Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Two Stories (One long, One short)

This time of year if I even see one PSA about children/families/individuals who are giftless/hungry/alone for the holidays, I get choked up. Case in point, the other day, e-baby asked me why it's better to give than to receive. I told her it was because it feels good to give someone something, like when we donate to the Goodwill. She wasn't quite following (well, they could just go to Target and buy some things). She prodded for more-- she asked why we donate old things to the poor, and I tried explaining how some people don't have much, and the least we can do is give them our old stuff.
Blank stare, crickets.

So I took a different strategy:
me: You know how, when you come home from school, we make dinner, or sometimes we eat out?
e-baby: Yes
me: And whenever you outgrow your old clothes, we go buy new ones?
e-baby: Yes
me: And when your birthday comes around, or Christmas, you get lots of new toys and books and things?
e-baby: Yes
me: That's because mommy and daddy have jobs and we are paid enough to buy the things we need, and have a little extra to buy things we want, like dinner in a restaurant or a toy now and then. Well, some people can't find good jobs, or their jobs don't pay quite enough for all the things they need. There are even some mommies and daddies who can't afford to buy food and toys for their children (and at this point, I start choking up like a super-sappy-sop and can't speak in a coherent sentence anymore-- little face with huge brown eyes, so lucky to have everything a child could ever need)

So we discussed that there are organizations that we give money and other donations to so that they can bring food and toys to people who don't have enough.
e-baby: If I had a friend who was really poor, I would give her one of my toys that I didn't want anymore.
me: Would you maybe give her one that you do still want?
e-baby: Well, no, I don't think that would work.
I mean you know, she is a 4-year-old, not Jesus or the Dalai Lama.

But, she seemed really receptive to the whole taking-care-of-poor-children thing and asked a few more times about how we could help some poor children. So we began a new family tradition: each kid has a budget for buying toys for donating, and we go shopping. Jambuca is still too small, so e-baby shopped on his behalf. She picked a deluxe toy food set (like the one she has and loves) and 2 small Disney Princess figurines. "He" picked a 12-piece toy muscial instruments/band set for babies (like the one she has and loves) and 3 Matchbox cars. We also picked out a bunch of her favorite nonperishable foods to give to the Food Drive at my office.

Here's my favorite part...

In line to check out at Target, the man in front of us accidentally bumped into e-baby, and knocked her over a little. He apologized profusely, and she (in classic e-baby style, using the opportunity to make a new friend) tells him (loudly), I'm donating some toys and food to the poor children! I am so excited! I can't wait to donate! It will make some children so happy! This is the happiest I've ever felt!

After he had checked out, he noticed that our Matchbox cars accidentally made their way into his stuff, and he had been charged for them. Before the cashier could credit it back, he said, NO! Leave it on my bill- That little girl is going to donate, and I want to be a part of it.

A near-tearful Hallmark moment. Over a $3 Matchbox cars donation! But no, that's not the reason. It was the poignant, the raw and gorgeous humanity of the situation. 

When we put the toys into a Toys for Tots collection bin, e-baby told the toys to find their way to a great new home. I don't think she really gets it completely-- how can you understand hunger if you've never been without food? -- but it is the beginning.

By the way, if any of you have ideas for other ways to get preschool-age kids involved in helping others , I'd love to hear your ideas. I'd love for my kids to grow up with a strong conscience and sense of social justice. After all, it was my own mother who, in the mid 1970s, had her children flying Black Power kites in the field next to the airport which had been notable for their racist empoloyment policies. Start 'em young, right mom? (this really is true. ask her about it. my mom is so awesome.)

OK, and the 2nd story. Much shorter, struck me as funny.
To save time and water, the kids have been bathing together more often. We let them use our big bathtub, and tonight I overfilled it and overbubbled it. Jambuca ran into my bathroom, sat right down and pulled off his right (red) cowboy boot. Then he pulled off his right sock, and stuffed it carefully inside the boot. Then he pulled off his left boot, then the left sock, and stuffed it inside the left boot. Then he neatly lined up the pair of boots next to the bathtub and put his arms up to be lifted into the suds, stomping his feet in excited anticipation.

Heh. I think at 1 yr old, I was wriggling free of my diaper and running from the house to streak nekkid down through the neighbors' yards. Jambuca is SO Montessori. (For the record, Jambuca does love to run around nekkid. But he mostly stays inside.


Mom said...

You were the "streaker of Bay Villa Place". Every chance you got, you dashed out the back door and over to Ms Bryner's house... stark nekkid.

PartnerInCrime said...

C and I had a similar conversation about poverty because her daycare is doing a food-and-toy drive, and I had to explain the presence of the boxes in the lobby. She kind of already had a vague concept about the idea of finances, because she often gripes about not wanting to go to school, and I remind her that Mommy and Daddy have to go to work, because that's how we get money, and we need money to pay for our house, cars, food, her toys, etc. So I think she sort of gets it, but again, she's 3. Not like she's going to be balancing a checkbook anytime soon.

I love the idea of having a donate budget. One of our old neighbors made her kids go through all of their toys every December to pick out old things to donate to the Salvation Army. I love that idea too. It reminds the kids to be generous, plus it's like spring cleaning before all the new loot from Santa arrives!

Nebeli said...

What a great post!

I did a new one this year, because even though B-Boy is only 14 months old, I think it is important that he see giving early.

We set a budget for the Salvation Army this year. We got cash, and put it in two envelopes... one for each car. Every time we went to a store that had someone ringing a bell with the red kettle, we would remove cash from the envelope. We then slipped it in the kettle, making sure B-Boy saw it. On the 23rd, the left over cash went in the kettle.

I am hoping that this can become a tradition that can start a dialogue when he is older like the one you had with e-Baby!