Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love all the cooking, the smells, the warmth inside contrasting to the crisp air outside. I love having all my favorite people together. (For this reason, we always have a “Friendsgiving” in addition to our traditional family Thanksgiving.) Because of my enthusiasm about the holiday I was surprised when my five-year old said, “I don’t like Thanksgiving. It’s not a real holiday.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because there are no presents. When is the next holiday with presents?”
I laughed. Of course, what was a holiday without presents, or at least candy? Was I raising a spoiled brat who couldn’t see the value of family, friends and food?
I broke down the word, Thanks. I probably remind my children to say this word every day. I remind myself to say it. It is the expression of gratitude, something we are so lucky to feel. We have so much to be thankful for. I remind my children regularly how privileged they are to have their health, their home, their family…
Giving. This word is harder to teach. It is easier to teach a child to share, but to give? To hand over the possession of something of yours to someone else. To give your time, your money, your love is precious. I think it requires practice. And when you give it to a particular person, it also requires thoughtfulness.
I don’t know if I’ve done a very good job teaching my boys to give. I do make a habit of taking them shopping to buy gifts for each other. But surprisingly they seem very nonchalant about the idea.
“What do you want to get your brothers for Christmas?”
“I don’t know.” Standard boy response.
“Do you want to go shopping to buy gifts for your brothers? Your dad?”
“Sure.” No movement from the couch.
Sigh, lumber, lumber.
It wasn’t until Lucas went to college that I received my first present from one of my boys that had stemmed from his own initiative, using his own money. Based on this statistic, I definitely have not taught my boys the joy of giving. But it is not too late!
We are trying something different with Ben. Ben receives a weekly allowance. (Something the older boys never received.) He divides his allowance in thirds. He can spend one third on whatever he wants, one third he saves, and one third is to be spent on others. Toysmith Kids Cash Box For his Bebe’s 93rd birthday he bought his first gift, a box of chocolates.
Nowadays it seems like Thanksgiving is merely the launching pad for the gift giving season, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday monopolizing the weekend conversation. Perhaps my son Ben is right and Thanksgiving is no longer a “proper” holiday, but just the amplified example of how we can give thanks every day.