**By no means am I a parenting expert, these are just my thoughts...
I don’t think bringing kids to volunteer or taking them to a shelter/soup kitchen is the only way to teach them humility and diversity in our world…not at all. Do I think exposing them to service is good? Absolutely…but that being said, if you volunteer and participate in community service, you can't be an asshole at home.
How do we raise kids that aren't entitled? It is by our everyday words and actions. It is how we treat those under our roof and those we interact with -- both strangers and close friends and family. It is by being gracious and humble, which I know lately I have been sloppy at. But you get the point, right? It isn't the big things. It is the daily habits that shape each of us. Trust me, I am a work in progress over here!
My family immigrated to the US when I was 8 months old, and none of us knew of American holidays or tradition (like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter Bunny, etc.) We were a refugee family (party of 9), and we were initially dependent on nonprofit organizations for their generosity before my parents could land on their feet. Iimagine me telling my mom to slide a quarter under my pillow because the tooth fairy gives children money in America! She basically laughed in my face, but she assimilated to this notion of tradition.
We grew up modestly and with limited resources. When we first left Vietnam, we bounced around from one refugee camp to another, sleeping on the dirt floor in makeshift tents. I am pretty sure having an individual bed would have been a luxury. I grew up with hand-me-down clothes, and my mom would sew dresses for us after working odd jobs.
My husband (also from a refugee family) and I often talk about struggling to balance giving our kids the things we didn't have while still raising them to appreciate the things they have. Last night, we gifted our son with his own Batman bed for his 4th birthday. I went to sleep a little conflicted thinking, "Dude, I shared a room with my 2 sisters and slept on a trundle bed throughout childhood. I didn't have my own room until grad school when I was 24!" Finding balance between what they want and what they need is an ongoing conversation. Trust me, we do NOT have things figured out.
No matter how much we would struggle financially growing up, my parents always served our community. They felt fortunate others, strangers, looked out for them when we came to America. I dedicated a big chunk of my life at a non-profit from the time I was 18 years old until well into my 30's, and the impact was everlasting. I have my parents to thank for exposing us to helping our community. When my husband and I were dating, he said he never got his "hands dirty" as an adult. He shared that he created PSAs that aired on TV that generated thousands of dollars at his work, and that was his way of helping others. The first year I took him to hand out food and blankets on Skid Row in Los Angeles on Christmas morning to volunteer before we had kids, I believe it left a lasting impression from that moment on. On Thanksgiving, I have been volunteering for years at a pop-up soup kitchen with a baby strapped on me, or I would leave the kids alone because it is a small amount of time on my end, but a big impact on those in need. Last year, we brought our kids, and we plan to continue this effort. Afterward, we have talks with our son about how food, clothing and toys are not something every child possess. Whether he understands or not is yet to be determined.
I believe that the more we expose our kids to giving and serving, the more they will *hopefully* appreciate what they have. We started talking to Max about giving his toys to other kids less fortunate last year when he was 3 years old. He wasn't a fan and clearly couldn't conceptualize what we are trying to teach him. Lots of crying and shaking his head and saying, "I don't want to give my toys away!! " But after moving recently and purging, he has gotten used to this idea more and more. He had a huge birthday recently and we have eliminated toys as we donate throughout the year, and I’d like to think he’s beginning to understand.
So that being said, join me and my family on Oct 29th at Big Sunday Spooky Sunday. I have no affiliation with this group or know a single person to contact, but it was recommended by a trusted friend. You can volunteer with us and your kids can give their time to other kids. We haven't received confirmation about which position we get to do that day, but it doesn't matter, the idea of being there with other families and serving others is our mission. I have clarified with them that our kids are there to volunteer and not to partake in the festivities, just to give you a heads up. They said that as long as there is an adult with them, kids can go through the spooky haunted house. The idea is that they volunteer beside you.
On Thanksgiving, this is the group of friends that we volunteer with. And for the Skid Row Project I mentioned, I will post information about the Cruzaders as it nears Christmas.The Cruzaders was started by 2 parents how lost their daughter, and wanted to honor her. And lastly, since I am rather a new parent, these are just my thoughts and by no means am I am parenting expert. I also just wanted to share that I got a lot of value when I was on the receiving end of non profit organizations. When I have volunteered in my life to pay it forward, it has allowed me to be aware of my life and be grateful.
Should you join us with Big Sunday, when you fill out the form, I would love for you to say you are with me and "Avenue Mama," a new mom resource I've created. More on that later!
Here are photos from last year at the pumpkin patch, kids are wearing hand me downs and I'm perfectly ok with that.