I've no doubt my daughter is a bit of a hoarder. I'm hoping she won't end up on an A&E reality show one day. Luckily for all of us, she does like things in a certain place, and she isn't horribly messy, but she doesn't like to dispose of anything. The girl likes to hang on to her stuff. Once a week or so, I have to do kind of a clean sweep through her room to dispose of some of her treasures. I've recently tossed out about four American Girl catalogs, numerous gum packages (not wrappers, thank goodness), and a random assortment of things like paper clips. She has a drawer in which she keeps things that are "special." One look in that drawer and you'd know it's not hard for an item to be considered "special." It's absurd. But, I like for her to have her own space, and as long as I can clean it all out once in a while, I just sort of go with it.
Since school started, Ava has started quite the collection of key chains on her backpack. She started the year with two, I think. Now she has 15. See?
(love Instagram for cool-looking iPhone pics!)
So, the thing is, many of these key chains were given to her by her sweet little classmates. I would estimate that five friends have given her one of her chains. That's really sweet, isn't it? So, yesterday, when yet another friend gave her a key chain (another light-up shoe from McDonald's, bringing the tally of those to three), I suggested that maybe she should share the love and give one of hers away to a friend, too. Yeah, that didn't go over so well. The conversation went like this:
me: "Ava, wouldn't you like to give one of those to your friend?"
Ava: "Um, no. I don't think so."
me: "But honey, think how good it makes you feel when one of your friends gives you something of theirs. Don't you want to be a good friend like that and share?"
Ava: "But all my MY key chains are SPECIAL!!"
I give up.
So here's my question: how do you make children that give selflessly? How do you promote genuine altruism in young kids? We all want our kids to be smart and successful, right? But a child that grows into a generous person, one who gives without thinking of what he or she is giving up? To me, that is the true mark of success, at least in parenting. And maybe it's not even something that's taught, although I do think it can be. Maybe some people are just more giving. Maybe it has to do with birth order. I don't know. But I do know that a kid with fifteen key chains needs to learn that giving one away isn't going to kill her. And it might even make her feel pretty good.