Among the many valuable lessons I find important to teach my three children, being grateful and giving back to those less fortunate is by far my top priority.
Once upon a time, each birthday that my children celebrated came with the request to forgo gifts for them and instead donate to my favorite charity Project Night Night. Sadly, that fell by the waist-side and the last few birthdays have left my children inundated with an abundance of gifts and has left a lump in my throat as each toy and trinket was unwrapped. I am grateful for the generosity that surrounds us and for the time and thought that was put into each and every gift that was given to them on their birthdays but is it really necessary? No. Does it actually embarrass me as they tare through each perfectly packaged present? Yes.
What embarrasses me is not my child's reaction, not their level of gratitude, or any lack of appreciation but the fact that they think this is normal. It is not normal to receive over 30 gifts for merely turning 6 years old. Maybe it is normal for others but that definitely is not the standard that I want my children to expect at all. I am embarrassed that I live in an affluent community that condones this behavior if not supports and encourages it. I am embarrassed that I have not put my foot down to discourage this more adamantly. With all of these emotions and thoughts filling my brain and my heart, it felt like the best decision to forgo a Christmas filled with countless gifts from all of the wonderful family and non-family aunties and uncles my children are so fortunate to have in their life.
In our home we have the 5-gift rule for Christmas; Something you need, something you read, something you wear, something you want, and something from Santa Claus. I also instruct family to not gift toys to the kids but rather an activity, an adventure, a learning activity, games, or memberships to something they enjoy. This year I was event stricter about these rules.
With the help of their aunties (related and not) we decided to have the children assemble bags for Project Night Night and donate them to children in need.
The aunties - in lieu of gifts for my kids - put that money towards the contents to fill the bags (books, lovies, and blankets) and I took the kids to pick out stuffed animals for the bags, also. On a Saturday morning we all gathered at my home and had the kids assemble over a dozen bags to donate. We talked about being grateful and appreciative and giving back to the children who do not have the things that we are fortunate to have. After the bags were all stuffed we all crammed in the car and drove them to the donation drop-off center in Alameda.
This lesson was not just for my little ones but also a reminder to myself that these lessons need to be taught more consistently and practiced regularly.
How do you all help instill lessons of gratitude and giving back in your kids? I would love to hear some more ideas and practices that work for you all!
*I also strongly encourage everyone to check out the Project Night Night website and donate in any way that you can!*