One of the big things about being a parent is this idea of modeling good behavior. I mean, we talk about expectations for behavior, and I think that’s important, but then we have to actually put them into practice.
Things, like being kind and treating others as you’d like to be treated yourself, are a big deal in our house. Around the holidays, we also talk about giving and the idea that you can experience real joy when you give to others.
You’d think that would be a hard concept for kids, right? But I’m always pleasantly surprised when they prove me wrong.
A few weeks ago, the kids’ elementary school had a week-long book fair, the first of the school year. These are always wildly exciting, and the kiddos beg to get to school early so they can browse all the new titles. This year, I got the highlights from my oldest two the second they got in the car on Monday afternoon.
Our ten-year-old is a Harry Potter fanatic, so his eye was firmly on some Harry Potter-branded paper airplane book. Our eight-year-old daughter had a list that included a nail art book, another in the series she’s currently reading, a copy of Beauty and the Beast, and a diary that zipped up.
On the way home, they both announced their plans to empty their wallets and scrounge up all their spare change so they could snap up these books.
The next day, our daughter came home triumphantly clutching the nail art book, the next in the series, and Beauty and the Beast. She was disappointed but pragmatic about the zip-up diary when she told me they had all sold.
“Maybe next year, right, Mom?”
Different classes had scheduled times to attend the book fair, and it was the second to last day of the fair when our son’s class got to go. He had $28 in his wallet, and he told me over breakfast that he thought he’d have enough left over after buying the paper airplane book to get a novel, too.
After school that day, I stood in the usual spot by the kindergarten classroom with our three-year-old. Out came our five-year-old. His big sister was quick to follow, and then, from the other end of the school, came our oldest.
He was beaming.
“I have presents for all of you! Do you want to wait for Christmas or have them now?” he said, before turning to me. “They can have them now, right?”
In the car, he was smiling from ear to ear as he passed around a Peppa Pig book for his littlest sister, a dude diary for his brother, and the zip-up diary for his other sister, who literally screamed when she saw it.
As the kids shouted their thanks and oohed and aahed over their new stuff, I looked over at my oldest, looking so big in the passenger seat.
“What about you? No Harry Potter airplane book?” I asked him.
“I carried it around for a while,” he said, “but then I saw that diary G wanted so bad, and the one for B was right next to it. I knew they had Peppa Pig books, too. I just knew they’d all be so happy.”
I told him what a thoughtful gesture it was, and that I was really proud of him.
I asked him if he still wished he had that book, or whether all the happiness in the backseat had been worth it.
He smiled and said it was totally worth it. And I could see that he really believed it.
The next afternoon, the three-year-old and I got to school a little early and hit up the book fair. I picked up a first reader for our kindergartener, and E made a beeline for another Peppa Pig book (seriously, she’s obsessed). I grabbed a chapter book about four sisters who work in a flower shop, which had a cover meant to be colored, and I got Wonder for our oldest, because that’s just a good book to have in the house.
Then, as I was checking out, I asked about the Harry Potter airplane book. There was one left.
And he was so very happy to get it.