Geoff, Jantje and I were enjoying a cup of coffee in the living room, when the parade began. First it was a fuzzy blue bunny. Next, a pink pig that sings about shapes when you press its belly. Eventually a bright yellow lion and a tiny brown bear also made appearances.
One by one, my daughter was carrying stuffed animals from her bedroom to the living room.
After she placed a mermaid, a frog and Barney the purple dinosaur into a storage cube/footstool, she paused and said, “These are for the kids who have no toys.” Then she told her Max & Ruby dolls that they would be going to a new house before she dropped them on the growing pile of possessions.
As I watched her carefully selecting what could stay and what could go, I felt sufficiently sad but also incredibly proud. From time to time, we’ve all talked with my daughter about how (when she was ready) it would be nice for her to donate some of her toys. Evidently, she felt the time was right. Still, she was happy to know that we would wait a few days to deliver the items, in case she changed her mind on any of them.
At our house, giving back to our community has always been a part of what we do. Mind you, things have changed a bit through the years.
Back before motherhood, I was a hardcore volunteer who got my hands dirty and often exhausted myself for the good of others. My entire family (mom, dad, husband and I) once renovated an old movie theatre, transforming it into a performing arts venue. Then, there was the time we organized the construction of a youth centre, not to mention the countless hours spent mentoring at-risk youth.
Then, the baby came along and priorities changed.
We still give to others, but now, the littlest one comes first. So, instead of taking part in activities that pull us away from my daughter, we either include her (by bringing her to events) or take on projects that we can execute from home — like contacting celebrities to donate works of art and raising funds so local kids can receive free art and music lessons.
If you are looking for some great ways to volunteer together with your family members (even the youngest ones) here are some ideas.
• Help an organization by offering to make phone calls from home during a membership drive.
• Fold flyers or stuff envelopes for your local library, arts centre or campaign office. Children can help too.
• Make donations of used clothes or toys. Include your kids in the process.
• Enter a walkathon/jumpathon/bikeathon (as a family) to raise funds for a cause.
• Offer suggestions to a group looking for fundraising ideas and join the board if you have a night a month to spare.
• Deliver meals, medications, groceries, etc. to seniors or others in need. Bring your kids along.
• Take your youngsters to fundraising events if you think they can handle it. You know their limits.
• Donate something handmade (mittens, a painting, a photograph, home baked pies, etc.) for an auction.
• Adopt a trail or part of a roadway. Have your kids help to clean up the trash.
• Giving back should never be at the expense of your child(ren) or partner. If you are spending more time and energy helping others than assisting your own relations, then you might want to step back and reevaluate.
And with that, we’ve come to the end of my final “At Our House” post for Today’s Parent. Thank you for letting me into your homes this month. I’ve enjoyed sharing my time with you but for now, it’s low tide and a three-year-old is calling my name.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my kiddo happily parted with a dozen toys (and a box of outgrown clothes). But, Max & Ruby didn’t ultimately make it to the women and children’s shelter. Instead, they’ll remain for a while longer, at our house.