Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Schoolbags and Gladrags

Welcome to the November 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Service Projects

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about what service means in their families.


Thisis the first time I’ve taken part in the Carnival of Natural Parenting.  I thought it might be a good prompt for a post, and to get me started in my new WordPress home!  This  month’s theme for the Carnival of Natural Parenting is “Service Projects – How do you encourage compassion in your children?”

I think AltD1 is pretty compassionate for an almost-4-year-old. She’s sensitive towards others, and she seems to have a growing awareness of how people might feel. That’s not to say she doesn’t have her moments, of course. Apparently small children can’t really develop empathy until they start to understand that not everyone thinks exactly the same as they do, and that not everyone knows exactly what everyone else is thinking of all the time! Pretty tricky concept to grasp, I would imagine. But reading a bit around the subject, it’s clear that we need to model empathy and compassion to our children so that they can grow into kind, considerate adults. The kind of adults we’d all like to be ourselves, right?

The carnival theme calls for a “service project” and while the AltFamily are supporters of various charities and causes, and both AltFather and I have carried out voluntary work in many capacities over the years (in fact I seem to suffer from “Volunteeritis” also known as “Can’t say “NO” Syndrome”) we don’t actually do much volunteering as a family. And maybe it is time that AltD1 got to have a go at making someone else’s life a little better.

The year AltD1 was born (in the November) we sent our Christmas cards out on 29th December. AltFather shook his sleep deprived head as he dropped the pile of envelopes into the post box and suggested that maybe we really should find a better way to spend £50 at Christmas time. As the cost of postage has risen so much since then, it would likely be double that by now. Instead of cards, we decided to do something for someone else instead. Nobody seems to have noticed the lack of a card from the AltHouse, and the environment will probably thank us too. We still send cards to our elderly relatives and friends with photos and news of the children, but we are able to spend more time on the half dozen that we do send. Then we get to choose a charity or a cause, and help them out a bit, too.

In response to the challenge of this blog carnival, something AltD1 is able to physically see and help with would be a good idea, I reckoned. My first thought was the Christmas Shoebox appeals which are prevelant at this time of year. Sadly, I have heard too many bad things about the organisation that runs the most popular of these schemes, and we won’t be participating in Operation Christmas Child, either as a family or through school when and if the time comes. To summarise briefly, we are not prepared to involve ourselves with a fundamentalist arrangement that promotes intolerance, including religious, sexist, homophobic, Islamaphobic intolerance… you can google it for more, or read this article (among others).

I digress… what I wanted to find was something similar to OCC but without a toxic agenda, that my daughter would enjoy being involved in, and could learn something from. So we are making up a backpack for Mary’s Meals Backpack Project. Mary’s Meals provides basic school equipment and hot meals for children, where they might not otherwise be able to afford an education. Here is a short video about the scheme:

And here AltD1 having fun putting it all together:

We watched the Youtube video and talked a little about how some people have lots of lovely things and other people have hardly anything at all. AltD1 decided she’d like to do something to help them… so far, so good.

While we shopped for the bag and its contents, she explained to the shop assistants that these things were not for her:

“They are for another little girl in another country so she can go to school.”
She’s pleased with herself and her school bag project.

She sometimes gets attached to things [“Noooo Mummy don’t throw away that cardboard box/ piece of paper / random bit of tat or rubbish, I looooooove it sooooo much and I need it!” dammit she’s inheriting my hoarder tendencies already! ;)] so I wondered how she would react to packing up the parcel and sending it off. Not too badly, as it happens. (Phew!). She was happy taking it to the Post Office, and delighted to pass it through the hatch. We really enjoyed the challenge of a family service project, and we’ll definitely be doing something similar again. Thanks for the inspiration!

Teaching our children to be compassionate goes a lot further than Christmas projects, though. Asking ourselves “What kind of human do I want to be?” [thanks to today’s Radio 2 Breakfast Show Pause for Thought slot for that one!]. I know how I would like to answer that question, and it goes deeper than “a bit less untidy and more well organised” Which seems to be my current goal in life. Ah, I will have to get back to you on that one and let you know how it’s going!
I hope I can pass on to my girls the basis of something which will help them to grow into good people. As parents, that’s all we can ever hope for, isn’t it? We have to do our best for our children, to show them how to be, kind, compassionate, loving, caring, and all that goes along with being a responsible human being. Thinking of others is the first step. Modifying our behaviour to ensure others do not suffer as a consequence of the things we do and the decisions we make is a step beyond.

