I found myself sitting on a Tuesday commute home divulging in the temporary excitement that comes when a significant change is about to occur in your life. Now that the shock and awe of my career shift has sunk in, and the important parties have all been notified, it seems as though life has begun to move in slow motion, gradually ticking away the hours, minutes, and seconds until this Career Shift actually takes place.
I’ve gone through every emotion possible starting at terrified, then moving in sequential order through heart-broken, excited, nervous, frustrated, irritated, anxious, impatient, exhausted, and now to complacent. Emotional roller coasters are exhausting. But as my rail car seems to be stalling out, I’m focusing on the here and now. What do I have left to do before I leave? And most importantly, what can I already begin to do with my little girls as I make this shift to prioritize them above all else.
So it was on this random Tuesday, pulling out of the sitter’s driveway that my oldest daughter asked me, “Mommy, could we make cookies tomorrow? No, could we make cookies TODAY?!” I thought for a moment about the steps involved, ingredients needed, and then like a lightening bolt striking a tree, remembered buying a tub of cookie dough from my niece’s fundraiser that was, brace yourselves, ACTUALLY GLUTEN FREE! I had already planned to make One Pot Jambalaya for dinner, a recipe I kind of whipped out of no-where, winging an attempt at a more complicated version I had made years before. And with this simple dinner plan, I knew we would have additional free time to do just that, bake cookies. I immediately agreed to this simple task of scooping and rolling cookie dough without hesitation and the squeals of excitement that escaped my girls in the back seat were music to my ears.
We then hurried home and began our dinner preparations, finishing just as my husband pulled into the driveway. Once everyone was well fed, the girls began to dig into the container of cookie dough rolling, scooping, and even eating, until we had created 2 sheets full of cookies! My girls actually enjoy the prep better than the end result in almost any cookie (except sugar cookies. My youngest will take you down to get to a sugar cookie) so when the trays were completed, and the cookies were not the top notch cookie like many of our homemade ones, the girls were not interested in eating them.
I then thought to myself, what can I do with 24 gluten free cookies that don’t meet the expectations of the cookie baking connoisseurs my daughters have become? And just like that she hit me; a student who has been on my caseload at school for 3 1/2 years now, has a gluten intolerance that is not well monitored. We immediately packaged up the cookies, making her a little card from the girls placing them in my school bag to be delivered the next day.
It was this small pay-it-forward gesture that got me thinking, what other “service-project” activities could a toddler and 17 month old participate in?
My very good friend runs a Helping Hands club that is highly active in service projects and volunteer hours. I want my girls to learn the value of paying-it-forward at an early age. So I developed a list of 10 simple activities you can do with your child at any age to help teach this core value of our society to even the smallest of children
- Baking cookies for a local shut-in, delivering with a friendly child-crafted card.
- Donating old books to a local library or the Salvation Army
- Sorting through old toys, choosing ones to donate to local community supporting corporations like GoodWill
- Creating a “coupon book” of hugs and kisses for grandparents.
- Making lists of the things siblings love the most about each other, sharing one item every day for a week off the list.
- Taking your children grocery shopping for items to donate to a local food pantry.
- Volunteering with toddlers to help sort at local food banks
- Understanding the value of the critical terms Thank You, or Please at ages as young as 1
- Letting small children assist in picking out gifts for other children, and sharing in the joy of giving a gift to someone they love.
- Taking your child to local community events demonstrating the importance of community and supporting local businesses from an early age.
All of these ideas could easily be performed in a small rural community all the way to the booming cities across our country. We want our children to be BETTER than us, to value more, and want less.
Spend the weekend with your children, no matter their age, sharing in the joys of paying it forward.