He is a very inquisitive kid who asks a lot of questions and he tries to find answers. But how can I teach him to give to children who would feel grateful for half of the toys that he has? It’s hard to not run into contradictions when the holidays come around. It is a time when lists are made, catalogs arrive, and wants are loudly and excitedly voiced. (Hello, Santa Clause? I’m looking at you…) It is a time when parents seemingly blackmail their kids behavior with threats of a call to the North Pole, or remind them that their creepy friendly household elf is watching their every move to report back the Man in Red (guilty as charged). So much of the noise around us is about “getting.” Is it me, or do commercials seem to get louder and more obnoxious? And don’t even get me started on the atrocious trend where retailers think it’s a great idea to open on Thanksgiving; a time that should be dedicated to family, friends and being thankful for all that we have. Instead, people are being persuaded to run to a store to BUY MORE. And for these corporate retailers, it is all a ploy to make MORE money. I just can’t embrace that mentality. And why do we get so caught up in needing/having/buying MORE stuff?

I don’t want to raise kids who don’t understand the meaning of giving. Giving to those without, giving to those we love, giving for no other purpose but to make us feel good.
I have declared November and December as the months where we express our gratitude for all of the things we are fortunate to have, and sometimes take for granted, as well as to find a way to give back in ways that will help others, whether in the form of time, money, donations of goods…whatever it takes. November is the time when at work, all colleagues are given the opportunity to contribute to a cause and have the donation deducted from their pay. My charity of choice is always St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital because I am forever grateful for the blessing of having two perfectly healthy children. I will ask Finn to choose two toys, one from him and one from Jack, to donate to Toys for Tots.

We’ll also be making some Christmas gifts this year, because it’s fun, it encourages imagination, and more thought goes into customizing it for the person who will receive it.
I absolutely love the holidays and can’t wait to celebrate all of the festiveness that we will experience in the coming weeks. I look forward to twinkle lights, candles, delicious scents permeating my kitchen, old and new traditions, relaxing…and yes, shopping. But this year, I am going to keep it simple, because thoughtfulness is not equivalent to dollars spent. I want to support local businesses and artists because they are charming and unique. I want to help my boys understand the real meaning behind this time of year and that it is about the warm feelings and small bits of happy that we will experience as we build up to the BIG day…and keep those feelings close so that we live in each small moment before it passes us by.

I want to show Finn, by my example, that there are plenty of ways to “give” that don’t include “presents” and there are lots of things that will make people smile that even Santa wouldn’t be able to accomplish.

So, tell me…How do you teach your kids about giving?

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