Thursday, December 18, 2008

The holiday spirit must be buried in the fruitcake

Every year, I do that thing. You know, that *thing* that all parents do, about how this year we’re going to instill in our kids the true meaning of Christmas and make them appreciate what they have and raise their awareness of those less fortunate, and blah blah, why, hello there, road to Hell, there are all my good intentions, paving you!

I did take an angel off the angel tree at church a few weeks ago, planning to talk to my children about other children who do without during the holiday season, and making this a true family project. Then, well, I was at Target the next day by myself and the exact thing the angel tree child had requested was there, so I just bought it. And then that night I figured I should go ahead and wrap the gift since the wrapping stuff was already out, but the kids were in bed, so none of them helped. Then the next Sunday everyone overslept but Blaine, so he just took the gift to church by himself. So …. Yeah. Pretty much not a thing learned by my kids there.

I just found out late last week that they actually have a similar angel tree project at my kids’ elementary school, for families who have students there, who are struggling. The parents fill out forms, which go to various civic organizations for food donations, plus other families in the school and community can “adopt” families if they’d like. I’m sure for sensitivity issues it’s not loudly broadcast and I didn’t even realize the school did it, but once I found out, I decided *this* would be my opportunity to help my kids help others.

I approached our guidance counselor who is in charge of the project and requested a family with three children, close in age to my own three. The closest we could come was a family with three daughters … and actually, their ages weren’t really that close. Once I discovered, however, that the “givers” are anonymous but the “receivers” are not, at that point I was more concerned that my kids NOT know who these children were. Even though in a million, trillion, bazillion years I would NEVER tell my kids who the family is, I didn’t want another child in their class showing up in clothes we had purchased, or talking about a toy or game we selected. Odds are small, I know, but still. Better safe than sorry. So I picked a family with a 6-yr old girl, a 9 yr old girl, and a 12 yr old girl, who my own kids have very little chance of encountering. And then I told my kids the whole project WAS anonymous, so they still have no idea.

I explained to them what we were doing, and took them to Wal-mart, driving home the point that these kids are in “your very own school, whose families maybe don’t have a ton of money. You shouldn’t only think of ‘inner-city’ when you think about people who are struggling … sometimes it can be your neighbors, or even the kid sitting next to you in class.”

Which prompted all three of my kids to ask, IS it a kid that sits next to me in class???” which made me even more grateful that I had the good sense to tell my kids it was anonymous and I had no idea who the kids were.

So anyway, we show up to Wal-mart, head to the toy section, and I’m feeling pretty good about myself. Pretty good that *this* time, for once, I’m actually following through with my intention of helping another family, and teaching my own children compassion at the same time. Yep, raising strong, empathetic, caring children, and feeling pretty smug about it, if I do say so myself.

This was pretty much how the next twenty minutes went:

Kristie: OK, we’re going to do this in age order. Brayden, you will pick out something for the 12-yr old. Kellen, you’ve got the 9-yr old and Kendrie, you’ll do the 6-yr old.

Brayden: But *I* want to do the six-yr old.

Kendrie: I don’t want Brayden’s 12 yr old, I don’t know what they like.

Kellen: I’ll trade you the 9-yr old. I don’t really want to do this anyway.

Brayden: I don’t want the 9-yr old; I want the 6-yr old.

Kristie: No. Stop that. We’re doing it in age order and that’s that.

Brayden {eye rolling}: Fine. Like I have any idea what to get a 12-yr old girl.

Kristie: Brayden, honey, you’re an 11-yr old girl, how much different could it be? Just find something YOU would like and I’m sure it will be great.

Kendrie: Here’s what I want to get the six-year old … a Disco Dancing Wubzy. I’m done!

Kristie: Kendrie, honey, you can’t get that. Its forty dollars and I can’t afford to spend that much on each of the three kids, plus I want to get the family a gift card to go eat out.

Kendrie: But this is a cool gift.

Kristie: I know it’s a cool gift, but forty times three is really more than I can afford. Look for something around fifteen or twenty, ok?

Kellen: Here, I’m done. {hands me a nerf gun.}

Kristie: Kellen, I seriously doubt a 9-yr old girl wants a nerf gun.

Kellen: She might be a tomboy. How about a football?

Brayden: I need to go to the restroom.

Kristie: You’ll have to wait; it’s all the way up at the front of the store. Kellen, chances are she’s *not* a tomboy and she’d rather have a Barbie or something. Go look on the doll aisle.

