Charity and the Preschooler

“Mommy, I thought charity was a girl.”

That was my 4-year-old’s response after a man from our local St. Vincent de Paul non-profit thrift store helped unload the last bag of donated goods from our car.

For weeks we have been organizing, purging and de-cluttering our home all in the name of charity. After I tackled the kitchen and living room I moved on to my daughter’s room. While she was busy crashing her remote control Jeep into towers of wooden blocks I dumped out a gigantic container of stuffed animals and asked her to help me make two piles.

“To jump in?” asked my daughter.

“Nope,” I replied. “We’re giving some to charity…” I caught myself mid-sentence and rephrased: “I thought it would be nice if we shared some of these stuffed animals with kids who don’t have any.”

What was I thinking? This is a kid, who once stuffed an entire turkey sandwich, nine potato chips, three carrot sticks, and two chocolate cookies into her mouth all at once when I suggested that she share some of her lunch with her toddler cousin. Like many kids her age my daughter is not big on sharing.

“Two piles,” I repeated. “One pile with the animals you really, really can’t live without and another with the ones you think another little girl or boy would like to play with.”

After giving me the look (you know, the one that makes you wonder if you accidentally uttered your request in Swahili) she sat down next to the sky-high menagerie of stuffed animals and I ducked into her closet to see what I could purge from there.

Silly me.

Less than three minutes later I was greeted with, “Mommy, I’m all done.”

“You are?” I asked, failing to disguise the shock in my voice.

“Oh yes,” she replied proudly. “Look what I’m giving charity.”

I scanned the room and there sitting amongst a pool of blocks was a single cast off—-an extra plump teddy bear she got from my grandma shortly after she was born.

“How generous,” I mumbled.

“Don’t you think that Teddy might get lonely and want a few other friends to go with him to his new home?” I asked.

“But, I might get lonely if he takes too many friends with him,” my daughter reasoned.

Just when I was about to unleash a diatribe detailing the fact that my daughter has long been the recipient of extremely generous family member and friends who constantly shower her with incredible gifts (hence her 100 + stuffed animals) and point out to her that the toys in question were housed in a container that she never, ever touches I stopped myself and did what I probably should have done from the start.

“How about some Play-Doh?” I asked.

While my daughter happily molded a colorful smorgasbord in the living room I completed the bedroom project myself. In the end Teddy left here with a ton of other furry friends and my daughter was none the wiser.

Still, I can’t help but feel a bit deceitful. Of course, if I had asked her permission to part with each and every toy I eventually donated (some of which she hadn’t played with in years) we would have been in her bedroom until midnight.

Have you experienced a similar situation? Do you ask your young children to help weed out old toys or do you just do it yourself in an effort to conserve on time and spare yourself from unwanted drama? At what age did you teach your kids about charity?

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About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.