My mom was diagnosed with ALS in February, followed by two feeding tube surgeries, a move back east and rapidly progressing symptoms. My big brother had a bad fall with complications. One sister needed a brain surgery and still needs neck surgery.
And yesterday, the longest night of the year, I’d started my year in review that often morphs into me beating myself up about all the things I didn’t accomplish that I intended to, like:
only 16 blog posts/28 newsletters instead of 52
no speaking gigs
just a few books sold and no marketing plan
still piles and piles of mama’s files to be gone through
no LifeSPARKS course completed
my messy, messy house
The list of what didn’t get done, or done well, could go on and on.
Do you wonder how to help your child develop gratitude and learn to give gifts? Here is a formula that worked for me:
Doing + Giving = Gratitude
Lest you think that I am some saintly mama educator who was looking into the future trying to determine how to best raise a child who would love to help do things, have a sense of gratitude, understand budgets and give gifts; let me share the truth.
I was a mess. I was a sleep deprived, wild-eyed, and on a budget so tight I couldn’t buy the $3.93 jar of artichokes at the local store on my birthday, but needed to wait for our monthly run (to save gas money) to the “dented food” store where they could be had for 50 cents.
The extended family was descending on us from all parts of the state and country to celebrate Christmas and we needed gifts. For the people who couldn’t make it, we needed light-weight gifts that would be cheap to send. What could I do?
I had an adorable and exasperating child, lovingly referred to as the sleepless wonder, who was always busy. We had no tv, computer, or internet — and what felt like an impossible budget. Cameras still used film, which was pricey, but the developing companies had just introduced the “double prints” come on. Pierre, our frugal budget master, had found and stocked up on a SUPER deal on white copy paper.
And so the annual Christmas calendar gift project was born.*
Desperation + creativity+ what is on hand.
I can vouch that this equation works for gift making, meals for unexpected company and last minute Halloween costumes. Was it Plato who said necessity is the mother of invention?
Dale was 9-12 months old that fall and participated in all facets of the gift making, wrapping, and giving. I chatted with him about what we were doing and let him help. Each calendar was unique – made specifically for the recipient. We made a work area with a photo of each recipient spread out on the floor and made a game of naming each person. As I sorted and found the right photo for someone I would ask Dale to deliver it to their area.
“ Look, here’s a picture of you and Grandma Dot, go put that in her pile.” And so on. Now this might not work for your
I had him sit in the high-chair to draw pictures that we could glue onto the calendars for one of the months. I let him help with the non-toxic glue stick, the non-toxic
I let him help with the non-toxic glue stick, the non-toxic stamps, and markers. “Can you make a picture for Daddy’s calendar, please?”
“Can you make a picture for Daddy’s calendar, please?”
Since I was teaching part-time I had access to the binder at school. We made copies at Staple’s and found a box of the plastic binding thingies on the clearance table. Score. We now hand enough to last for years.
Dale and I worked side by side, in small chunks of time between September and December until we were done. I’ve always been gift wrapping impaired so having Dale help was no big deal. The extra tape and wrinkles in the paper made no difference. I had two choices of paper and asked each time, “which paper shall we use for _______?” He pointed, I cut, and away we wrapped.
I’ve always been gift wrapping impaired so having Dale help gift wrap was no big deal. The extra tape and wrinkles in the paper made no difference. I provided two choices of paper and asked each time, “which paper shall we use for _______?” He pointed, I cut, and away we wrapped.
And let me tell you, he was so happy handing out those presents on Christmas morning. He proudly toddled around the room delivering packages he had made. The relatives loved their homemade calendars. Dale loved to create and to give gifts. We stayed within our budget.
He proudly toddled around the room delivering packages he had made. The relatives loved their homemade calendars. Dale loved to create and to give gifts. We stayed within our budget.
Dale loved to create and to give gifts. We stayed within our budget.
Yes, it was time-consuming, our project table was messy and glue stained, and the high chair tray would never fully recover.
I had unwittingly begun a family tradition that not only shaped our holidays and but also laid a foundation for our family dynamic that included Dale as a full contributor to the gig.
In hindsight, making and giving gifts tailored to each individual influenced how Dale perceived gift-giving and receiving. He understood why expressing gratitude, writing thank-yous and recognizing the love behind a gift mattered, even when the gift wasn’t exactly what one wanted.
As you head into holiday season, see if you can carve out some time to work on gifts together. You don’t need to do crazymaking calendars, but there many easy ways to create something meaningful. Sometimes it means you have to let go of quality control and other activities that aren’t feeding your soul.
Let them help.
Put them in the role of creator and giver.
What happy holiday gift traditions do you have?
* The year I started this I wasn’t intending to start an annual tradition. So many holiday traditions start without forethought. But that’s another post 🙂
Each day I try to write at least ten things I am thankful for. It started as a way to check-in when a friend and I got together for coffee when I was a twenty-something, living in Seattle, and trying to figure out life.
I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to be when I grew up and she was trying to get into med school. I was dealing with my family’s issues with alcohol, divorce and finances and her mom was in the end stages of breast cancer. We were both overwhelmed with all the troubles in the world we were becoming aware of: poverty, lack of social justice and inequality.
First we would list ten things that were troubling us, using a combination of writing and sketches. Then we shifted to ten things we were grateful for. The shift in energy was significant. I realized if I would focus on the ten good things each day, I’d feel a lot better about all the uncertainty in life.
We also are happier and more productive when we are feeling appreciation and gratitude for others and expressing it.
Being able to see the good in your circumstances, whatever they may be, is a really healthy, energizing ability.
Feeling the love and letting others know creates more good energy.
Help your child look for the gifts in your life and honor them.
Make sure you express your appreciation early and often.
I always ended my day in the classroom gathering my students in a circle and expressing appreciations before they were excused. At the beginning of the year I went around the circle telling each student something specific that I appreciated about them that day. Every Friday I would ask students to tell me what they appreciated that week. That habit of gratitude transformed my students, me and the community of learning we formed.
From the time Dale was a toddler we wrote thank you notes for gifts, acts of kindness, or special dinners at friends. We modeled writing notes, wrote them to him, and had him do the writing even when it was scribbles.
We liked to talk about what we were thankful for each day at dinner or bedtime. Ending the day with gratitude is good for health and spirit.
Model expressing appreciation in your family and to others.
Write thank you notes and letters, not just emails, with your kids.
Start a gratitude journal- as a family or as individuals.
Start a daily gratitude practice. Find time in the day that works for your family.