Brayden: {rolling eyes} I really have to go! I can go to the front of the store by myself.

Kellen: {rolling eyes} fine.

Kendrie: Can we get the girl a bike?

Kristie: Over my dead body you're going to the front of the store by yourself. No, we can’t buy her a bike, she probably already has a bike. We need to get something smaller. Something I can fit in a gift bag.

Kellen: Can I buy my girl a ripstick?

Kristie: You guys, come on. Bikes and ripsticks are like seventy dollars each. You need to be looking for cheaper stuff, not more expensive.

Kellen: Well then, can I get *me* a ripstick? I have enough allowance money saved up.

Kristie: Kellen, you already HAVE a ripstick. We are here to pick out something for these girls.

Brayden: I have no idea what to pick and I just want to go to the bathroom.

Kendrie: Here, this is a cool medical kit. Pick this.

Kristie: Honey, you’re right, that is a cool medical kit. But see on the side? See how it says for ages two and up? I think it might be a little baby-ish for a six year old. Brayden, for goodness sake, stop hopping around the aisle. Can’t you hold it for five minutes?

Kendrie: I’m not buying for the six-year old. I’m buying for the nine-year old. Kellen and me switched.

Kristie: What? I said no switching.

Brayden: That’s not fair, if they get to switch then I get to switch!

Kristie: Nobody is switching.

Kellen: Do you think she would want a skateboard?

Kendrie: There’s nothing here I want to get them.

Brayden: Look how cute this stuffed animal is ... remind me to put it on *my* Christmas list when we get home.

Kellen: What about some army men?

Brayden: Can we go to a store where they sell Webkinz?

Kellen: If we act good can we get candy? I want Extreme Airheads.

Kendrie: There’s nothing here. This is too hard.

Brayden: I have no idea what this girl wants.

Kellen: You pick something, since you keep saying no to everything I choose.

Kendrie: You keep saying no to mine, too.

Brayden: Are there more toys anywhere else? Should we maybe go to clothes?

Kendrie: Did you guys see the Disco Dancing Wubzy? It was awesome.

Kristie: Oh for the love of Pete just pick out some toys or I’m going to do it my damn self!

Brayden: Well I wish you would. Then at least I could go to the bathroom.

Kristie {deep breath, in through the nose, out through the mouth}: Ok, listen to me. I’m guessing chances are really good that these three kids won’t get a ton of toys for Christmas. In fact, there is always the possibility that this will be their *only* present under the tree. So I want you to think about that. Think about the fact some kids don’t get to come to Wal-Mart and wander up and down the toy aisle and pick something out. Or about the fact that if those kids *do* come to Wal-mart with their parents, they don’t get to stop and get an icee on the way here like you just did. Or buy candy in the check-out lanes. Have a little compassion …. I want you to really stop and think about what to buy, and pick out something you think these girls will like.

Kellen: Mom, that makes me feel terrible.

Kristie: I know, son. Me, too.

Kellen: A life without Airheads? I can’t even imagine.

And at that point, I was forced to admit that Operation Holiday Empathy was a Big. Fat. Failure.


Hyzymom said...

My sympathy Kristie. I must admit as awful as it sounds I pretty much gave up on Operation Empathy a few years ago. We still talk about things other people don't have when the opportunity arises, but this year I just pulled food basket (since I live at the commissary) and gift wrapping supplies from the list of things at church. I'll supply dinner and the materials to wrap all the things the "Empathetic families are out buying together!" It's the best I could do. :o) Someday they'll get it, it's still sinking in... at least that's what I tell myself! Happy Holidays.

cakeburnette said...

I know I shouldn't have laughed, but laugh I did. The snort-y kind, too. Sorry. :D

Maybe it would have gone better if you had done the shopping one kid at a time. Although that would've necessitated a bunch of trips to Wal-Mart at this awful time for Wal-Marting.

Anonymous said...

It is pure torture to have the in the store together, isn't it?
I take them one or two at a time...less distractions (and less people to argue with)
Despite how you think that shopping trip went, they will remember that they helped!

J-Quell'n said...

LOL...poor Kristie. BTW, what in the world is a wubzy?

Anonymous said...

OMG a life w/o must have wanted to blow a gasket. At least your path will be paved, not sure about the kids ;-) better luck next time.


Bubba&SistersMom said...

The greatest way you can influence your children is to set a good walk the walk every day. You do that...through your surrogacy, adopting these families and other things you do. The kids might not get it today...but they will get it.
Great job!!! And by the way...Walmart with 3 kiddos...I shudder at the though!

