"And we can give them to other little kids that need them, right?"
It's quotes like these that remind me how all of our little lessons and conversations and activities really pay off. My kids never cease to amaze me with their kind hearts.
This morning, while getting ready for school, Richie's head had a little bit of a tough time fitting into the shirt we picked out. We got it on, but Richie commented that it's getting a bit too small. I told him we'd wear it this one last time and then we'll retire it (yes, those were my words).
"What does retire mean?"
It means that we won't use it anymore (see how simple conversation can build a kid's vocabulary). After I explained to him what retire meant, Richie made the above comment about giving his clothes that don't fit to other little kids who need them. That right there is a proud Mommy moment. I'm going to go ahead and take a lot of credit for this attitude that my son has about giving what he doesn't need or use to the less fortunate. My mother instilled those same values in me as a child (and now gawks at how liberal I am- it's your fault Mom!), so I planned to do the same for my children.
A few months ago, a friend of mine asked if I had any baby boy clothes saved because her friend was expecting a baby, but not expecting a lot of baby shower gifts. I'll admit my excitement wasn't purely altruistic. I've had boxes upon boxes of baby boy clothes, baby toys, and this huge baby swing that hadn't been used in months. I was glad to get the stuff out of the house and glad that a little boy who needed these things would directly receive it- no money out of pocket.
I decided that would be a great opportunity to show my kids all about caring for others and sharing what you have extra with those who don't have as much. At first, Richie and Lily were excited at all these toys they hadn't seen in at least a year or two. That excitement faded when I informed them that they couldn't keep the toys because they were for a different baby. Then come the "whys." My explanation: Well, we have so many toys and clothes. These ones are for babies, and the clothes don't fit you anymore. There's a little baby boy who doesn't have lots of toys like you do and needs some extra clothes, too. Wouldn't it be nice for us to give him what we don't really need or use- what we have extra?
The excitement returned! My big kids were super excited to be able to help a little boy who didn't have many toys- all kids need toys! They helped me pick out only the good ones- nothing went that was broken or stained, only things in good condition. They helped me wrap them up in tissue paper and put them in nice gift bags (I'd saved every gift bag Richie got for his baby shower, too).
The swing was a little more of a loss for the kids. Although they hadn't touched in in years, it was like a brand new toy (even though it's designed for babies, not toddlers and preschoolers). I let them play with it for a little bit, but reminded them that a baby really needed it, and we didn't- we hadn't even used it in a very long time. They were a-okay with it.
Our friend, "the key monster" (basically any male who is taller than my husband is deemed "key monster" for the day) came and picked up all of the goodies to bring for the baby, and the kids didn't cry or whine or get upset that all of these things were leaving our house.
It's really important to get young children involved in giving back- paying it forward. There are very simple ways to do this. We like to donate our old toys, especially around Christmas and Birthdays (when we expect a great influx of new things into our home). Explain to your kids why you are donating the toys, and have them help you pick which ones they don't need anymore that some other little child might enjoy. Invite older kids on community projects or to volunteer with you at a soup kitchen or nursing home. Have your kids help you clean out the pantry for a food drive. Seriously, kids, especially the younger ones, love doing just about ANYTHING with Mom and Dad- so why not make it a memorable experience that will better them as a person. Create an atmosphere of giving and a culture of caring for others. A little effort goes a really long way. And, hey, guess what? You'll feel good too for having done a good deed.