If you have or know kids in the 5-12 age range, chances are you know all about the Rainbow Loom. If not, it's a small plastic pegboard on which you weave tiny rubber bands into bracelets and other jewelry. My daughters (ages 6 and 9) have been begging me for one of these for ages, but we have a policy in our house of not buying new toys unless we donate old ones first - if the kids want to use their own money to buy something that's okay, but their dad and I aren't ponying up the cash. (And yes, we parents sometimes break the rules, but that's a whole other blog post...)
A couple of weeks ago, I'd had enough of the constant begging, so I made a deal with the kids - I would get them a Rainbow Loom if they would sort through all their toys and donate half their stuffed animals and at least two bins of other toys. I'm more than a little embarrassed about the quantity of things they have and how little they seem to value them (unless, of course, said things are being taken away), so we go through these purges every year before birthdays and Christmas; somehow, though, the stuff keeps accumulating. This time - to my surprise - the girls eagerly agreed, and amazingly enough they followed through with little to no whining; they did want to hug each stuffed animal and say goodbye, but they made their choices and filled the bins. As a bonus, we ended up with a clean playroom - a great day in our house!
Off we went on our quest to find the elusive Rainbow Loom - four stores and 30 miles later, we finally had it in hand. The girls played happily with it while we waited 45 minutes for a table in a restaurant, while at the table, and even in the car. They were obsessed, but they were happy, quiet, and playing together without arguing - this toy is awesome!!!
The next day, some of their best friends came over, and all four played with the loom again for hours. They set up a table outside at the end of the driveway to sell their homemade jewelry. All on their own, the kids decided to donate half of the proceeds to the SPCA. This isn't the first time they've done something like that - they've baked cookies and sold lemonade and given half the profits to animal causes before - but this time, it was unprompted by their parents. I don't know if the lessons we've tried to teach have taken root and become "the way things are," or if they just figured out it's a great business move - customers are much more likely to pay top dollar if some of the money goes to charity! Whatever their motivations, it was nice to see them all voluntarily doing something to benefit others. And this weekend, we made the trek to the SPCA of Wake County where the kids handed over their $15.50 and visited with some of the animals available for adoption. There were a few tears because their dad and I refused to adopt a new pet rabbit, but all in all, it was a fun, rewarding afternoon.
We do what we can to guide our children in the ways we would like them to live, but in the end, it's up to them what path they choose. This time, they chose to give back. Today was a good day.