Heather said...

LOL! Oh how I relate. We are still trying the Operation Empathy, hoping that one day it will click. This parenting gig is tough stuff.

The Running Girl said...

Sometimes it takes a while, but if they are like my kids, they will eventually get it. Don't give up.

Anonymous said...

That was way too funny!! Funny when it's you, and not me with my gang! LOL
Why not try Operation Christmas Child next year? My girls each get a box to fill for a girl their age, and they get to choose things from the dollar store. They have to be sensible things, and no candy!
I could crack their heads together when I take them all to Walmart together, but we do ok getting in and out of the dollar store. :)

Stacia said...

Oh Kristie, that was just to real.
I've had the exact same conversations with my kiddos.
I think the key is that you have to discuss it at home before you go out. Get them to realize what you will be doing once you get to the store and give them a budget.
Too bad they were in such a mood that you had to be stressed by such a good intentioned project.

Anonymous said...

Wow...I got stressed out just reading that. I have no idea what any of the toys mentioned are! I think I need to brush up!

Tracy said...

Glad to know I wasn't the only one with a bad experience at Walmart yesterday. My experience included a 4-year-old in the cart hitting his 6-year-old brother because brother wanted to ride on the edge. When I removed 4 y.o. from cart, we discovered that 4 y.o. can now climb in and out of the cart by himself. Through the checkout lane with two screaming children, 11 year old boy who's oblivious to the whole scene, and 12 year old girl who has way more patience with these things and ought to be the mother (I know she'll be better at it than I am -- I just hope it's not for another 15-20 years!) Anyway, I was so desperate to get out of there I left my bags at the checkout and the clerk had to come chase me down with them.

Jenner said...

LOL! I darn near peed! Thanks for the laugh - I needed it today.

Jen from WI

Karalyn said...

I don't know what a Wubzy is either...or a ripstick for that matter. Maybe because I never ever ever take my kids into Walmart. Or any other place where there is the opportunity to browse the toy aisles.Because I may leave them there and that is called abandonment which is illegal in this state.

Kelly said...

Well at least YOU had good intentions!! That story had me laughing out loud. So funny!!

Anonymous said...

Is that a true story? Hilarious...again laughing at the Escoe expense. So sorry but laughing is good for one's health.

Melissa said...

I'm sure your kiddies learned something, they were just expressing it in a unique way. ^o^

Anonymous said...

ROFL Kristie---- They'll get it one day..........

Amy said...

Yeah, I know how hard that is. I want my kids to get in the habit of giving. So I planned to have them give something to their siblings. But I overbought, so I ended up shoving a bag in Annie's hand and said, "here, this is what you're giving to your brothers." Not exactly a teachable moment.

Then we took them to a Living Nativity. I was all proud to be teaching them the REAL meaning of Christmas. That is until Robbie turned around and in a very loud voice "Hey! Where's Santa?!"

kimi said...


I work for a non-profit that runs a pantry. My kid were playing hide and seek in the food aisles last's that for empathy?! Fortunately no one was there but us...but really, I'm not sure it would make a difference!


Anonymous said...

I have soooo been there. Sorry it didn't work for you either! Maybe next year.
Tammy in OH

Unknown said...

at least you tried and they will totally get it years on down the road.

Anonymous said...

I hear you. It is so hard to get my kids to realize how some children live. I just keep on trying.

Speaking of empathy/sympathy/rage/anger, I'm not sure which one fits the bill for me right now, I just read on Midgets and Moonpies that the Maxey's new baby girl has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. WTF??? How can it be that they have to do this all over again? Sucks beyond belief. I followed Maddy with all the other GA cancer kids and I just can't believe this.

Carolyn (formerly from McChord, Germany now)

Anonymous said...

This is why I love reading your blog - you're honest about what really happens with the kids.

What did you end up buying?

Anonymous said...

Oh I'm so glad it's not just my kids who *just*don't*get*it! I force my 5th grade son to go to his school's community service club once a month after school and you'd think I was asking him to stick nails in his eyes. The day he's supposed to stay after school for this he inevitably comes home instead of staying and I end up screaming "get your butt back to school and help the needy damnit!" We returned our "Giving Tree" gift to church before Mass a couple of weeks ago and my four-year-old saw some Indiana Jones toy in a gift bag and proceeded to whine, loudly, "when do I get MY present? I want and Indiana Jones toy!!" throughout the rest of the services.