An Act of Charitable Giving Gone Wrong
I love the focus on giving at the holidays and the opportunities to supporting the many, many worthwhile charities in our community. As a parent, I’m grateful for a chance to teach children about the importance of giving back and helping others.
A few years ago, I was on a mission to teach my preschooler that it really is better to give than to receive. I decided I would have her donate gifts to the children’s hospital. I took my daughter to Target and asked her pick out some toys that she thought the sick children would enjoy. She took a very, very long time deciding between Legos and Star Wars, princesses and puzzles.
Instead of making a choice, my child announced that she wanted toys, and that the sick kids should rest and didn’t need them. We discussed the meaning of "giving,” which is a tough concept when you’re three and surrounded by every item on your Christmas wish list.
Somehow we averted a meltdown and she selected some toys. Mission accomplished! She’s going to understand the importance of giving! I thought to myself as I pushed my red cart through the crowded aisles.
On the way to the registers, we passed the aisle with the wine and I grabbed several bottles to give as gifts. Neighbors – check. Hostess gift – check. I headed out into the chilly parking lot with the glow of one who feels like a successful multitasker, decent parent and do-gooder.
My daughter and I drove to the children’s hospital. The parking lot was full and I had trouble finding a spot on the busy city streets. We just needed to run in and drop our items in the sleigh in the lobby of the hospital. With my kid’s patience shot, I parked in perhaps not the most legal spot.
I unbuckled my little girl and, wanting her to be the one to make the donation, asked her to please carry the bag of toys sitting on the seat next to hers. She dawdled. I impatiently told her to shake a tail feather fearing that any delay meant I’d be making an involuntary donation to the city as a result of my poor parking.
“This is heavy.” She said, bullseyed bag in hand.
“That’s a good thing! It means you’re giving a lot, and that’s what the season is all about!” I said with a bit too much enthusiasm.
We walked into the hospital and were greeted by a security guard.
“We’re making a donation.” My child told him.
“Thank you! Go right ahead.” Said the friendly man, gesturing toward the big red sleigh. Items were piled high in it, most of them were still in bags, a few teddy bears and games peeking out. I was relieved that we could just drop and go as I feared that my child would change her mind if she saw the fun toys again. She deposited the bag in the sleigh.
“How nice of you!” The hospital staff kindly praised my daughter for her act of giving.
“I really like those toys.” She said wistfully. I hurried her out the door, worried both about the parking situation, and her waning enthusiasm as she realized she really was leaving the fun items there.
Back at home, I decided to wrap the bottles of wine and opened the remaining Target bag.
To my horror, there was no wine in the bag. It was full of toys, the toys I thought we had donated.
At my insistence my daughter had carried a bag full of wine bottles and left them at the childrens’ hospital as a donation. s8Shame washed over me as I realized I was neither a decent parent nor a good multitasker.* Actually, I was a multitasker. I managed to fail at parenting and a holiday giving in one trip.
I really hope those bottles made their way to a nurses’ station or to some deserving doctors or to a good department holiday party.
This holiday season, I’m going to give my child a few options of giving back and let her pick something meaningful to her. As for me, I have vowed to stay focused on the giving, and I have sworn that I will not multitask, or at least never, ever combine the purchase of wine with the purchase of toys for children.
And if YOU’RE looking for a simple way to give back this holiday season, please consider ScaryMommy’s Thanksgiving Project. There are five days left to donate and the proceeds go to help families buy Thanksgiving dinner. There are over 500 families still on the waitlist and we all know $5 can go a loooong way.
Remember, drink and give responsibly this holiday season.
Shannan Ball Younger is a writer living in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and tween daughter. She blogs about life in general at Mom Factually and about weather the hormonal hurricane at Tween Us on ChicagoNow. A cast member of Listen to Your Mother in 2013, her essays can be found in the anthologies My Other Ex and The HerStories Project and on the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop site You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.