I grew up with parents who were givers. My dad was always super generous with us, he rarely said no when we asked for things. I never thought of us as spoiled, but I was never wanting for much. There were always price limits – but I was happy. I had to earn my Guess Jeans outfit- complete with jeans, skirt and vest and did so by making splatter paint t-shirts and selling them. My mom refused to spend $100 on clothes for me that I “had” to have. So I earned it. When I wore that outfit, I wore it PROUD. I always had a job in high school because I didn’t always want to ask for money and it just felt good to be earning it myself. My mom was a gym and health teacher in a local high school and was always bringing kids around who didn’t come from a loving, giving, warm home like ours. Sometimes we’d have someone staying with us, or she’d help them out with rides, money, food, etc. I thought nothing of it. It was what she did.
As I became an adult, their generosity and kindness made such an impact that it was just something I found myself doing too. I took a job teaching First Grade a year out of grad school in Coney Island in Brooklyn in NYC. My kids were labeled “at risk” and had little to no education when they came to me in First Grade. At least a third were being evaluated during the course of the year so most years I taught there were pretty challenging. I cried a lot. Many people would ask me “why are you doing this?” While quitting many times crossed my mind, I knew my purpose was to help these kids, to give and just love them. I wanted them to feel what I felt as a child, that I was supported, loved, cared for and listened to.
Through the years, I’ve worked with kids coming from all kinds of populations, backgrounds, races, religions, etc. No matter what, kids are kids and they all need to be treated with kindness, caring, respect and love. I love the work that I do even when it’s challenging. During our honeymoon, Chris and I raised money and donated to an orphanage in Cambodia. I’ve raised $8000 to go to work with the Africa Yoga Project. This last year I have been the co-chair for the Yoga Reaches Out CT event (finally happening tomorrow!) and raised money for Sandy Hook Promise & 108 Monkeys. We chose both organizations because they support the health and well-being of children and families. I always donate whether its time or money when necessary and when asked. I can’t help myself- I feel like it’s my duty to give back because I have SO much. We’ve struggled a lot in our lives with child loss, money, infertility, etc. But I always feel like I’ve been given the jackpot when it comes to being loved, having friends, good food, a home and all the comforts that I could ever need or want. The news devastates me daily and I sometimes don’t know how to handle it. I remind myself that it is all about what you can do with your own children and in your own community and start there. Like my favorite mantra says “peace begins with me.”
Ideas for Creating a Kind, Giving Kid
- BREATHE!! Do I say this every time? I think so. I promise you, if you start to practice breathing more (and very specific, deep breath through the nose breathing) you will feel calmer, happier and more able to give of yourself to those around you. I wouldn’t be able to write this post 2 days before this big event without my breathing to keep me calm and at peace. I will be a bundle of nerves Fri night for sure, but knowing I have tools to get me through, it’s all good. Enjoy this video of Zephyr and me doing flower breath and another Pokemon breath (of course!)
- Seasonal De-Cluttering – Not only does this feel awesome, but it helps you to figure out what you need, what you can get rid of, what you can donate and then makes you feel better about buying new stuff. We do a cleaning out seasonally. It’s something I’m working hard to do with Zephyr too- especially before his birthday. I tell him we’re going to clean out all the toys he doesn’t play with anymore and give them to his cousins or donate to goodwill or his old preschool. Sometimes we do tag sales or I put things on craigslist. Either way, its the practice of non-attachment (aparagraha) and of letting go of things. It allows us to create space that is needed from the clutter that we so easily create. I am a stuff girl and when I can let go, it feels wonderful.
- Being Kind – You’d think this is a no-brainer but kids watch and learn from you. I try to treat everyone around me with kindness, but speak my mind when necessary. I am all about injustice and always fight for the little person. But I want my child to see me practicing what I preach. We know what is happening right now with the election is terrifying- our kids seeing a not so awesome role model publicly speaking about others in ways that we’d never want to hear coming out of our kids mouths. I try hard to point out when people are not being kind so he can see the difference. I want my kid to be a lovey, sweet, caring, gentle guy and we work hard to show him how to do just that.
- Earn It – Yes, I like giving my kid things but I just don’t want him to assume he can have any toy, whenever he wants. And yes, I’m one of those parents who will get him a $1 toy when we shop together just so I don’t have to hear him beg and plead for the entire time we are shopping. But, I am human and choose to pick my battles. I knew a change needed to be made though when it got to a point where he would ask everyday if a toy was coming in the mail for him. Yikes! That was when we started that marble jar and he needs to fill the jar and then gets a small toy of his choice. I don’t buy anything else in between. It’s made a huge difference- when he asks for something, I say “let’s put it on the marble jar list” and he is pretty satisfied with that now. I so enjoy talking about all the things he did to earn marbles. I also LOVE to hear why he thinks he should get marbles too.
- Sharing is Caring – We all know how hard it is to get toddlers to share their stuff. It’s where the BIGGEST meltdowns occur and parents usually want to hide their heads in shame when it’s their child who refuses to share. We have worked SO hard on this, especially having an only child. Every single time that Zephyr has friends over, we would repeat the same mantra again and again – “If you want to have friends over to play, you will share your toys. If there is something you don’t want to share, we’ll put it away before they come over.” We put our foot down, it was not a choice. His friends can play with ANY of his toys no matter what. Even if it caused a tantrum. It was a lot of work, but now at almost 5 years old, it’s amazing to watch. He even gives friends toys to take home (from his ginormous dinosaur collection of course!) and it makes my heart swell with pride. He has some good friends who we visit in NJ who always give him toys to take home that he loves playing with and I think that has made a huge impact on his own ability to share.
This raising kids stuff is all a work in progress. We are all trying our best to do the best we can for our kids. And I know I’m not perfect at it, but it is something I work on. And when it gets hard, I just BREATHE!