Box Day - FamilyEducation

Box Day

November 20,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

For weeks now T.'s excitement about the upcoming holidays (Christmas and her birthday in January--an event which should be a national holiday, as far as T.'s concerned) has been building and building. It's difficult for most small children to get as excited about Thanksgiving, as they do about the thought of getting lots of gifts over the holiday season. My students, on the other hand, have been thinking about Thanksgiving for weeks and weeks now. They have been at school long enough to really appreciate what it means to go home again; back to their mother's cooking, or--better yet--their grandmother's meals. I walked to class with a student the other day, a sweet, quiet girl, and she could barely talk about her trip home next week, she was so excited. This time of the year, while kids are in the throes of all the letter-to-Santa writing, and the wish-list-writing, and all around us the stores are stuffed with enticing things, and we can hardly bear the promise of mysterious packages arriving in the mail, and the flow of holiday cards, it can be a challenge as a parent to channel some of that energy and excitement into activities that nurture a true sense of what this holiday time should be about. Last year, a friend told me they hold an annual "Box Day" at their house at some point during the holiday season--usually when her kids start thinking about all the new toys they hope to get. So last year we instituted our first Box Day. We told both kids that they had to sort through their rooms (with help) and fill a small box with things to donate; not broken-down toys or torn books, but honest-to-goodness decent toys and/or stuffed animals that the kids can bear to part with. And that's the difficult part--because even the tiny stuffed Shrek you find at the bottom of your daughter's closet--the one that hasn't seen the light of day for months and months can suddenly become the most treasured possession in the whole entire world, and your daughter will cling to it and weep, and promise to sleep with every.single.night, if only you won't take it away. Last year we had mixed success with Box Day (it didn't help that I sprang it on the kids suddenly). T. had a very hard time parting with any of her stuffed animals, and the whole process took a LONG, LONG time. This year we decided to take a more gradual approach: 1. We told the kids days ago that this Saturday was Box Day--so they could mentally prepare for it, and start sorting through their things, and we've been talking about Box Day on and off for weeks now; 2. We gave T. her box early, so she could decorate it ahead of time--she really enjoyed this part; 3. We started off slowly by sorting through both children's closets, and putting together a clothes donation bag as well. This has helped get T. ready for the box; 4. We plan on leading by example. On Box Day Scott and I will also fill boxes of clothes to donate, and useful household odds and ends. I have to remind myself that you can't force kids to be generous and you can't lead them kicking and screaming into the giving spirit (well you can, but it's not very helpful). Generosity has to come from the heart, and be nurtured, and given a chance to take root and grow. What I hope my kids will learn and appreciate is just how good that warm glow that comes from giving feels inside; that material things may come and go, but the glow is what remains--this is the lesson of a lifetime, I think. We'll see how this year's Box Day goes--until then, Happy Weekend!