Friday, March 20, 2015

Unexpected Parenting WIN!

If you follow me on Facebook you may remember this status I posted sometime just before Christmas:
Tonight this scenario played out while Celia was napping:
Caroline- (counting her money from her wallet) "Charlotte, let's go downstairs. Mom, you can't come since we are talking about something that's a secret. It's for Christmas, but it's not a present, it's something in an envelope."
She then proceeds to come upstairs to ask me how to spell "orphanage", 5 minutes later she comes back to ask how to spell "charity" and finally a few minutes later she needed me to spell "Africa". They asked if they could use the sharpies to decorate the envelope.
I know it's a surprise and I have "no idea" what they're doing ;) but I have a feeling I'm going to be an incredibly proud mama!!!
Well on Christmas morning we found this envelope under the tree:
(It says "Clean Water fo(r) all people")

And inside was this note along with $30 in cash:

(Dear Mom and Dad, Caroline and Charlotte are sending money to charity to build a well in Africa.)

Wow.  I was blown away.  What 9 year old thinks of this?  How did we get here?

It is true that they are from a rural area of Ethiopia where, when they first came to our family, they recounted to us how they remembered bathing, going to the bathroom and DRINKING water from the same river.  When they first came to America, like nearly all Ethiopian kiddos who come here, they both had intestinal parasites that were remedied with a couple of rounds of antibiotics.  Some families I know didn't have it quite that easy.  Their life involved dealing with these parasites, and sometimes worms, for months after the child(ren) were home.

Because of this realization, Mike and I looked into finding a reputable organization that was building clean water wells around the world, and particularly in Ethiopia.  That's when we found out about charity:water.  

In December of 2011 charity:water happened to be raising money to build a well in Tigray, Ethiopia.  So, instead of going to a store and buying a gift for the adults in our families we decided to make donations in their name for this well.  We did something similar the previous Christmas after watching a documentary on Netflix called "Making the Crooked Straight" about an American doctor, Dr. Rick Hodes, who practices in the capital city of Ethiopia treating people from all over the country who have tuberculosis of the spine.  This is a curable condition that needs surgery.  We were so moved by this documentary that we made donations instead of buying gifts and on Christmas morning we showed our families the documentary.  We have continued this tradition every Christmas since, with choosing a different cause to support each year. 

For those of you thinking "You don't give your kids presents on Christmas????!!!" you can relax.  Our children receive more than their fair share of gifts (mostly because of their grandmothers) but Mike and I have consciously tried to reduce the amount of gifts they get from us and Santa (who by the way I am super sick of, why does he get all of the credit for the gifts I BUY?!  But that's a separate post).  Partially because they all have sensory issues and get overwhelmed easily and partially because we want to be conscious of making sure that our kids know that this holiday isn't about gifts.  

Another tradition we have started with our girls is that when they have a birthday party where they invite their friends, we allow them to choose a charity or cause to support then we ask for donations instead of gifts on the party invitation.  I remember the first time we did this I got a few calls from panicked parents.  "Can we just bring a small gift?  My daughter doesn't understand that she can't take a gift to her friend at her party."  No.  Explain to your child that we are collecting money to send to people in Ethiopia (we donated to Feed the Children for their first party) so they can have enough food to eat.  I realize these kids were 5, but why not start them early understanding that there are less fortunate people in the world?  Each year the twins have raised around $100 for whatever cause they've chosen to support.  This past fall was Celia's first experience with this and she decided to collect pet food and we took it to our local shelter.

Again, not to worry for my poor little girls, they get plenty of presents from us and our families for their birthdays.  My favorite thing that has come of us starting this tradition with our girls was the day they came home with a birthday party invitation.  It was for one of Charlotte's classmates, and she was asking for food donations for a local food pantry instead of gifts.  You know who it was from...that panicking mom I spoke with on the phone only a couple of months earlier!  The twins were so excited that she was doing the same thing they did, and it was not lost on them that she got the idea from their party.

So I guess to answer my own questions...they learned it from all of the little philanthropic efforts God has inspired us to make as a family.  We've modeled to them that it means so much more to send your money to a good cause in someone's honor than to spend money on something at a store.  We are blessed with a little extra spending money so if there's something little I'd like for myself, I can usually buy it for myself.  For the majority of people around the world "spending money" or "blow money" is an unknown luxury.  I am so glad that my children are soaking in this concept of helping others.  I know this is planting the seeds for what GREAT things God has in store for them in the future!


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