Haiti and the Teachable Moment
Ever since the holidays, I've been looking for a way to communicate charity to my five year-old son. Five appears to be a very greedy year. Every time we'd head to the mall, despite my warning him ten times that "There will be nothing purchased for you! Nothing! N-O-T-H-I-N-G!!!", we'd still be walking around with him pointing at things, "I wish I had that. I wish that was something that Santa would get me. Maybe Grandma will get me that!"
And every time we'd head to someone's house during the holiday season, and even since, the boy would say, "I sure hope they have a gift for me."
"They will not have a gift for you. That is not why we are going there."
"But remember so and so got me such and such last year?"
And sure enough, he would be right. There would be something for him. And while it is wonderful when your friends and family care about your kids, and you know it gives them pleasure to see how happy they are to receive the gift, I constantly feel at odds with the lessons I am trying to teach him.
Prior to Christmases and birthdays, my husband and I take our son through his bedroom and the basement (where all the toys seem to mysteriously spread) and negotiate which toys should be donated to other kids. We halve his toys at every holiday. We have a small 2 bedroom house and two kids; we just don't have the room. But mostly it just disturbs me to see the massive amounts of "stuff" without the kids having knowledge of how little others might have.
While our son is always cooperative, I worried that he didn't really get it.
And then the earthquake hit in Haiti. Like most people, I was devastated and wondering what I could do to help. I also worried about how much I should explain to my son. I was going to attempt to rise to the occasion, despite worrying he might be too young to understand.
"Remember how they told you about earthquakes in school?" I went on to explain that we have lots of earthquakes in California, we need to be aware of them. We need to prepare for them. But, in general, our structures can withstand them. But some countries don't have very strong houses or buildings. I kept skirting around the major issues. I tend to be an over-teller, an over-explainer. I didn't want to scare him, but I wanted him to understand that there are people who are always going to have less, and people who will always have more than us. And what's most important to me, to us, your parents, is that you align yourselves more with helping the people who have less, versus wanting to be like the people who have more. And when you constantly want things, I worry that I haven't done a good job at helping you to understand that there are people who don't have any toys.Continued on the next page