How Do You Teach the Spirit of Giving To Our Kids?

I am feeling a little well… ” Tut vai dos harts” which is Yiddish for Heartbroken. It is ironic that I used a Yiddish saying considering the story I am about to tell has to do with a Christmas present.

Yesterday I spent the majority of my day sorting and wrapping presents. We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas as I am Jewish and Hubby is not. The  result of our mix marriage is two very spoiled and HAPPY kiddos come the end of December. This year is no exception. In fact the amount of presents sitting under the tree and by the menorah is a bit embarrassing. (Even if a few of them are not really anything they want but more stuff they need like underwear and socks.)

Like any parent, all I want is for my kids to feel loved and be healthy and happy. I know that presents will not buy these things, but it feels good to be able to give my kids things. But the thing I want the most for my children is for them to grow up to be GOOD people. To me that means compassionate, empathetic, tolerant, understanding and giving people. I believe in instilling these traits by modeling them for my children. I was raised by parents who were always giving their time and money to charities and causes. Some of my favorite memories I have are the times my father and I worked together to help grant wishes for children involved in Make A Wish Foundation.

These days  my time, energy and money seem to go towards Autism Awareness. My children have jumped on board too. I cannot begin to tell you how proud I was when they came up with the idea, on their own mind you, to have a lemonade stand and raise money for Autism Speaks this past summer. They raised $50 that hot summer day!

I know what my children are capable of. I know that they have tremendous hearts. I know that they know right from wrong. Perhaps that is why I was so ” Tut vai dos harts” heartbroken.

There was an email waiting for me in my inbox this morning from Tiffany from Our Journey Thru Autism that touched me. One of our fellow autism blogger mommies has fallen on some very hard times. Two days after Thanksgiving Danette Schott, publisher of the S-O-S Research found herself in the midst of a family crisis. She is currently living in temporary housing. Her daughter is asking if Santa will be able to find them this year. My heart broke when I read that. Danette has given so much to our Autism community and now she is just trying to keep things together for her family to establish some kind of normal again. Tiffany is trying to deliver a bit of Christmas to Danette and her family. She is having a small Christmas tree delivered and asked that people take a small ornament off their own tree and send it to them as a way of assuring her daughter that Santa will indeed find them. She also gave info on Danette’s kids so incase anyone would like to send a present to put under that tree.

I looked at the mountain of gifts under my tree and by my menorah and knew I wanted to do just that. I also knew that my son had just bought a present for Grace that would be perfect for Danette’s daughter. So when the kids came down for breakfast I told them my idea.

They both sighed and seemed honestly saddened by the tale. Grace was quick to pick out an ornament from our tree to give. Without me even saying a word Jay pulled me aside and offered his present that he had bought for Grace.

Jay: Mom what I bought Gracie would be perfect for the girl. She would love it mom. But I don’t want Gracie to think I forgot about her. We need to tell her what I bought her and then I am sure she will want to give it to her.

I was so proud of my boy. Once again he proved that he has empathy and compassion and a Heart as big as the Empire State Building! I know Grace has a heart to match so we quickly told her our idea.

And Grace got very quiet and said … “NO!”

My heart stopped. I had to ask her to repeat what she said because I was sure I heard wrong. How could she have said NO?

Grace: No mommy. It is my gift. I don’t want to give up my gift.

Then she started to cry. Then I started to cry. Jay was talking on and on about the spirit of giving and doing the right thing. At first I was shocked. I mean wasn’t it suppose to be the other way around. My autistic child was showing Empathy and my Neurotypical child was not. Of course it was not his present he was offering up but that is not the point. The thoughts that ran through my head… “What did I do wrong? How could she be so spoiled?

I was sad almost sick actually. I guess I expected her to grab a sack and like Santa, give up all her gifts. I wanted her to be able to feel that almost tickle like feeling you get inside when you know you are doing the right thing. I wanted HER TO DO WHAT I THOUGHT WAS THE RIGHT THING!

On and on the morning went. Jay trying to wheel and deal, me holding back my disappointment, Grace crying. Then I stopped.

Grace is 8! She is 8! A normal 8-year-old girl who I was asking to give up a very tangible gift that she could visibly see under the tree that had her name on it to some other child whom she did not know. She is 8. The fact that she was crying, well that showed that she knew her reaction was wrong. She knew that giving the gift was the right thing to do and We ALL KNEW that she would eventually do it. Well okay for a while there I was actually not so sure she would do it. BUT she did. Jay handed her the gift which I let her unwrap. When she saw what it was, she smiled and said,
“Oh mama… she will love it! You both were right.”

That was the reaction I wanted. That was the reaction I thought I would get.

So I tell you this story for several reasons. You see I learned a lot today.

One: You can lead a horse to water, you can try to reason with it as to why it should drink, but the thing is … you can’t make it drink. It has to do that on it’s own.Eventually the horse will realize what it NEEDS to do, and do it. Our job is  not to force the horse to drink, but rather to just keep leading them to the water.

Two:  Speaking of NEED…I need to have a little more faith in my kids, and well in my parenting of them! They are not perfect, I certainly am not perfect…but we all are doing a pretty good job on most days! They do know right and wrong and well, they had to learn that from some one!

Three: I really am not sure how you are supposed to teach GIVING and all the other traits I value. All I can do is keep being those things myself and PRAY that my kids see me doing it and follow in my footsteps. So with that in mind… I encourage all of you to give this season. Money is tough I know that… but you can volunteer your time, send a card  to the troops serving overseas or just smile at a stranger as you cross the street. You would be amazed how just offering a smile, which by the way is FREE, can really do.  Your little ones are watching and they will get it. I promise you… they will get it.

For more information on Danette and how you can help her family click here.

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