The Giving Tree

I love the holidays; everything about them- and since having children I’ve come to love them even more. As I see all of the creative and enjoyable Elf on the Shelf mischief flooding Facebook I openly admit that it is not something we do. First, because of the obvious, I’m cheap and it’s a little out of price range for holiday memories, I prefer the low-no cost ones. Second, because it just takes a lot of time and lastly, I’d rather do something a little different. Our family has always done an advent of some type, I’ve hung it on draped calendar, made a countdown via envelopes, even stole my bestie’s mailbox idea (with permission of course), you get the drift. Regardless of the mode, the theme and many of the events were simple and family friendly and always reinforcing that we had to earn these little surprises. It had worked…until this year.

I started on Dec. 1 our magical minnie elf was all set and ready to deliver her first of many special messages to tour holiday mailbox but unfortunately her efforts were stalled. Bedtime was a nightmare! We have pretty high standards for keeping structure and I am living proof that sometimes, regardless of how much you try, life gets crazy. With that, a lack of scheduled structure children rely on can lead to a stage 5 meltdown faster than a Mazerati. Future parents take note. Needless to say that our magical elf was less than impressed. She did come and left a note from Mr. Claus himself about staying on the nice list. Long story short, no such luck on day 2. This Mrs. Claus refuses to play reindeer games. So as promised our magical elf flew back to the North Pole. I spent all day feeling the internal conflict of a mother trying to create memories and inject holiday spirit while still trying to uphold behavioral expectations and standards. Not to mention, I love advent! It’s so much fun to do for and with them. What could I do??

Then it dawned on me.  we discuss openly in our home that Christmas, for us, is  not about Santa. It’s a season of giving because of the gift we received on this day.  Last year I secretly did a pay it forward for no other rhyme, reason or recognition  but because I wanted to. This year our advent would not be about us but about  others.

Herein lies the birth of the Fowler Family Giving Tree. Each day leading up to Christmas the girls will find the date on the Advent Tree, lift the flap, and get to do a special PIF gesture for someone else, a stranger, a friend, a family member- whatever it indicates.

IMG_5487The best part of all of this, was that when I told the girls Minnie the Magical Elf would not be returning to leave things for us and that we would instead be doing something each day for someone else they got excited! At first I hesitated, are they learning from this lesson? Did this just backfire? But I quickly changed gears and thought WOW this is awesome. I knew I had great kids, even with the (too many to count) stage 5 meltdowns and bedtime wars that we have experienced, but the fact that so far the girls have asked excitedly each day “what are we doing today?” is a really cool feeling. Madz even came home excited that she was recognized for paying a friend a compliment, maayybbbee this juts could work?! So far we have donated books, appreciated our teachers, and spent some time pampering a few very special pets that always deserve some extra love. Tomorrow we are off to donate to the Food Bank.

Let me close with this, while what I am doing with our girls is not for everyone, I would encourage all to just lend a hand if only for a mere moment. Put some change in the Salvation Army pot, make eye contact with a smile and/or go on a coupon-hiding hunt, remember that this season truly is the season of giving (and not just of our wallets) and if nothing else take the time to simply enjoy it.

Cheers to a new holiday adventure!

From our family to yours,
Merry Christmas! ox