Humor is also a way of saying something serious. - T. S. Eliot

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How a Social Worker Raises Children: Tis the Season to Teach of Giving

The cold blast of air hit me before I saw Ella crouched behind the ottomon with the sliding glass door wide open.  It only took me a moment to realize that Ella was attempting to let Maggie inside. Ella had figured out that Maggie doesn't come inside if we are standing by the door. 

The girls are doing a great job being intuitive and patient with Maggie until she learns to trust.  Maggie prefers to spend her time hidden under the safety of the Christmas tree.  Dave believes she is waiting for Santa.  

I was worried the girls would get tired of waiting for a traumatized dog to warm up and wish they had a dog more like both of the neighbors do -- an energetic puppy, highly engaged with the family.  It turns out they are patient, nurturing, and very happy to help Maggie learn to be social.  I feel proud about the compassion they have shown.

I've been anxious for them to get big enough that we can start doing volunteer projects together.  Besides the foster dog, we continued our now two year tradition to decrease our gift giving to one another, and instead "adopted" a family at work and went shopping.  The child was a 3 yr old little girl that wanted princesses and tea sets -- we figured we knew plenty about this sort of thing and decided we were the best family to shop for her gifts. 

Sophia caught me off guard though, and asked why the family needed help with gifts.  Doesn't Santa go to their house, too?


I don't know, I had told her, where Santa goes, but at least this way we are guaranteeing there is something under their tree on Christmas morning. She seemed to accept my explanation and I breathed a sigh of relief and then felt guilty for being the lying liar that I am.  I considered not doing the whole Santa act for our children just because I didn't want them to be as sad as I was when I realized Santa wasn't real in the sense I wanted him to be. It's fun to believe in someone magical who does good things, but it stings when reality hits and the magic dies. 

It wasn't even about the gifts for me.  It was about the feeling that someone out there was powerful and watching over me -- watching over all children.  One year I bargained with Santa that he needn't give me a thing if he would "make my sister ok" and learn to talk.  That was the year that I was growing suspicious of Santa, and needless to say, he didn't give me my wish. 

It was then that I learned that it feels better to give than to receive. That it isn't material things and money that make us happy and touches our hearts.  It's about walking a path with others who are suffering knowing that it's comforting to have someone beside us on our journey.  To know someone is in our corner, even if they can't fix things.  

I would be a bad mom and a selfish person if I indulged the girls and didn't teach about giving in some way shape or form.  As a child, it's easy to think about receiving because of the developmental egocentricity that comes with the territory.  There are plenty of opportunities for the girls to learn to graciously receive from others, but it takes forethought to assure they grasp why giving back is a responsibility we should undertake whenever we are able.  It's fun to watch the girls eyes light up when they get a gift on Christmas morning, but it's truly heartwarming to see them thinking about others in unselfish ways.  It's about not leaving anyone behind and making sure everyone knows they matter...someone loves them....someone cares.  That's where the magic is.

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