the value of a dollar

Money. It’s a heated topic for most anyone. Friends. Couples. Siblings. It keeps us up at night. It drives us to succeed and it causes us to fall. You may have heard the saying “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” It’s actually from the Bible. In fact, Jesus talked about money more than any other subject during his ministry.

 So how do we introduce the idea of money to our children?

 This summer, KP and I decided it was time our five year old began receiving an allowance. Aside from the obvious, like making her bed and picking up her toys, we created a list of chores she’d be paid for. She had to help with the laundry, the garden and the dishes. She had to help clean her bathroom and various other tasks assigned to her. For all of that, she would get $2.50 each Friday.

 That $2.50 would go into a bank with three slots:Image save, spend, and give.  Each week, she would need to save 10%, give 10% and the rest could go in the spend slot. From the start, AP saved until she could buy a small toy she wanted. It took a month to have enough money in the spend slot, and I’ve never seen someone prouder about a purchase before. It was a great day. Then she started over. Her next purchase would cost twice that of the first. Which meant she spent the rest of her summer saving for it.

 Just this past Friday, payday, she was able to buy her new toy. We also took $1 out of her give slot to put in the offering plate at church on Sunday. The plate passed and AP placed her money in. I bent down and whispered about all that the money would do; keep the lights on in our beautiful sanctuary, take care of the kids Mommy has met in Kenya and Guatemala, help her to have choir and Sunday school and all of those activities she loves about church.

I’m sure she grasped the idea. But she also placed her dollar in a plate and watched it get whisked away. There was nothing handed to her in return. It was just gone. She could look up and see the lights working that day. She could hear all the instruments played. But did she really get it?

 That afternoon, KP went for a run during a break in an otherwise rainy day. AP and I snuggled in the family room, solving word puzzles. Suddenly, KP burst through the door. He was sweaty and out of breath and grinning from ear to ear. He came and sat down in front of AP.

 He reminded AP of that morning, how she gave her dollar to the church. He went on to explain how we should not hold back giving for fear of not having enough. Giving begets blessings. Then he pulled a wet and crumpled bill out of his pocket.

 “This was on the road today” he said. “You gave your dollar this morning, and now you have another to give.”

I smiled at KP. We have a rule that if we ever find money, and can’t track down the owner, we put the lot of it in the offering plate the very next Sunday. We figure someone needs it and we’re just the middle man.

 KP got the bank and we made a point to put it in the give slot, for next week. Giving away our money isn’t always easy. We may not have anything tangible to hold in our hands to show for it. We may not see the immediate benefit.

But they are there. They are always there. Perhaps not in a dollar for dollar match, mind you. But that’s what happened Sunday. And for a five year old, it was a perfect opportunity for her to learn the practice of giving.

 May her small life be a blessing to many.

 

back to school

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My oldest daughter is a kindergartener. She left on the school bus, asking for a quick kiss and hug before stepping on. My eyes just barely welled up. No big emotions here. This is because the change is more of a soft transition. Which was our plan all along.

You see, AP is a sensitive soul. For this reason she doesn’t always adapt well to change. Starting in preschool, we planned her schedule to give her consistency. No days off between school days because those proved fraught with anxiety about going back. The thought of throwing her into kindergarten was frightening. So when the opportunity came to enroll her in the pre-k class at our local elementary school last fall, we took it. Lo and behold, the child made it in on a lottery. We would send her with the hope that her first day of kindergarten would be almost like old hat.

As I watched her crawl hands and knees onto the bus that first morning, as most four year olds must do, a piece of my heart left me. I certainly cried that day. My small child would be gone every day of the school week, for a full day, at a public school. No more ‘Jesus Loves You’ crafts or prayers at snack time. No more long afternoons together. She would learn to buy her lunch if she chose, check out library books without the teacher, and be exposed to children quite different from herself. Now I wasn’t opposed to all of this in general, just not yet. She was so young. And she went in not knowing a single child in her class. I struggled to remember the goal.

For me, a battle about whether we did the right thing began and continued all year long. Especially when, midway through the school year, her teacher took another job. There was a period of time with a sub, then a new teacher. As a parent, this was an emotional roller coaster. I practically called her old church preschool and begged for a spot. What had I done? But then I watched AP. I talked with her about it. And I realized she was absolutely fine. She loved her friends, and she loved her new school. In all, she had a great year.

Yesterday, she got off the bus with a huge smile on her face. She talked at length about her day, about seeing her old friends. She told me about meeting new friends and helping them find their way around a place she already knows. Last night, after she was tucked in bed, my husband and I discussed the day.

