Raising Selfless Kids around the Holidays
I’m unbelievably grateful for my kids. I waited for them. I prayed for them. While I couldn’t be any more grateful that they’re here, it’s important that they grow up understanding that they aren’t the center the universe. On a daily basis our family tries to model selfless giving and service to others. It only made sense when the holidays rolled around after our twin boys were born, that our new traditions as a family of four teach our kids to appreciate what we have and to think of others before themselves. Here are just a few ways that our family uses holidays to try to raise selfless people.
We decided that birthdays could be a great opportunity to teach our kids to be selfless. I read an article around my 30th birthday about a woman who used her birthday as an opportunity to perform random acts of kindness. She did one act of kindness for every year she’d been alive. I loved this idea and employed the help of my second grade class to complete 30 acts of kindness for my 30th birthday. It helped me enjoy my birthday instead of being grumpy about entering into a new decade. I love birthdays but want our kiddos to grow up understanding that even on their special day, it is important to think about other people. When my two monkeys turned one, we celebrated their first “Kindness Day” and completed one act of kindness for each one-year-old. One of our boys spent his first week of life in the NICU at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. I couldn’t wait to take him back to the NICU on his first “Kindness Day” to thank the doctors and nurses who had given him such a great start. The boys and I took cookies and thank you cards to the NICU staff. I challenged the nurses to try and pick out which identical twin had started out in their care. They couldn’t! For my second son’s random act of kindness, we wanted to think of families who were waiting at the hospital to meet their babies, just as our family had a year before. We bought snacks and water bottles to leave in the Labor and Delivery waiting room so families could enjoy a snack as they waited for their new blessing. While we also celebrated their birthday with cake, family, and an abundance of gifts, I hope the tradition helps our children to think about more than just themselves on their birthdays. I am so excited to see how this tradition grows with our boys.
Halloween gave us an opportunity to practice giving. As a mama, what could possibly be more fun than dressing up two matching boys for Halloween? Last year, I was so excited that I didn’t think about much beyond their costumes. My little boys made the cutest Superman and Clark Kent I’d ever seen! As we went to a few community events and to visit some of our neighbors, I was shocked by how much candy my 6-month old babies got! I felt strange about my children begging for candy from strangers. As a family that consumes very little sugar, I knew we had to have a plan for their second Halloween. This year was completely different. When we left the house with twins dressed as Goose and Maverick from Top Gun, their candy buckets were full instead of empty. In the days before Trick-or-Treating, the boys helped bake pumpkin shaped sugar cookies. Instead of begging for treats, the boys gave treats and hugs to our neighbors and friends. They still had a blast showing off their costumes and ringing the doorbells, but had the joy of giving without getting too much junk food. While they’re still too little to really understand trick-or-treating, they had so much fun on our first night of “Backwards Trick-or-Treating.” I hope this family tradition helps them enjoy Halloween, while showing them how much fun it is to give to others.
For some reason, I had trouble wrapping my head around celebrating Christmas with our kids. I wanted to go crazy spoiling them, but also wanted to teach them to be thankful while being good stewards of our finances. Before the twins joined our family, Christmas was much simpler. My husband and I often purchased gifts that wouldn’t fit under the tree. Gifts like a night in a hotel during our summer camping trips, plans for a fancy date night, or even paying off our car were common. For their first Christmas, the boys loved crawling up to the tree and attempting to munch on the lights and plastic ornaments along the bottom branches. Even as tiny boys, we spent several days before Christmas making gifts for family members and creating treats to drop off to friends and neighbors. Where this first-time mama wanted to go crazy with presents, each boy awoke on Christmas morning to open four gifts. Like many other families, they opened one thing they wanted, one thing they needed, one thing to wear, and one thing to read. They had a blast ripping off the paper, and very quickly ignored the gifts so they could play with the boxes. After being spoiled by family members, even my tiny boys were able to scribble something that looked like their name on thank you notes to help show gratitude for the things they’d been given. As our boys grow, we look forward to finding different ways for them to serve others during the Christmas season and hope that they truly value and appreciate what they’ve been given.
In some ways this seems like a lot of effort for such tiny people. Yes, they’re small. No, they’re not going to remember any of this. As we form new traditions as a family of four, I want our guys to view holidays and birthdays as more than a way to add to their stash of candy and toys. I pray holidays become a chance for us to stop and be grateful for the things we have and to find ways to serve others. I pray that this mentality stays with our guys, as they grow from babies into men and molds them into people who have a positive impact on our world.