It's a tough time of year for parents, isn't it? All the social events piled onto select weekends, special Christmas, Hanukkah and even Kwanzaa concerts, events and parties all lumped in together. The rich food filling the children with sugar highs and subsequent crashes, the shopping and trying to somehow explain to them that the holidays aren`t just about getting as much expensive stuff as possible. Managing their expectations is not easy, given that my son says he wants every toy he sees in a commercial on television.
'I want that,' he says, pointing at the TV for the 36th time in a half-hour cartoon broadcast -- which are just half-hour ads for the toys themselves, come to life in animate form. It's marketing genius.
'That's an ad for the slap-chop,' I tell him. 'No way. I'm not letting that guy into my house.'
My daughter is a different story. She's starting to understand there are people in our community who are not quite as fortunate as we are and who can't even afford to buy gifts at Christmas and that we should be thankful and happy that we are able to be together as a family, in good health, over the holidays. Gifts, I tell her, are secondary.
That was when she looked at me and said something I thought was pretty impressive for a seven-year-old.
'Dad, can I use some of the money I've saved to get a gift for a kid who won't be able to get one this year?'
I felt like I had been hit by a ton of good-parent bricks.
'Of course we can,' I told her. We went upstairs into her room, where she pulled out her savings, which she has been compiling to get herself an IPod, and we took $20 out of it. Then my son wanted to get in on the act as well, and he took some money out of his savings as well, with the idea that we would use the money to buy toys for one boy and one girl and donate them to the West Island Assistance Fund for kids who wouldn't be getting a gift this year were it not for the generosity of many, many West Islanders.
It doesn't seem like much – the price of a fast-food lunch out, roughly – but it can make a world of difference to the family that receives it. The child gets a toy and the parent gets to enjoy watching their child open the gift, which I've come to realize is one of the greatest gifts a parent can get. So, in that way, my daughter gets to help a needy child – and I get to help that parent realize that joy.
I guess everybody wins.