Raising kids is hard. Raising kids who aren’t entitled is harder.
When you’re tired, suffering from caffeine withdrawal, and thinking about the work deadline you still have to meet, it’s easy to just say “yes.” Yes, you can have that toy that will keep you distracted for an hour. Yes, you can watch an extra episode of “PJ Masks.” Yes, you can eat that pound of candy I’ll regret later.
The problem is that all of these easy yeses eventually backfire. Kids who get a toy every time they visit Target start taking those toys for granted. It’s like you’ve built up their toy immunity and created an addict all at once.
Walking into the mall one day, I found inspiration: a tree full of the names of children who needed help celebrating the holidays.
Each little angel on the tree held the name and age of a child. Below was a wish list. Some of the items matched the wish lists at my own house: LOL Surprise dolls, LEGOs, scooters. But some of the items were heartbreakingly necessary: winter coats, underwear, shoes.
I grabbed three names and immediately signed my family up as their sponsors. Piling the kids in the car, I explained our mission: We were going to help these children have a wonderful Christmas. Christmas is more than gifts; it’s about loving others the way Jesus would.
We took turns reading the lists to each other and searching out gifts. “Mommy, why does this boy need underwear?” I heard a quiet voice ask.
We talked about how not everyone has the same amount of money or resources. “You assume you’ll always have clean underwear, right?” I asked. “Some kids don’t have enough underwear to get through a whole week. That’s why we want to help — if we’re blessed, we should share our blessings.”
The rest of the trip, my kids pointed out things we should get. “That’s a blessing in my life!” my daughter called out. “I want them to have it.” We loaded our cart with as many blessings as we could, then took them home and wrapped them before dropping them off.
“How did you guys feel about that?” I asked in my silent car.
“Can we do that every year?”
“Yeah, can we spread blessings to more people? I liked that.”
I smiled to myself. “Even if you didn’t get a thing?”
“I got something! I got to feel happy for other people.”
This is now our family holiday tradition, but it goes beyond that. We talk about these families throughout the year and discuss other ways we can bless people. We volunteered at a food bank. We started a habit of donating something every time we bought something new.
The toy monster hasn’t been fully eradicated from our lives. But we now have a touchpoint we all understand when the “gimmes” get out of hand. Best of all: Focusing on being thoughtful toward other people is a greater gift than any toy I could have given them.