Monday, December 22, 2008

Learning from Ava

Andy and I have made a conscious effort this year to teach Ava about the true meaning of Christmas. Of course, we've read the nativity story to her and even took her to a live nativity at the Provo Tabernacle. We've explained that Christmas is when we celebrate Jesus' birthday. She's got all that down, but trying to explain to an almost three-year-old that Christmas isn't all about the presents can be difficult. In all fairness, Ava hasn't been all "Gimme, gimme" that's not her personality anyway, but occasionally, if she sees something she likes in a store (usually a book) she'll say, "Maybe I can ask Santa for that." I mean, her letter to Santa was more concerned with how things were going at the North Pole with Mrs. Claus and the reindeer, than asking for gifts. However, she is definitely excited for the presents she knows will inevitably come. And, I'll admit, there have been a few occasions when Ava was being a little naughty or disobedient and Andy and I used the "Santa is watching" threat. With all the hustle and bustle and excitement over getting gifts, it's so easy to forget or overlook opportunities to teach about the true meaning of Christmas (do I sound like Charlie Brown, yet?). So, in the past few weeks I've taken every chance I could to teach Ava about service and recognizing how her heart feels when she does something nice for someone else...

So, that's a long preface to the actual story I wanted to tell in this post. Ava and I began, this week, doing our semi-annual "sorting of the toys." I try at Christmas-time and birthday-time (when I know she'll be getting new toys) to go through her toys with her and allow her to choose toys she would like to give to little boys and girls who aren't as fortunate as us. Ava likes doing this. Sometimes, choosing toys to keep and donate can be like Sophie's Choice for her, but she does it. And, if it's just too difficult a decision for her I allow her to keep whatever toy or toys that caused the dilemma. I figure, if it's that difficult for her, she's probably not ready to part ways with the toy. Anyway, we began this time going through her stuffed animals, of which she has a plethora. At the very bottom of her stuffed animal bin lay two doggies. I don't even think she knew they were in there. I laid them both on the floor and told her she could choose one to keep and one to give away. First, she decided to give away the floppy dalmation and keep the floppy brown dog. Then, she changed her mind, then she hugged them both and said she wanted to keep both (she looooooves animals!). I agreed. But then, she surprised me. She said, "Mommy, I want to give something to a poor little girl. She can have one of my dollies." Then, she ran over to where all her dollies are and chose her very favorite one. "Here Mommy, we can give a little girl Maggie." Shocked, I said, "Honey, are you sure. You can keep Maggie and we can find another toy to give away." "No Mommy, another little girl can have Maggie. Maybe someday I can get another Maggie." Tears welled up in my eyes as I agreed and stuck Maggie in the giveaway bag. After Ava went to bed, I considered taking Maggie out. But, Andy helped me realize that would go against what we were trying to teach Ava. She had made a choice. She chose to give something she loved to another child, just to make that child happy.

I had a harder time parting with Maggie than Ava. She hasn't thought twice about it. It amazes me that Ava, at not even three, realizes how important it is to give to others, especially those who aren't as fortunate as we are. She told me that she knows a little girl will be "so happy to play with Maggie", and that it made her heart happy to give her away. We've been trying this Christmas season to teach her, but I think I have a lot to learn from my little girl.

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