Monday, November 19, 2012

The Child in Charge of Thanksgiving

This morning I woke up my 11 year-old son and told him that he was in charge of Thanksgiving.

"I know you are only a child, but I think it's time," I said. 

He stared up from his covers sleepily and with a blank look on his face.  "I can't tell if you are serious or if you've lost your mind," he said.

I let out a deep laugh and said, "that's what's so great about homeschooling. Sometimes you study math, reading and writing and then sometimes you study Thanksgiving in a hands-on course."

He was scared.

Lately we have been reading a book called "Doing Hard Things  --  teenage rebellion against low expectations" by Alex and Brett Harris. In it they talk about how we don't expect much from our kids and therefore they don't give it.

Looking back over history, there are so many examples of kids who did amazing things. Clara Barton at age 14 nursed her father's hired man back to health from small pox. She then went on to care for her entire village during the outbreak. At 17, she was a schoolteacher for 40 children, some her same age. You know her name probably as the founder of the Red Cross.

Then there's the example of David Farragut. David was 12 years old when during the War of 1812, he was given the assignment to bring a ship captured by the USS Essex safely to port.

Really now, I'm not asking my son to heal the sick or captain a ship or anything. But to cook a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner for 8, why not?

It was a funny prospect. But it also got me thinking why don't I ask more of my son? In a backhanded way, am I saying that I don't think he is capable? It reminds me of that great quote by Goethe which says "Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being."

Maybe he won't have to cook the turkey this year. But he can certainly help unload the groceries, chop things and set the table. Children are capable of amazing things, but we as parents have to believe it first.

P.S. For more resources and great articles on Thanksgiving, check out the seasonal guide from Carolina Parent at:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Good Gifts

You knew it was the holidays when the Sears Catalog arrived. Back then, it felt like it was the only catalog. Fat, thick and loaded with colorful, happy images of families having a blast with all of their “stuff.” My brothers and sisters would pour over that thing for days and weeks – dog earring and circling every toy and doodad we wanted for Christmas.

We loved to play the “page game” – where one person got the left hand side and the other got the right. Flipping quickly, we would point out what we wanted and shout “mine”  -- then compare it to the gift they chose. We would dream of Christmas trees loaded with a sea of presents so thick, you couldn’t even find your way to the bottom of it.

Now our mailboxes are so thick with catalogs, we are having a hard time finding the bottom of it. Recently, my friend Beth visited me. I saw the “Sears Catalog” look in her eye when she saw my pile. For Beth, she lives in a Winnebago and travels all over the United States for about 10 months of the year. Because she has her mail shipped to her wherever she is, she gets no catalogs.  Before my eyes, she morphed into a 9 year-old girl dreaming up her wish list for Santa. It was more fun to watch her look at my catalogs than to look at them myself.

This holiday season, my wish is to choose gifts that change lives. I know that is not possible to do with everything. But unlike the Sears catalog, I want to give people something that has an echo effect – resonating for years to come. You don’t have to look very far to find great gifts that help amazing causes. But the point is, you do have to look. My invitation is before you click “buy” or swipe that credit card, you will pause and wonder if you are giving a good gift. The good gift, the best gift is the one that changes the recipient for the better. And it’s probably not found in a catalog.

If you are looking for a “good gifts” place to start: