Mama Thoughts in August by Teresa Palmer
This month I talk about the lessons we have learned after Bodhi had a health scare (severe gastro that ended with a trip to the hospital!) The theme of our month has really been about appreciation: being grateful of all the goodness in our lives and being aware of how different things can look for others. The first half of the month we immersed ourselves in really honouring the worlds in which other people live. We took the kids on a walk to raise money for the homeless in SA, Mark attended the kids school and did a talk about what it was like to be a young homeless kid growing up in Philadelphia and we had deep connective family conversations about what’s truly important in the world, which led to some pretty eye opening awareness hits.
I’m a chronic “spoiler” of our children. It started with Bodhi being my first child and wanting to get him the things he asked for as a toddler because he was showing an interest in toys and activities and I wanted to feed his passions! Little did I know how quickly those “passions” would get old, sometimes within an hour!
Isaac, at the age of 9, just learned to ride a bike. Years earlier, he had found learning to ride challenging and decided biked riding wasn’t for him, so re-learning to do it was something he is very proud of. Our trip to the Maldives changed things and within 20 minutes he has learned to ride a bike. So naturally, when we returned to Adelaide we wanted to buy him a bike. We found the coolest bike equipped with gears and suspension and a color that we knew Iz would love. A bike any kid would love!
After we got it home we excitedly watched him try it out, but he didn’t find it as easy as the bike he had learnt on in the Maldives. After about 15 mins he dropped his bike to the ground, shrugged and said “I don’t really like that bike.” Mark and I froze.
We sat him down for a good hour talking about how most kids would love to have a bike like that, and would treat it so well, and how Mark and I never got to have a bike like the one we got him because our parents didn’t have the means to buy us something that special. We told him how we love being able to treat them on occasions because we know how appreciative they are and how they understand that it isn’t that way for most children. Most importantly, we discussed how as children born in to privilege, it was our responsibility as their parents to ensure they recognize just how lucky they are to receive things that they ask for, especially when there are children in the world struggling just to fill their bellies with food. Isaac hadn’t seen it that way and his dismissal of the bike was more about giving up on something hard than the bike itself, but he is a smart kid and realized immediately where we were coming from.
We had been seeing similar signs in Bodhi too, and chalked it up to typical threenager behavior. He stared having the expectation that he could get what he wanted at the store. Whilst Bodhi doesn’t understand the concept of money and “rich and poor” the way Izy does, he still only knows a privileged child’s life and we suddenly realized that we need to do better. It’s not about depriving our kids of the things they desire to teach them valuable life lessons, it’s just about raising awareness in them.
They can have the special treat and we don’t have to feel afraid that it’s having a negative impact. It’s also totally valid to enjoy watching the joy on your child’s face when they receive something they love but we can do that whilst also opening up the conversation about how other people live, many of whom they share a community with.
Since the above incidents and the self realization, Mark and I have been talking at lengths with our children about ways in which we can help other people. Bodhi decided to make a “help” board with pictures that he chose to represent some of the ideas he had like; “give people shoes who don’t have any”, “give them lots of my toys, I’ll only keep a few”, “we can build houses for people who don’t have a house”, “put presents under their Christmas tree with Santa ones”, “drop food to them” etc. Isaac talked about a food truck idea that he has where they feed people and give all the proceeds to the hungry. Isaac is also one of the biggest feminists I’ve ever met, it’s amazing. They’re such beautiful children and they warm my heart.
Whilst we can’t change the position our children were born in to, we can help them have perspective, appreciation, understanding and a deep longing to want to help others in need. Today, we gave Bodhi 3 pounds and he walked past a homeless man and then ran back and gave it to him. We couldn’t wipe the grin off his face all day and he told me how good it felt. And it felt even better to us.