I come from a long line of givers. We give time, energy, money, advice, and sometimes we give headaches, but that’s another post. Giving was simply what we did as a family. Now that I have my own son it is important to me to pass along the love of giving that was cultivated in me.
From the outside this may seem like an easy task, but my son is an only child, the only male grandson on one side of the family, and the oldest grandson on the other side. And the cherry on top, he’s the product of divorced parents. His life provides the perfect storm for an egotistical, self-centered maniac. Thus, you could see that teaching him to be giving might present a challenge. Instead of rolling my eyes and saying, ‘this is hopeless’, I took a different stance. I decided I was going to create a culture of giving in our home. That the spirit of a giving heart was going to be a part of us each and everyday.
While my son was very young, I sought out opportunities for him to show his giving nature. Either through sharing and taking turns, or giving thoughtful gifts and notes to the people we cared about. I tried hard to make a big deal of those moments when he chose to express his giving spirit all on his own. We talk a lot about how fortunate we are to have everything we have. We show gratitude, because we know that many people aren’t lucky enough to have a warm, safe, cozy bed to sleep in, or yummy food to eat, or even toys to play with. We recently cleared out some of his toy storage bins to make room for the toy explosion that comes from having Christmas and your birthday close together. As we were going through the bins my son was carefully picking out the items he would like to keep, those he would like to donate, and those he would like to give to his friends. We regularly make donations to local charities and organizations which help families and children, so his comment about making donations made my heart warm, but what brought me to tears was his willingness to give to his friends. He could see from my face I was proud of him for what he had decided to do, but I also hugged him and told him I could see his giving heart and I loved him even more because of it. As we sifted through the items to be shared with friends, he began to revert to thinking about himself, and how much he was going to miss his toys. And I simply reminded him how excited his friends would be to receive a toy he himself loved so much. He sat and thought for a few minutes, which concerned me. I was hoping all the positive energy I just expressed on his growth as a person was not going to backfire into a struggle over what was fair and right. He’s seven, it still happens. He finally spoke up and offered the idea of wrapping the toys to make them like presents. Awww, sweet it worked! Not only had he completely grasped the idea of giving, he thought about how someone else might feel about receiving. This was one of those proud Mommy moments that erases a week full of tantrums. It was happening, he was becoming a true giver.
To complete our mission of giving we made a pilgrimage to a family shelter in a nearby city. I donated some of my household items and Wyatt donated books and toys. As we walked through the front door with our arms full of donations, one of the directors saw my son and immediately smiled. She walked over and asked about the toys he had brought to share. She was so nice , and thanked my son. She explained that many of the kids at the shelter had never had a toy that was just theirs, and that his sharing was going to help these kids have a little bit of happiness. When we left my son was beaming, ear to ear. I asked him how he felt about what we had done. He said he felt good and proud of himself. I explained that the good feeling was a result of sharing. That when we share it helps someone else feel good, but it also makes us feel good. He agreed.
Helping my son understand the joy of giving is an ongoing process. He has put the concept into practice, and felt the rewards. I’m hoping that continuing to mirror a good example for him, and giving him plenty of opportunities to practice, will ensure his love of giving. I think there is such grace in being a cheerful giver. Because if I hear him say, “No I’m not sharing with you!” I will have to say, “What the pickles?”