On Giving...and Laundry
It rained all day on Monday. That meant that Maya and I could not go to the playground after school like we normally do. She didn't want to go to the library and I didn't want to pay $20 for our local indoor playspace, so instead we just stayed home and did a bunch of random things. Maya wrote a story. I made a tiny dent in the giant pile of clean laundry that lives in the corner of our living room. She cleaned her room. I cleaned the bathroom. She beat me at chess. Twice.
For awhile now Maya has had the idea to collect some of her old things (clothing mostly) and put them in a bag to donate to charity. Specifically, she wants to help the homeless. Here in NYC, there are often people out on the street begging for change. They make Maya feel sad, and she wants to help all of them. So on Monday, while the rain beat relentlessly against our windows, Maya filled a bag with clothes that no longer fit her anymore, along with two stuffed animals, a book and a toy baby that cries when you push on its belly.
I was very proud of her.
The day went on. We had dinner. We watched a movie. She had a bath. And then somewhere between teeth brushing and lights out, she suddenly got sad.
"I think I want to keep the red dog."
The red dog was one of the stuffed animals she had so selflessly stashed in the paper bag bound for the Salvation Army.
"Why? I thought you wanted someone else to enjoy him."
"I think I changed my mind. Can I take him out?"
After a few minutes of contemplation I decided that yes, the red dog could go back into Maya's bed.
She read for twenty minutes. I kissed her goodnight, shut the light, and sat down on the couch to watch something really meaningful on Netflix. (Like reruns of Dance Moms.)
About five minutes went by.
"I think I want to take the baby out too."
"Maya, go to sleep."
"But I love that baby. I don't want her sitting on a shelf and feeling lonely. I want to keep her."
Ok now I was starting to get annoyed. Maya has like five baby dolls. What happened to my selfless little girl who wanted to make other kids happy? What did I do wrong? Not to mention all her yapping was making it really hard to hear Abby Lee Miller completely destroying young girls' self confidence.
"Maya you did a great thing by giving that baby away. It will make some other little girl who does not have any toys really, really happy."
Then a small, teary voice.
"I know. But I changed my mind."
At first I told her absolutely not, the baby was staying in the bag. That it was too easy to give away things you do not want anymore. That the point of helping others is to sacrifice a little bit of yourself. Its supposed to be kinda hard. Also that I was frustrated and a little disappointed with her for not appreciating how much she has compared to others.
I want to be the mother of a little girl who selflessly gives all her toys to charity!! Now I'll have to delete my Facebook post!
Oh yeah, the homeless.
Its about the homeless.
Maya is seven.
She is seven.
Perhaps expecting Mother Teresa is a bit much?
So eventually I told her it was ok to put the crying baby back in her bed. That maybe she was not quite ready to give her things away, and that was ok too. Giving away the stuff you love is a very grownup thing, it is incredibly hard to do, in fact I know plenty of adults who still cannot let go of their things. I told Maya that maybe on another day, she would change her mind, and if she did she could always find more toys to share. That there is no timeline for helping, you can do it any day, every day, whenever you are ready. For now, the clothing was enough.
My Maya has a big heart and she so much wants to change the sadness in the world. But not as much as she wants to have a big bed full of stuffed animals, and five baby dolls instead of four, and that one sparkly shirt that she loves to death even though it has not really fit her for over a year. And that is ok. She is only seven years old. So instead of being disappointed at her inability to pull the trigger, I should be proud of her for even having the thought to help. She has to start somewhere, right? And on the plus side, there is now a whole lot more room in her drawers now for all that laundry I folded.
Maya will be eight in November.
Maybe then she will change the whole world for the better.
Right now, she changes mine and that's enough.