Making connections through gift-giving and receiving

by Lisa Feiertag on December 19, 2014

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christmas-gifts-1322621-mI don’t know about you, but every year as the winter holidays begin to creep closer, I start to have a moment of panic.

Well, maybe it is not so much panic but more dissociative in nature.

What I am preparing for is the list that is coming, the list of items that I know my children are going to be wishing for as they begin to write down all the material goods that they desire.

The panic is what creeps in first as I prepare myself to show willingness to accept these lists that they have worked so hard to create. The dissociation comes in when I want to go into denial about this time of year, how many gifts to purchase or what it all really means.

I am lucky to be in a position where I am usually able to purchase whatever my children need or to obtain exactly what is desired throughout the entire year. As a result, these lists that my children are creating seem like extra stuff that they do not really need but are developed out of the idea of the gift-receiving concept that comes with the winter holiday season.

What if things were different this year? What if gift-giving and receiving really came from the heart? Could this provide us with an opportunity to see and distinguish between what we need, want and desire?

Could we expand upon this concept to move away from the material side of the holidays and look more closely at the altruism and willingness to open to others in love?

Instead of leaving my children alone to make a gift wish list, I could spend time with them. We could look at what passions they have and then volunteer or make financial donations to organizations or charities that are aligned with their interests. We could make a decision to support only local businesses when we want to purchase items. We could spend time together making gifts or finding other ways to engage within our community.

All of this we could do without any expectation of return, which is one way of defining what it means to offer gifts.

Maybe this year will be about embracing a different side of the economy that does not involve me going to multiple stores to purchase every item on my children’s wish lists.

lisa feiertag 3Instead, we are opening doors of connection, providing opportunities for me to understand what my children enjoy doing and how we can share that love with others.

This could become very contagious.

As we step outside the norm to offer gifts from the heart that involve our time, energy and money, others may see how much joy we have. They may wonder where this comes from and may experience exactly what it means when we offer service or gifts to others without any expectation of return. This could be the encouragement needed for my girls to continue doing it and has the potential to get others involved.

What a great way to form connections with our loved ones and to embrace community instead of continuing within a pattern of panic and dissociation.

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Inviting them in…

by Scylla on December 18, 2014

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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on October 6, 2008, but it’s a great reminder that one way to connect with our children is to let them into our grownup world.

721847_mother_and_daughterSometimes being present in your child’s life has more to do with inviting them into your life, rather than joining them in theirs.

We focus a lot on setting aside time for our children so we can engage in their activities, which is definitely important, but it’s not the only way to involve them in your life.

I had my daughter, now 7, when I was 25. I was in my last year of college. I distinctly remember reading my criminal justice and criminology text to her as she grew in my womb.

Once she was born, she came with me everywhere. When I went to study, she came along, sitting up in her little baby seat, smiling away at the staff at Village Inn as I read up on trial practice, literature and the law, and basic evidence. She flourished at my side.

When she was 2, I entered law school and she entered preschool. There were days when I would pull her out of school and bring her to class with me, so she could see what mommy did all day. At 2, she would sit quietly next to me in class for the full 1 hour and 45 minutes, listening to a lecture on federal wildlife law and administrative law, and be happy as a clam. She would often raise her hands and ask questions of my professors, and in the 3 years I attended law school, she enjoyed every class she got to sit in on.

When I joined the American Inns of Court, she came to our weekly breakfasts and loved talking to the judges and lawyers, listening to their stories and stealing bits of their bacon and cantaloupe. To this day, she attends these breakfasts with me and is very proud that she gets to come along.

After graduation I went to work for an attorney in New Jersey. At one point in time, I had to bring Monkey — my pet name for my daughter — to work with me. We had a huge filing due the next day, my husband was out of town and there was nowhere else for her to go. She sat in my office with me from 3:30 p.m. until nearly midnight, happily drawing away.

On the ride home, I thanked her for being so well behaved. She said, “You remember how I used to go to law school with you? This was kind of like that. I have missed it.”

I was so touched to realize how much she enjoyed being a part of my adult world.

I forget how much it means to her, to be allowed in on the things I am doing. Sure, she is thrilled if I play house with her or paint a picture with her, but she will cry if she misses the Thursday morning breakfast group.

I always worried she would find these grownup occasions boring, but she doesn’t. She involves herself and finds a way to participate, every single time. She is so proud that she gets to attend grownup functions, and she is always well behaved at them. We may have tantrums in the store, or wiggling at a restaurant, but she knows when she has to behave well, and she is so pleased to be included that she goes out of her way to do her best.

There are other ways to invite children in: letting them cook with you, clean with you, choose items at the grocery store or make decisions about what you do as a family on the weekend. In my experience, just being asked to join in makes all the difference to our little people.

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Teaching the art of giving

December 17, 2014
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I have such fond memories of my childhood Christmases. I remember the emotions and feelings of warmth, love and happiness more so than the bountiful supply of gifts we eagerly unwrapped each year. I want my 3-year-old daughter to have the same kinds of cherished memories that I have stored so lovingly in my heart. […]

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Strengthening AP marriages

December 16, 2014
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By Lysa Parker and Barbara Nicholson, cofounders of Attachment Parenting International (API) and coauthors of Attached at the Heart “Couples who are having difficulties in their relationship will find parenting to be an added stressor, not necessarily the blessing that solves all their problems.” ~ Attached at the Heart by Lysa Parker & Barbara Nicholson […]

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Being intentional in holiday family traditions

December 15, 2014
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With the holiday season upon us, I am reminded of how important it is to keep our family’s focus on the true meaning of the season. For us, that is Christmas but no matter what your family celebrates or believes, I think everyone can agree that family is what’s most important. It is easy to […]

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Hygge

December 12, 2014
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What an exciting time of the year! The days are getting shorter, and the wish lists are getting longer. My evening walks have been so pleasant as neighbors are putting up twinkling lights that add such cheer to an otherwise gloomy night. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want my children’s experience to […]

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Tantrums are opportunies to connect

December 11, 2014
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 Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Oct. 2, 2008, but offers timely tips to parents of toddlers. Before I became the mother of a toddler, I remember listening to other parents describe their little one’s behavior with the term “terrible twos.” To be honest, I had no idea what kind of behavior was […]

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Parent like nobody’s watching

December 10, 2014
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Every now and again, we parents are called upon to respond to something for which we are not prepared. Maybe we didn’t anticipate a particular comment from our child or maybe his behavior is outright embarrassing. In these moments, we have a choice: We can hide under the table and freak out, we can blush […]

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