The Gift That Keeps Giving

Yesterday a man with a kindly face came and knocked on our door. It turned out that he was from the Red Cross and collecting money for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. Arvind came with me to answer the door and as I walked inside to find some cash, I hear Arvind questioning him loudly as to why he was collecting money.

I hear a low, patient response.

I see my boy dash inside, open the draw that safely housed his birthday money and then he dashed back to the kindly man.

“But this is 500 kroner….” (90 dollars), says the man at a loss, holding the note unsurely.

“They have nothing. They need this.” says my matter-of-fact, unsentimental 7 year old.

“Thank you,” says the man quietly, “You’re a very special boy.”

Somewhere between this exchange and the closing of the door, I splinter in pride.

Happy 8th year, My Golden Heart.

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Edited to add: I needed to add that it wasn’t the fact that Arvind gave money or the amount he gave that made this a highlight for me. It was more the fact that he had processed enough from our conversations and discussions to stop caring about the vastly exciting world of Bakugan (if for a minute) and give his thoughts and his empathy to the plight of real people. So here is my real question:

Should we protect our children more from the media or less? I have always encouraged Arvind’s interest in the news and current affairs except when inappropriate pictures and footage are involved. Does exposure give them more empathy to situations like Haiti or will it in the long run, desensitize them? Climate change people – this ain’t gonna be the last of it.

How much is too much when they are 7 and 8?

Can we teach them about the world and tell them about wars, famine and natural catastrophes, without stealing their precious innocence? Without rubbing out their faith in a good humanity? Or is innocence overrated to begin with?

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39 Comments

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39 responses to “The Gift That Keeps Giving

  1. Era

    Happy New Year and good to see you’re back! I’m still on a bit of a blogging break myself but decided to do a little visiting.

    Kudos Arvind, I’m very proud of you.

    There is a lot to be said for innocence and it should be guarded carefully. But there is also a lot to be said about not letting our kids grow up to think that they are the only ones who matter. While we have to shelter them from the world, we must not isolate them from it. Sounds like you’ve found the right balance.

    • Mom Gone Mad

      Happy new year, Era! I’m so glad you dropped by.

      As for having found the right balance – I hope time will be on my side:-)

  2. I think 7 or 8 is perfect for teaching them about the world and you’re doing a great job.

    But it needs a lot of supervision and hand-holding. They do get scared when they start relating it to themselves. That a plane can crash, that the earth can heave up and destroy everything, that terrorists can burn everyone with their hate are really scary. Kids need to be secure and grounded before they start exploring these things with their parents.

    At the same time, keeping them away from the media doesn’t mean their friends are not telling them about it in school or the playground.

    Go Arvind, you rock!

    • Mom Gone Mad

      I think you zeroed in on it there.. however much we protect them, someone else out there is exposing them. For as long as possible, I would like to be able control how he interprets this kind of information. That means getting there first:-)

  3. zeno

    Masha Allah!!!
    God bless his gentle soul!!

  4. DG

    wow! well done, Arvind! What the heck? Am proud of him for giving so much of his money! Well done, boyo!

  5. What a wonderful son you have! And yes, you cannot shelter them totally from the world at large, and yet need to moderate their exposure. I think you’re doing fine.

  6. Good to see you back. what ever it is you are doing, you are doing right!! That’s an amazing act of generosity that A displayed!

    I am all for exposing kids to current affairs.. My 4-yr old saw pictures of Haiti in the newspapers and I told him what had happened in age-appropriate words.. The thing is, they are going to learn it sooner or later.. might as well, they learn it first from us ..also, I do it with an ulterior motive.. I hope he accepts my view of things which is obviously the right view to have 😉

  7. Happy birthday to generous, kind hearted Arvind! You have done a fine job as a mom. you raised a very important point-something i find myself thinking about a lot. my son who is 5 only seems to think about himself at this point of time. although we try to expose him to everything around us, he still doesnt get it and sometimes i have nightmares about raising selfish,self-involved kids. tell me..what should i do?

    and oh..welcome back..i was beginning to miss your write ups!

    • Mom Gone Mad

      Sukanya, take heart, dear. There is a world of difference between the 5 and 7 year old. No need to see a current phase as a pattern. I think everything changes with time, understanding and our ability to hang in there through the worst of the self-centredness. Keep doing what you’re doing.

      Ask my mother. She survived my self-absorbed teenage years;-)

  8. MGM,
    Touched at Arvind’s gesture. Not the fact that he gave away his bday money but the fact that hiw little brain processed the situation.
    It is good to share news and encourage the curiositychildren have towards world affiar. I think as parents you will know where todraw the line. Mydad often discussed politics and world affairs from a young age- nothing wrong but as you said a bit controlled.

    • Mom Gone Mad

      Yeah, I agree that responsible adults will have an instinct about these things – parent or not. And I’m all for controlling information in this age. Rather my point of view than some nonsense from the playground:-)

  9. Deepa

    Talk about those events and situations in a manner they can understand and it leads to emphathy. I think and am trying…. but too much violence(looting scenes from Katrina aftermath) and havoc(natural disasters broadcast in real time or on continuous loop afterwards) me thinks are best avoided.

  10. allrighthere

    He’s an awesome little man that Arvind. I’m such a fan!

    I’m with you on the “getting there first” approach Shal. Julia walked in on me reading about Haiti on my laptop. I had tears running down my face and of course she got concerned. I didn’t have a choice – I had to explain something and did so as age appropriately as I could. And then we both cried. But that’s ok. I’m glad that she – like Arvind – cares. Would she hand off 500kr? Dunno, lol

    I read that when telling your children it’s important to make sure to tell them about the relief efforts, and not just the catastrophic part. It’s important to share the hope and that we pull together and help each other when something happens. It’s also important to remember that though we know Haiti is far away, our kids – at least younger ones – can’t grasp that perspective of distance. They may worry that this might happen here. We’re lucky in Norway that the likelihood of a similar disaster is almost non-existent, and we can tell them about Haiti and yet be able to comfort them and ensure them that they are safe.

