Tuesday, November 13, 2012

When Giving It Away Is Too Hard for Mommy

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
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(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 13 with all the carnival links.)

            One of the biggest surprises I've discovered in parenting is how often your own children can teach you lessons. In my case, I had agreed with the kids to have a house purging. We would clean out everything that was not being used or was not needed, and we would give it to other families who could actually make use of them.
            The irony of this, of course, is that the cleaning brought me back to something I wrote about in the last blog carnival and quite unexpectedly at that. As the girls were cleaning out their rooms, Jenevieve came to me with a folded blanket, placed it on the give away pile, and said quite seriously, "I'm ready to give this away."
            At first, I thought it was just one of the extra blankets that we kept in case the power went out, but when I unfolded it, my heart sank. It was the sister blanket that I had bought for Jenevieve and Saja back when we first brought Saja home. I had gone to Vision Bedding, uploaded pictures of my beautiful little girls, ordered the custom blanket, and given it to Jenevieve to remind her of her connection with her baby sister, Saja. Over the years and washings, the blanket had faded a little, but the pictures were just as beautiful. It still had my art work, but most importantly, it had my little girls' faces. I just couldn't imagine letting it go.
An Urge to Hold
            I shook my head when I looked at the blanket. "You can't give this away, sweetheart," I said. My fists knotted over the blanket, turning my knuckles as white as the background. "This is a keepsake."
            Jenevieve cocked her head, looking at me with that very perplexed look. "But we have lots of extra blankets, Mommy," she said. "I don't need that anymore. I'm not going to forget that Saja is my sister now."
            Dej saw my reaction. He winked at Jenevieve and patted her on the shoulder. "Looks like you're being pretty thorough," he said. "Why don't you go back in and finish going through the toy box."
            Jenevieve obeyed, skipping along. Her thick braids bobbed with her, and she left without a clue that she had so deeply upset me. Dej tried to comfort me. It was very kind, but the truth was that I felt as if a part of me was being rejected. I had done some of the artwork on this blanket, and while I still had the originals, these were my babies' faces on the blanket. They looked so precious and angelic. How could I possibly give this away?
More Surprises
            Dej and I did not discuss the matter much. We just went back about our cleaning. But somehow the blanket followed me. I kept holding it, tucking it under my chin and snuggling it under my arms. I remembered holding Jenevieve and Saja at different times swaddled in this blanket, reading them stories and wishing away the nightmares. I had never dreamed that they might decide that they had outgrown this blanket. After all, wasn't this exactly what a keepsake was supposed to be?
            By the time we were ready for dinner and sat down to a full table of vegetable soup, rye bread, and steamed apples, the girls had put together a large pile of things to give away. I had always thought that we kept things pretty pared down, considering. But even so we had a lot to give away. Jenevieve and Saja talked with great excitement, imagining what the other children would say when they gave them these things. They had already decided that they wanted to take the clothes, toys, and other items to the West Street Church. They were gathering supplies and necessities for families who had had their homes destroyed in the flooding.
            "I hope that we can give it to them in person." Saja said. She tore off a piece of rye bread and dipped it in her soup. "I want to see their faces when we give them Milka and Bernita."
            My spoon dropped on the table. Milka and Bernita were the rag dolls that I had made the girls when two Christmases ago. I had made everything. The dolls, the clothes, the shoes. This community project was taking a turn I had never expected.
            Dej intervened. "Are you sure you want to do that, girls?" he asked. "You might want those dolls back. Your mom spent a lot of time making them."
            "We're too old for dolls now," Jenevieve said. "Besides, there's little kids out there who lost all theirs. They'd like them better. Besides, it's in our rules."
            I nodded numbly. The girls had come up with their own set of rules which they planned to use to determine what to get rid of. I had never imagined that this would lead to such precious things being given away.
Letting Go
            It's hard to realize that our children can sometimes have a better grasp on perspective than we do. I know that I could have substituted out another blanket or hidden this one away, but in that moment, I knew that I was teaching my children a very valuable lesson. As for the dolls, they insisted on giving those away as well.
            By letting the blanket and dolls go, I was letting them know that they were right to value other people's needs above sentimentality. The truth was that this blanket was soft, well made, and beautiful. Its value was not merely in sentimentality, and, after all of the tragedy and hardship that has beset this country, another mother could use this blanket for her children. What good is sentimentality when there is such suffering and pain?
            Now I'm not going to tell you that I wasn't teary eyed when we went down to the church. The kids were in the back of the car, and the baby was in the sling. I'm just glad that he was there, because then I had something to hold onto. The fact was that I actually felt very silly. I was a grown woman, and my response made no sense.
