Aside from proper hygiene and how to cook dinner for Mommy and Daddy, I believe that one of the most important things to teach our children is to be kind. Kind to each other, kind to others… a little kindness goes a long way and all that… you know?
This past December, in an attempt to practice what I preach and teach my children the true meaning of holiday spirit (which we all know is about getting presents, but whatever), I stole borrowed an idea I saw on Pinterest (original source here) and decided to try it with my kids.
The idea was to practice daily “Random Acts of Christmas Kindness” (or RACKs) for the month of December, hence my calling the experiment, “The 24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness.” Well. It didn’t go exactly as planned.
Day 1: I explained the overall premise of the RACK’ed Experiment to the kids only to be met with blank stares. Then, I got the following questions:
“Why are we going to do nice things for people we don’t know?”
“Are they going to do something for us?”
“Do we get a reward at the end?”
“Can we have hot chocolate everyday when we’re done?”
“So, when we finish with this stuff, that’s when Santa comes?”
“Will Santa come if we don’t do it?”
Clearly, we were in DESPERATE NEED of this project.
So, for Day 1, I bought a bunch of $5 Starbucks gift cards and the Loud One, the Nibbit and I went over to Main Street. We attached the cards to little tags that explained what was going on:
Understandably, the recipients were a bit confused at first. (Wouldn’t you be if a little miniature person ran up to you, screaming “HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!” and shoved a card in your face?) But then they read the card, looked at me for confirmation that my kids had permission to be giving stuff to strangers (sure!) and then usually reacted very positively.
After seeing the happy reactions the first couple of times, the kids were really excited and as soon as we were done, I heard, “That was so fun!” “Let’s do more!” “Can we do this again tomorrow?” Of course, I immediately started drafting the inscription for my “Mother of the Year” plaque.
Day 2’s RACK of the Day was bringing homemade muffins to the local fire station. With a lot of adult supervision, the Nibbit made the muffins in the morning. When the Loud One got home from school, I said, “OK, let’s drive over to the fire station and deliver our muffins!” I got, “[whine] Really? Whyyyyyy do weeeee have to doooooo this stuff EVERY DAY????”
(Note: it’s only Day 2. DAY TWO.)
With gritted teeth and my fake-happy falsetto voice (c’mon, you know it well), I gave them a quick reminder about the whole point of this experiment (“We are nice people, dammit!”) and we were off. And it was great. The firefighters and staff there were extremely appreciative AND kind enough to let the kids climb on the truck and pretend to drive.
I’m going to fast forward through Days 3-13 and tell you that the same pattern kept repeating itself. Every day I would say “OK, let’s do our RACK!” and EVERY DAY, I would hear, “Do we HAAAAAAVE to??”
They would ultimately enjoy doing whatever our RACK was for the day, but I started to wonder… either I am pushing this too hard or my two older kids are already a lost cause and I should just focus on the Happy Dude. Either way, by Day 13 my experiment started to fizzle. Why?
- Partly because it felt like a little bit of a chore to nag my kids about it and that certainly wasn’t the point.
- Partly because I started running out of ideas that didn’t cost money (and I didn’t want THAT to be the point either).
- Partly because I found myself thinking, “Oh don’t do that [nice thing] today because you already did [other nice thing] and we should save this one for tomorrow?”
When I started slamming the Starbuck’s door in peoples’ faces because I had already donated books to the Barnes and Noble book drive, I knew it had to end.
So I quit.
There I said it. Phew. (This feels like Confession.) Of course, I worried about what message THAT sent to the kids. And then I yelled at myself for worrying too much about every little message I might be sending to the kids. Then I ate 53 holiday cookies and felt much better. Sort of.
Side note: If only I had called it “A Random Number of Random Acts of Christmas Kindness” or “A Bunch of RACKs” but noooo. I had to call it “24 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness,” setting the bar impossibly high. (OK, not impossibly for SOME people but impossible for me. Shut up. Sorry. That wasn’t very kind.)
Seriously, I’ve been a little bit mad at myself ever since December for not following through on a project I felt was important. But I’m writing off 2011 as a learning year. I think this year we’ll do it a little different… maybe we’ll put 15 ideas in a jar to be picked at random OR maybe we’ll just have a discussion at the end of each day about how we practiced kindness that day. Geez, I don’t know. Stop pressuring me. Thankfully, I have eight months to think about it.
OK, be kind. Bye.
PS. For those of you wondering, some of our other RACKs included: donating to various fundraising events (from their own piggy banks) as well as toy, book and clothing drives; bringing treats to the cafeteria staff at the Loud One’s school (her idea); secretly leaving bags of candy in our neighbors’ mailboxes; bringing coffee and treats to some workers on our street; leaving candy bars in miscellaneous places around town (store counters, ATMs, etc.). Next year, I’ll be using this site.
PPS. We wanted to send a care package to the troops, but by the time we got the address of the soldier we were somewhat connected to, we found out that he was heading home. (Yea!) We put one together anyway and got it out just in time for Valentine’s Day. We ♥ the troops.