One thing I try to teach, model, and live at this time of year is giving. It is a season of giving, not of getting. So while we do make lists for Santa, we try to focus more on what we are giving to others – talking about who we are gifting as we are making gifts and baking cookies, and how much those recipients will enjoy our gift.
We also have a yearly tradition that we call “The Great Toy Give-Away”. It happens today, the first Saturday of December. We’ve done it every year since Brother-Bug was one (that first Christmas he was 3 months old, so didn’t have much to giveaway).
The idea is simple. We look through our toys and find some nice ones that we no longer use. We pick them out and take them to a local family homeless shelter. While we are doing it, we talk about what it might be like to have Christmas morning without a house, how we are helping other kids have presents, maybe some kids won’t have a present unless we share some of our excess.
Every year it is a little hard. Every year I am warmed to my core when Brother-Bug gets into it and truly gives from his heart. My favorite was when he gave up a Tonka dump truck, so shocked was he (at three) that some kid might not have even one toy truck!
I’ve sweetened the deal a little. As we go through the toys, we find a present from Santa. It comes with a note thanking our family for being so generous. The present is usually a Christmas DVD. It doesn’t add to our toy load and helps us look forward to this exercise in generosity.
Also, we’ve linked this with the getting of the tree. Take the toys, pick out a tree, come home and decorate, watch a new Christmas movie. It ends up being a really nice day.
My hope is that we make some space in our toy storage for some of the new toys arriving in a few weeks. My hope is that the kids learn that giving is an essential part of this season. My hope is that they take the needs of others into consideration when approaching this most festive of seasons.
They might hate it now, or tolerate their Mother’s insistence. But maybe the lesson will stick. I hope.