            But when we reached the church, the pastor and some of the volunteers were there with some of the families. The girls hopped out of the van, carrying baskets of their used toys and goods. They presented them to the pastor, broad smiles on their little faces. And my little boy followed along dragging one of his trucks. (He had tried to make his mommy feel better by telling me that he would never give away the stuffed lion I made him.)
            The kids presented the toys and clothes. They then volunteered us to help sort and organize the rest of the incoming supplies. Since Dej was working and I had all of the kids, we did stick around to help out. The supplies kept coming in, and the families in need also began to come as well.
            Everything was given away by the end of the afternoon. A mother with two toddler girls took Milka and Bernita, and another mother with a newborn took the sister blanket. I am glad that we stayed to volunteer. As hard as it was, it helped to realize that the gifts would serve a greater purpose in their new homes. And ultimately, I am thankful that my daughters understand that people are more important than things.
  • Acts of Service: The Great Neighborhood Clean Up — Sarah at Firmly Planted shares how her daughter's irritation with litter led to eekly cleanups.
  • Running for Charity — Find out how Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her love of running and a great new app to help feed the hungry.
  • 50 Family Friendly Community Service Project Ideas — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares a list of 50 family-friendly community service project ideas that are easy to incorporate to your daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal rhythmn.
  • Volunteering with a Child — Volunteer work does not need to be put on hold while we raise our children. Jenn of Monkey Butt Junction discusses some creative options for volunteering with a child at Natural Parents Network.
  • Family Service Project: Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina — Erika at Cinco de Mommy volunteers with her children at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, where 29% of the recipients are children.
  • Family Service Learning: Advent Calendar — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers her family's approach to some holiday-related community service by sharing their community focused Advent Calendar. She includes so tips and suggestions for making your own in time for this year's holidays.
  • How to make street crossing flags as a family service project — Lauren at Hobo Mama offers a tutorial for an easy and relatively kid-friendly project that will engage young pedestrians.
  • Pieces of the Puzzle — Because of an experience Laura from Pug in the Kitchen had as a child, she's excited to show her children how they can reach out to others and be a blessing.
  • Appalachian Bear Rescue — Erica at ChildOrganics shares how saving pennies, acorns and hickory nuts go a long way in helping rescue orphaned and injured black bears.
  • Volunteering to Burnout and Back — Jorje of Momma Jorje has volunteered to the point of burnout and back again... but how to involve little ones in giving back?
  • How to Help Your Kids Develop Compassion through Service Projects — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares service projects her family has done along with links to lots of resources for service projects you can do with your children.
  • Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children.
  • A Letter to My Mama — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has dedicated her life to service, just like her own mama. Today Dionna is thanking her mother for so richly blessing her.
  • 5 Ways to Serve Others When You Have Small Children — It can be tough to volunteer with young children. Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots shares how her family looks for opportunities to serve in every day life.
  • When Giving It Away Is Too Hard for Mommy — Jade at Looking Through Jade Glass But Dimly lets her children choose the charity for the family but struggles when her children's generosity extends to giving away treasured keepsakes.
  • Community Service Through Everyday Compassion — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children calls us to Community Service Through Everyday Compassion; sometimes it is the small things we can do everyday that make the greater impacts.
  • School Bags and Glad RagsAlt Family are trying to spread a little love this Christmas time by involving the kids in a bit of charity giving.
  • Children in (Volunteering) Service — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reminisces on her own experiences of volunteering as a child, reflects on what she thinks volunteering teaches children and how she hopes voluntary service will impact on her own children.


  1. Oh, wow! I would have a hard time letting go of things like that, too. How amazing that you're raising your children to be so generous and open-hearted! They're right that memories are inside us, not in the things around us. I keep needing to relearn that lesson myself!

  2. Oh that must have been so hard! I've had similar experiences, but I didn't let Kieran give away a couple of the items he'd put in the donate pile ;) Mainly because I wanted to keep them for the next child - but it will be interesting to see how I react if & when she tries to donate the sentimental items!

  3. This is hard for me too. I have a difficult time with second hand toys that hold a particular memory. I would have a very difficult time giving away something I made for them. When my parents moved out of my childhood home, I was a mess. All the years, all the memories... my grandmother said to me "Jennifer, you are leaving the house, not the memories". A common reminder, surely. No less poignant though. "I don't need that anymore. I'm not going to forget that Saja is my sister now" really struck a chord with me. That is a powerful statement.
    <3, Our Muddy Boots (www.ourmuddyboots.com)