AltFather came home from town with AltD1 last weekend, where there has recently opened a new store that offers its customers credit on a weekly basis at astonishingly high punshing rates of interest. They were giving out balloons, and of course AltD1 loves balloons and wanted to go and get one. AltFather said no, and there followed a discussion on ethical business practice. He wasn’t sure how much she actually got (“balloons, though, Daddy!”).

But that evening as I tucked her into bed, she told me all about the new shop,
“Which Daddy says isn’t very good because it takes all of people’s money and then they don’t have any and that’s not very nice is it because then they can’t buy other things they need like food…” so maybe she did understand just a little bit.

Will she share our ethics as she grows up?
Or will she make different choices?
Only time will tell, but hopefully we will be able to teach her that concern for the wellbeing of others is really, really important, and helps us to be the humans we want to be.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • Acts of Service: The Great Neighborhood Clean Up — Sarah at Firmly Planted shares how her daughter’s irritation with litter led to eekly cleanups.
  • Running for Charity — Find out how Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her love of running and a great new app to help feed the hungry.
  • 50 Family Friendly Community Service Project Ideas — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares a list of 50 family-friendly community service project ideas that are easy to incorporate to your daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal rhythmn.
  • Volunteering with a Child — Volunteer work does not need to be put on hold while we raise our children. Jenn of Monkey Butt Junction discusses some creative options for volunteering with a child at Natural Parents Network.
  • Family Service Project: Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina — Erika at Cinco de Mommy volunteers with her children at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, where 29% of the recipients are children.
  • Family Service Learning: Advent Calendar — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers her family’s approach to some holiday-related community service by sharing their community focused Advent Calendar. She includes so tips and suggestions for making your own in time for this year’s holidays.
  • How to make street crossing flags as a family service project — Lauren at Hobo Mama offers a tutorial for an easy and relatively kid-friendly project that will engage young pedestrians.
  • Pieces of the Puzzle — Because of an experience Laura from Pug in the Kitchen had as a child, she’s excited to show her children how they can reach out to others and be a blessing.
  • Appalachian Bear Rescue — Erica at ChildOrganics shares how saving pennies, acorns and hickory nuts go a long way in helping rescue orphaned and injured black bears.
  • Volunteering to Burnout and Back — Jorje of Momma Jorje has volunteered to the point of burnout and back again… but how to involve little ones in giving back?
  • How to Help Your Kids Develop Compassion through Service Projects — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares service projects her family has done along with links to lots of resources for service projects you can do with your children.
  • Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children.
  • A Letter to My Mama — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has dedicated her life to service, just like her own mama. Today Dionna is thanking her mother for so richly blessing her.
  • 5 Ways to Serve Others When You Have Small Children — It can be tough to volunteer with young children. Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots shares how her family looks for opportunities to serve in every day life.
  • When Giving It Away Is Too Hard for Mommy — Jade at Looking Through Jade Glass But Dimly lets her children choose the charity for the family but struggles when her children’s generosity extends to giving away treasured keepsakes.
  • Community Service Through Everyday Compassion — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children calls us to Community Service Through Everyday Compassion; sometimes it is the small things we can do everyday that make the greater impacts.
  • School Bags and Glad RagsAlt Family are trying to spread a little love this Christmas time by involving the kids in a bit of charity giving.
  • Children in (Volunteering) Service — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reminisces on her own experiences of volunteering as a child, reflects on what she thinks volunteering teaches children and how she hopes voluntary service will impact on her own children.

Comments on: "Schoolbags and Gladrags" (5)

  1. That sounds like a fun one! I’m glad you were able to find an organization you respect. It makes me realize I need to research the Christmas organizations we support here (eek!).

  2. Love the Mary’s Backpacks ideas – I wonder if there is something similar in the US. We would not contribute to OCC either (although I know many people who do). I’m glad you all had fun with your project!
    ~Dionna @

  3. I’m always both shocked and surprised, and perhaps a little bit mortified by how much my toddler absorbs. I think they do learn from us though – if a charitable heart is what they know, then that’s what they’ll mimic. (By the way, there are other shoe box appeals. Missionary friends of ours in Africa run one, and it’s highly valued and appreciated – with organisations, I always go for ‘the smaller the better’ so there are fewer ‘hands’ for my contributions to pass through!

  4. There are so many organizations doing so much good, it always breaks my heart when one makes others reconsider their giving. I am glad that you found one that feel comfortable supporting.

  5. This is great! Thanks so much for the information. We are inspired and are going to put together a backpack too.

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