Georgia was recently invited to a birthday party for a little boy in her playgroup. He was turning four years old and we got invited to his bug-themed birthday party at Helen Putnam Park. While I was so excited for my kids to get invited to his party I immediately started worrying about the theme.
Being that I am not a fan of bugs, I cringed at the thought of my children catching them, touching them, or worse yet, taking them home. I know I have little girls but that doesn’t mean they have to not like bugs. Up until now, I have tried really hard to support their curiosity of all things creepy crawly. Already, I have experienced having to squelch my screams because I didn’t want to pass down my disdain for bugs to my children who really wanted to check them out.
Additionally, The invitation specified to wear long sleeves and pants to avoid the potential of getting poison oak. As a mom of four, specifically one of the four being Georgia, I read that as saying “There is poison oak, so Georgia will be getting it at our party”. I was worried about bugs, ticks, poison oak, and my girls getting all of them.
As I read on, the invitation said that in lieu of birthday gifts the little boy had asked his friends to give donations to the Petaluma Wildlife Museum. Great! So not only was I bugged about the theme (pun intended) but I apparently also suck as a mom because not in a million years would my daughters forego presents to support a cause. Just how did this mom get a child so generous at the ripe old age of four years old? Yep, I suck and I hate bugs.
Before we went to the party I told Olivia, my child who seems most attached to material things, that the little boy didn’t want presents and that he wanted to give money to the Petaluma Wildlife Museum instead of getting gifts. When I told her that we were going to be giving money instead of a present. She looked at me and said, “Can I have his present then?”
My feelings of inadequacy quickly turned into skepticism as I defended myself by doubting that any child of four years would organically think to be so generous. I know my kids and although they have their moments of sincere kindness, not getting presents from their friends seemed so far from something they would do.
Nonetheless, when the day arrived, I put aside my fear of bugs, ticks, poison oak, and thoughts of self-doubt in the parenting department, and took my girls to the party.
What I found completely surprised me. Each kid was given a butterfly net and a list of bugs to look for and bugs to stay away from (ticks, mosquitoes, yellow jackets, and black widows) and we set out on a bug hunt. We hiked through Helen Putnam Park on a hot summer day and tried to catch butterflies, lizards, and other many-legged friends. Instead of disgust and fear, I immediately felt happiness in my heart for having the opportunity to explore nature with my children. They didn’t complain while hiking (what a shocker!) and we had a great time exploring together.
No one really caught any bugs that day and thankfully my kids didn’t get poison oak. What was also surprising was that the little boy seemed genuinely happy with no fan fair of presents. He joyfully took the envelopes of money that people handed him and everyone had a wonderful time.
Later, I found myself really wanting to look at this concept of giving and helping my children learn to be more selfless. I was struggling with comparison between my daughters and this little boy who wanted to do something so nice for his community. I really took a moment to reflect on what we were doing to teach Tzedakah (charity) in our household.
Prior to this party, my husband and I had been discussing ways in which we wanted to support things that meant a lot to us and how we might be more charitable as a family. Our conversation has since evolved into wanting to include our children in this discussion so that they could understand how important it is to us to do more for those in need. We also want to share with them how giving back makes us feel.
I eventually asked my friend how she approached the topic of giving with her son. I was honest and admitted to her that I was skeptical that a little boy of four could be so organically giving without severe prompting from his parents. But either way I figured that she was having these conversations in her house and I wanted to learn from her example.
Turns out that it wasn’t entirely her son’s idea and that she did introduce the concept to him. She told me that because she and her husband felt that their son had so many toys she approached him with the idea by asking him what he would think of getting something he really wanted instead of lots of gifts. She proposed that friends could give money to support something that he wanted to support in the community like people or animals.
What she found in introducing this topic to him was that he was more open to it than she had thought he would be. He quickly decided on wanting a gift certificate to Moyo’s and that the money would go to support the animals (a cause that he wanted to support). By simply introducing the concept she was relieved to find that he was more open to it than she had hoped he would be.
After hearing this from my friend, that simply introducing the concept yielded more than she would have thought, I decided, a few nights later, to talk with my girls about how charity and to explore some ways we could help others in our community.
Immediately, Georgia said that she wanted to “sell things away” (what she meant was “give things away). She promptly ran into the library and pulled out a few books she didn’t want anymore, one of which was her beloved Toy Story book. She had a smile on her face as she handed it to me and I told her how proud I was of her for thinking about doing something nice for other boys and girls. It turns out my friend was right!
Maybe just as I saw myself enjoying a bug party, when I initially was full of fear and didn’t think I could, I realized that I don’t have to work as hard with my children on the concept of being charitable. Just giving kids an opportunity to talk about giving allows them to think for themselves about ways we can share with others. Their sweet little hearts are already so open. I am continually amazed by children and had no idea that I could learn so much from one little boy who loves bugs.