We grabbed the stockings and headed to the store. We’d done this last year too, so the girls knew the drill: pick out small toys and candy to put in the stocking for a girl or boy whose family couldn’t afford the extra expenses of Christmas. Once filled, we’d bring the stockings back to our church and they’d be used as part of a shopping event for area families.
The ironic part is our church which is about a 15 minute drive from our house and in a different township brings all the stuff right back to our town to distribute them. My daughters go to school every day with the kids that were going to get the stockings we filled.
In the store, red socks in hand, Ellie and Harper picked out things they wanted for Christmas and put them in. Stuffed animals and whoopie cushions, gum and Sour Patch Kids. They are professional kids who know what other kids want.
Except when it came time to leave, Harper lost her mind. She wanted the whoopie cushion. She didn’t want to give it to someone else. She wanted that delicious gum. Santa needed to bring her that stuff, she didn’t want someone else to have it.
We left the store with a very unhappy five year old and a slightly annoyed seven year old as she too realized the injustice involved in this shopping excursion for someone other than themselves.
Bless their little bratty hearts.
I feel like we talk all the time about others and serving them. We often pray at bedtime for those not warm in beds or with a place to stay out of the rain. We remind them often as we’re driving or shopping or traveling that so many people don’t get to do these things and it’s not normal for a lot of the kids they are growing up around.
We talk and talk and talk. We show and show and show. We model and model and model. We share and share and share.
I felt like they were–if not mastering the art of caring for other–at least aware of their privilege and excess.
I was wrong.
A week or two later, Ellie’s teacher sent home information about their Christmas party. This year they were doing a party in a box. The premise is you fill a shoe box with a juice box, a salty treat, a sweet treat, and a unisex toy that costs about $5. The kids are to wrap their boxes and bring them to school. On the day of the party, they sit in a circle and pass boxes around at teacher direction. Everyone ends up with a different box to open and enjoy.
It’s kinda brilliant, actually.
As we left the church parking lot Saturday night, we headed to Target to fill Ellie’s box. At the bottom of the instruction sheet the teacher sent, there was an invitation to send in more than one box if you could afford to so that kids who couldn’t supply one would be able to participate. I told Ellie she could pick out enough stuff to send in a few extra boxes since we’d already be shopping and it would be easy to share with others.
She immediately said she didn’t want to do that and got mad.
What? Why don’t you want to bring in some extras for kids that might not get presents? You’re not buying this with your own money–it’s our money, you just get to pick out some stuff and wrap it up!
Nope. She was adamantly against bringing in more than her box.
At this point, I started crying. What the hell? What were we doing wrong that our kids just didn’t want to share but actively fought against it? Who were these horrible little human beings we are raising? Could we get new ones? Perhaps the ones that don’t have anything and would be a little more grateful for their things and also aware of the needs of others?
I realize being self-aware at five and seven is hard. I get that when your parents shield you from much of what goes on in the world but expect you to be compassionate and tender-hearted when you live in a bubble is ironic, but shouldn’t they be a little better about this? It doesn’t even require sacrifice on their parts. We’re not taking their money away. We’re not asking them to give up things. We’re not taking anything from them to give to others. We’re just sharing our abundance with others.
And they are completely against it.
I don’t even have a redeeming story or idea with this post, I’m just sharing how selfish my kids are. You’d think after years of making a point to share with others and to give so much, we’d be getting good at this.
We’re still fighting against it at every turn though. Maybe that’s the point–that some things never get easier, you just keep doing them anyway. Like getting up early to go to the gym every morning. I’ve been doing that since May and it’s still a fight every single day. I imagined that eventually I’d bound out of bed, ready for the hour of sweating I’d been doing for months and months. Not excited, but at least accepting.
But every morning I still think about not doing it, dream about skipping the workout. Maybe I’m more like my kids than I realize.
At Target, I bought enough stuff for three Christmas boxes. I ignored my daughter’s protests, told her it broke my heart she didn’t want to make the extra boxes, and did it anyway. The next day she excitedly wrapped up all three shoe boxes. She didn’t want to carry the others to school so Chris had to drop them off. I asked her if it embarrassed her to carry more than one and she said no so I have NO IDEA why this was such a big deal.
I still don’t get it.
As a parent, I make my kids eat vegetables at dinner even though they dislike most of them. I send them to bed at 7:30 because they need to be rested and ready for school the next day. They have to brush their teeth twice a day even though their father doesn’t follow this rule. I require them to take a bath every other day so they’re not the stinky kids at school. And I make them share: with each other, with people they don’t know, with people they will never meet.
It’s all painful and hard. They fight us at every turn, but I know because I’m older and wiser and I read things on the internet, that most of what I’m requiring them to do will be beneficial for them, either short or long term or both. I’m the expert and they’re the students. I have knowledge to share with them! And I will shove it down their throats if I have to.
So that’s what we’re doing this Christmas at the Graham house–shoving sharing down our kids’ throats. It’s as magical as it sounds.