Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Learning to Serve

I always want to incorporate service into our Christmas season--especially with my children. Both now and throughout the year we have lots of service opportunities that we hear about through our church. But the majority of the time, my children are too young to come.

This year my daughter's preschool had a food drive before Thanksgiving. I took her to the store with a list of items they were collecting and had her pick some stuff out and then we dropped it in the bin at the school. I'm glad we did it. But I don't think she ever quite got what we were doing. Thankfully, she can't imagine not having enough food to eat. So it confused her that we would give boring old cans of food to other people. (Giving away treats and baked goods she understands.)

A member of my church works at a nonprofit that had a huge toy drive for children in need throughout the area. I didn't hear about the donating toys part, but then they needed help wrapping the toys. I took my four year old with me last night to wrap presents.

She manned the tape dispenser while I wrapped. She gave me pieces of tape two or three times longer than I ever needed. She also got to eat cookies and chips. I don't think she quite got what we were doing at first.

The donations were so generous that all the kids on the list were getting two toys from the drive this year. When I told her we needed to wrap another toy for the same kid, she was impressed. I told her that she was very blessed because she was going to get more than two presents this year. She stood up and exclaimed for all to hear, "Yeah! I'm going to get tons of presents!"

As time went on, I think she understood that we were doing this for other people. She would run out to choose another pile of gifts to wrap (usually choosing the princess themed stuff, but also some Buzz Lightyear toys). And then she would ask about the child is was going to. Was it a boy or a girl? How old were they? Do you think they'd like the gift?

My friend commented that she was impressed that even though my daughter was excited by many of the toys she saw, she never asked for any of them.

On the drive home, we took some detours through the neighborhood to check out Christmas lights. I told her that what we had just done was service--doing something for other people without expecting anything in return. She did learn that doing service gives you a good feeling inside. And sometimes, there's cookies.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Naughty List

I've already talked about how I struggle with telling my girls the myth of Santa Claus. I mostly came to terms with it last year by making sure that the Veggie Tales St. Nicholas* story is watched often to keep the true story and the meaning of Santa at the forefront. My four year old is getting it a little. She told me the other day that Santa's real name is St. Nicholas.

But this is also the first year that she is exposed to peers at school talking about Santa Claus. And, as it turns out, her preschool teacher.

She loves her teacher. I like her teacher. Minus two incidents (one that has nothing to do with my child).

Yesterday she came home from school and told me that you have to 'have (short for behave) for Santa to bring you presents. My daughter does 'have so she expects to get presents. But Miss H--- said that K---- won't get presents if he doesn't 'have. (I'm not going to even get into the public shaming side of things, which I'm not a fan of.)

I really hadn't thought about the naughty/nice list side of Santa until then. It's not something my parents emphasized or held over our heads for good behavior (thank you, Mom and Dad). I cringed a little, and then told my daughter that I feel that Santa Claus is about selflessly giving to others and loving others. Everyone is good sometimes and bad sometimes, but everyone (particularly a four year old kid for Pete's sake) deserves a present from Santa. And this is all I'll say again and again as she brings up the naughty/nice issue.

On further contemplation, I realized there are two main reasons I don't like that side of Santa Claus. First of all, getting presents is not the right motivation for good behavior. (Neither is fear of punishment, I know that even though we use it sometimes, but we're working on that.) I want my children to want to do the right thing because it's the right thing. Not because they want to get more things.

Second, what about the kid whose personality makes it harder to behave, particularly in a classroom? It's honestly easy for my daughter to behave at school. She's quiet, gets along well with most people, likes pleasing adults, and enjoys learning. She's never had a single day when she didn't want to go to school (I've seen almost every one of her classmates reluctantly hanging onto their parent's leg, not wanting to go in, at one point or another). But the kid who has a lot of energy, who would really just prefer to pretend to be a dinosaur all day? Behaving, according to the confines of preschool, is a bit harder. That doesn't make him bad or less deserving of presents.

What do you think of the naughty/nice list side of Santa Claus? Or do you not overthink these things like I do?

* I love something new about this show this year. I hadn't noticed it before. At the end, the Veggies leave their church worship to go out and serve their neighbor in need. Yes, worshipping in church is important. But serving, doing exactly what Christ would have done, is more important.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Florida in December

At the risk of being hated by anyone living outside Florida, here's a screen shot of the temperatures throughout the country yesterday:

One of these states is not like the others. One of these states just doesn't belong.

While I'm certainly glad to not be experiencing subzero temperatures or facing ice and snow storms when I go outside, the weather feels off to me. I've always lived in the west and it's supposed to be cold and sometimes snowy in December. It doesn't feel much like Christmas when it's hot and sunny and we have to turn the AC on.

My observation of Floridians shows me they don't quite know what to do with hot weather in December either. When I go out shopping I will see two women together--one will be wearing jeans, a hoodie, and boots. The other wears a sundress and flipflops. Either seems to be acceptable on the same 85 degree day. I miss boots and jackets, but I just can't bring myself to wear them in this heat.

Even advertisers don't know what to make of it. Our Target ad shows winter boots and tank tops on the same page.

I've been stubbornly wearing jeans no matter how hot I am because I just don't want to have to shave more than once a week (for church) in December. If I lived anywhere else in the country, I wouldn't even be doing it that often. But...I have been more than happy to wear sandals every day.