Yesterday, my son forgot his lunch at home. And instead of rushing around for an hour to retrieve the lunchbox sitting on my kitchen counter, I opted to do what good mothers do: let him eat the school lunch that he dreads, fears and abhors. Why, you ask? Because instead of sending him the message that life is filled with invisible safety nets that protect you from your poor decisions, I'm sending him the message that life is about accountability, consequences, growth, and lessons learned.
This realization that "protecting" my kids from the perils of a less-than-perfect life actually means that I'm doing them a significant disservice is a new AHA! for me. I have actually shaped it into a philosophy that I call "counter-parenting." It's like Opposite Day--parenting style, because it's often counterintuitive to what we believe good parenting truly is. Want to teach your kids to remember their lunch? Don't break your neck taking it to them every time they forget it.
The holidays, of course, will be my true "counter-parenting" test. Each year, I find that I do the holidays "wrong" and I literally feel ill with guilt, disgust, regret, and shame once the wrapping paper has been discarded and the mounds of gifts lay scattered around every room of my home. How many did they actually want? Use? Need? And most importantly, appreciate? How many would other kids have truly valued--in favelas in Bahia or homeless shelters right here in Brooklyn?
Modern parenting culture says, "Buy them more to make them happy."
Counter-parenting says, "Buy them less and use it as an opportunity to teach them true happiness."
As part of my new parenting philosophy, I launched a website, iSow.com, that enables young people to use birthdays and holidays to register for goals instead of goods in 3 big categories: saving for the future, sharing with others, and spending on things that matter to them. Our philosophy at iSow is that young people will be happier and better off in the long-run if we as a community help them to achieve important goals in their lives--and the lives of others--instead of buying them yet another toy that will end up in yet another landfill.
So the holidays in our house will undoubtedly look different this year.
My kids and I have worked together to fill out their iSow profiles, and are hoping that a portion of the gifts that people give them go towards important causes they are passionate about--kids in Haiti for my daughter, and the Make-a-Wish Foundation for my son.
This doesn't mean that they don't want anything for themselves--my daughter wants a computer, and my son wants a bike without training wheels. But it does mean that the holidays will be infused with the spirit of giving, and perhaps just a touch of that spirit will overtake some of the space in our home where tattered wrapping paper once lived.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the #GivingTuesday Team at 92nd Street Y, to celebrate #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday is a global giving movement, and the series (which will feature content throughout November) aims to celebrate how people are giving back around the world. For more information about #GivingTuesday, visit here. And to join the conversation on social media, use the hashtag #GivingTuesday.