On parenting a 4 year old to willingly give back

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“If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

It was quite some time ago that I wanted to share what my external supervisor had told me over the course of my ten week practicum with her that not only resonated so well with me but left me truly inspired by her. During our weekly two hour sessions, we toiled through concepts, process recordings and practical skills. Very rarely did we touch on personal thoughts, opinions and life- keeping it strictly professional.

There was this one moment where we made some small talk after the lesson had ended. She had gone to the washroom and I had to show her the way out of my office. I asked about her four year old who was now in kindergarten. She smiled and shared that her daughter was struggling with her upcoming birthday party’s choice. In local kindergartens in Singapore, some of them have a service whereby you can pay the childcare to celebrate your child’s birthday for you. “It’s usually a sum of $400, where the school will get their school canteen to cook for the children in the class something special, a birthday cake and some goodie bags for your child and his or her classmates.” She explained.

I went on to listen to her story. She shared that from the previous birthdays they had, her child’s classmate’s goodie bags included a watch that when a button was pressed-would flash cartoon characters like Spongebob or Dora pictures on a wall. It was not appealing to her as a parent at all. “$400 is a lot of money.” she chimed as I nodded in agreement. “I can’t imagine what a four year old would do with such a watch!” She laughed.

She picked her daughter up from school one day and decided to touch on this topic with her. “Mummy can use this $400 to help some poor children in Singapore.” She said. “You don’t need any new watches, right? The children you will help struggle with books and uniforms for school.” Her child was obviously adamant and disappointed, as it was indeed her birthday money. But because she had already promised her child, she told her daughter she would give her time to think about it but remained firm that the choice would still be hers- whether she chose to have a party or not.

“Wow.” I said in awe. It must have been difficult as a parent to do something like that. “Did she understand where you were coming from?” I asked. My supervisor explained that she had used simpler terms to her and told her that if she wanted to donate this money to the poor, her organization had a carnival where they will allow her to sponsor the cotton candy & popcorn machines. She will be allowed to serve the candy & popcorn to the children beneficiaries she meets on that day, should she want to donate that sum and give up her birthday party.

A week  later- they were crossing the road together hand in hand, just like any other day- when her daughter turned to her and said, “You know what mummy? I’ve decided. I’m going to give my birthday money to the other children!”

I was truly inspired by such an act of parenting. It is extremely rare these days that we hope to instill such thoughts or actions at a child’s expense. It was even more heartening to think that with such a heart of a 4 year old, that such love would be this inspiring.

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