We knew that we absolutely, unequivocally made the right choice for AP. And I realized something. Sometimes we make a choice for our child that may be hard at the time, but will greatly benefit them in the future. Often the choice is harder on us than them, regardless of what we let ourselves believe.

We make the decision to put them in their own bed when we really just want to snuggle, giving them the gift of good sleep. We work to make them eat their vegetables, giving the gift of making healthy food choices later. We don’t let them watch “one more show” and choose to read to them instead. And until they leave our house, we consistently work to be their parent and not their friend, through rules, chores, and curfews. It’s not easy, but the benefits come. They come in responsible, healthy, productive adults.

For my husband and I, we sacrificed hours of time lost with our precious child to a full day of school one year early. We gave up the warm and fuzzy comfort of the church preschool before we had to. We endured unforeseen changes within that year. But the smiles on AP’s face both before and after school yesterday were worth it all. Sacrifices usually are.

sharing hands

ImageLately my sweet girls are driving me nuts. They’re in a fighting phase and as with all phases, I feel it will never end. What if they never learn to share?  I feel like I say “Share!” and “You have to learn to get along!” too many times a day.

Share with others. It has to be on the list of every early learning classroom on the planet. Children are bombarded with the idea. Their egocentric minds must constantly be reminded of the fact.

We say it to them all day long. But how many of us are doing it ourselves? Are we generous with what we’ve been given? Do we give of ourselves to serve others? Despite the presence of the Golden Rule in nearly every religion, in today’s world the idea is almost radical.

We rush to be first in line. We cut each other off in traffic. We say “Every man for himself” and “It’s a dog eat dog world”. We say it so much we believe it. We forget to stop and look at what’s really going on around us. Then we expect our children to peacefully pass the blue crayon.

Not long ago, AP had to complete a project about sharing at church. The children traced and cut out “sharing hands” and then stapled them to a booklet with blank pages. They were to draw ways they could use their sharing hands. There in the middle of her booklet, my daughter drew a stick figure on a roof, hammering. When I asked her what it was she said, “It’s Daddy helping people in Guatemala build their house.”

Last summer, my husband and I left our children for 8 days to help take a group of teenagers to the western highlands of Guatemala on a mission trip. We talked quite a bit about it with our children before and after the trip. We gave up our yearly vacation for the opportunity and we wanted them to know that sacrifices in life can bring special things. And then, months later, I see that the most important part stayed with her. We were sharing with others.

Part of my calling is to take trips like Guatemala. But you don’t have to go far to find opportunities to share. There are needs right outside your front door.

When was the last time you gave up something to meet the needs of someone else? Try it. Open up to a new experience. Let that car in next time you’re in traffic. Help out a neighbor. Or get involved in something. Volunteer with your kids.

Simply said, give more of yourself. It’s easier than you think. And I can guarantee one thing. Little eyes are watching.

the best job in the world

I’m a mom. And that means that I regularly take stock at whether I’m succeeding at the task. Raising my two young daughters is a privilege and a challenge. I can’t truly tell you how I’m doing, and I’m not sure I’ll ever know. How often do we see children from the same womb, the same upbringing take drastically different paths in life? Nothing is a guarantee.

However, I do know one thing. We don’t have our children for long. So while they are entrusted in our care, we simply must not let the time waste. It is far too precious. For my husband and I, this starts with the fact that our children are not ours to begin with. We are incredibly blessed with the task of starting them along their journey.

Yikes. The job can seem daunting. So many of us are apt to simply follow the crowd, keep our children comfortable and hope for the best.  But I don’t buy that. I want more- more for my family, for my children, and my children’s children. I want to equip my little travelers for the road of life as best I can, through everyday lessons and big adventures.

I don’t pretend to be one of these moms with a weekly planner containing amazing activities and learning experiences left and right. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we do really great things. But mostly the day looks more like this; wake up, make a meal, clean up a meal, run kids around, make another meal, clean up a meal, run kids around again, maybe work out, maybe do the laundry. Then I cook and clean again. I’m sure you can relate, whether your kids are small or grown. Moms don’t always have it all together because there’s simply not enough time in the day for it.

But I do have something each of us has. And it’s a start. I have my life.

 What I do, what I say impacts my children in a way big plans just can’t. So I’ll start there. And I will fail often. I will say the wrong thing, get angry too quickly, and judge others. But sometimes I’ll get it right.

And so every day I will get up and try and lead by example. I will make an effort to share the world with my children. I will teach them to be thankful for all they have and to share it with others. I will allow them experiences that show them that our differences make us stronger. And we’ll throw some big adventures in there too.

I’ve got my shot at life, and they have theirs. By pure miracle I’ve been chosen to steer them through the starting gate. There simply isn’t a better job in the world.