    They will lose their innocence bit by bit. It peels like an onion. It’s better to have a mom that acknowledges and guides them through it, than one who pretends it’s not a reality of life.

    Does it desensitize them? At some point, maybe when they’re young teenagers, I want our family to join one of those 4 or 6 week programs that different organizations offer where you go to a country in need and do something tangible, such as help build a house or school. I think it will be healthy for my kids to see first hand that most of the world doesn’t live the way we do. I know trips like that gave me a whole new outlook on life.

    • You’ve done volunteer trips, C? Please give me some information. It’s funny cos Ø and I have always talked about volunteer vacationing esp. when the kids are older and I’ve even looked into options like Global Volunteers. Was yours through an organization?

      I’m very against guilt-tripping them into stuff – I’m jsut hope there will some natural sense of justice and fair play by the time they reach that age. That – and the need to do more than just throw money at a problem.

      But we need to be the start. I have been thinking of signing up as a local red cross refugee guide for the longest time. maybe if we walk the walk?…:-)

      • allrighthere

        I did one 7 week trip in 1996. I always wanted to do more. It changed me forever. You have a very different reference point for what “bad” is, and you know how to appreciate what you have. Several of my friends did trips like this too. We’d share stories, pictures, video, and it was a very different 17-year old conversation than the “how much fun it was to be drunk last night” convo’s that other friends were having. I went with a Christian organization, but the main point wasn’t to sell “Jesus Juice” it was to help physically. We were groups of teenagers 17-18yrs who travelled together with leaders, but I also knew several who travelled as a family. James and I have always said we want to do volunteer vacationing, we just want the kids to be old enough first. If the kids “get bit by the bug” they can travel with groups for older teenagers when they get to that age.

        Guilt tripping never works. At some point they have to see and feel things for themselves to truly get it. Telling someone to care doesn’t work. It has to hit their own emotional core.

        Walk the walk is the most important thing we can do. A friend of mine has been a refugee guide for a few years. She loves it.

        • Mom Gone Mad

          Hey, thanks for these insights!We’re thinking of waiting at least till the kids are 8/9 or thereabouts. I’m going to make sure I hold myself to it!

  11. that child… *blinks back tears*.. is all you.

    yes, i believe in exposing kids to news, as long as there is no violence apparent. no blood and goes. so even my kids heard about the earthquake, they know when the airport is fogged out and when the new expressway was opened up. but no, i switch if theres a rape or a bleeding body lying on the tracks.

    • Mom Gone Mad

      Aww, MM, not really all me at all:-( The dad’s thoughtfulness and the uncle’s unstinting generosity. I’m just the lady who gapes when I check him out sometimes:-)

      And no, i don’t think disaster porn (blood, gore and entrails) is the way to make an impression either.

  12. nat

    nosh n reh’s school started a penny collection program where children can drop whatever they can into a huge collection box till the said day, to send to Haiti. I didnt think mine would understand they werent just to ask me for a hand out but they did. They got ready with their piggy banks. Sometimes it’s a Godawesome feeling that you’re doing something right or they got it, whichever way. I felt a momentary sense of pure happiness.
    Proud of Aadu.

  13. Orange Jammies

    My heart very nearly burst, so I can only hazard a guess at how phenomenal that must have felt to you.
    I’d say my rule of thumb for children 3-8 years is to tell, rather than show. Visuals, especially those with gore, do leave residual disturbances that aren’t always store in the child’s conscious mind. So talking to them and explaining as honestly and simply as I can has worked for me so far. That said, I haven’t any of my own, but have worked with over 300 in the past decade.
    Now my question to you is: what exactly did you do to aid the development of that empathy? Because that’s always what I’m gunning for, without try to make it seem like overkill.

    • Mom Gone Mad

      I don’t know if I’ve done anything really..he has inborn “knowing” to him. The kind of kid who just picks up all sorts of undertones and nuances. He’s always been observant. Do observant people have a greater empathy? If we have done anything at all, its been to not “spare” him facts, or whitewash things. We talk about things in a very open way without making it very dramatic. I’m just going to let myself believe that we’ve given him metaphysical abilities;-)

  14. That awesome little kid!

    I struggle with this myself, how much is too much. We also talk about news, rather than watch visuals on TV. But the greater worry is the stuff she hears on the playground, or from thoughtless parents and teachers. We recently had this twit sound off about the recent suicides of kids in Mumbai, which she claimed was because they had bad parents and were not God fearing.

    • Mom Gone Mad

      aargh! What do you do with kids like that??? See, this is reason enough for me to continue with “early intervention”.

  15. Awwwwwwwwww!

    Arvind, you are such a little gem!
    Like mother, like son. 🙂

    PS- I am still match-making him with my neice. Don’t you fix his rishta elsewhere, MGM! 😛

  16. maidinmalaysia

    now. are you back for good? dont go away again. ok?

  17. Deepa

    You know, my daughter did the exact same thing :). They were collecting funds at her school and she takes out my purse and takes 2 $20 dollar bills and drops them into the box. She looked at me with those puppy dog eyes and said “Ma, kids in haiti don’t have anything, we should help them”.

  18. Chooch

    Yay for Arvind-always warms the cockles of my heart when kids do these things,unasked.Give him a great big *umma* from me,please!
    I think they absorb these things unconciously,so they must have seen/heard you/family doing it-so kudos go to the raisers of the future keepers of our bothers…make any sense?:D

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