Friday, November 28, 2014

Season of Giving

I am a plan-ahead kind of person - always have been.  Holiday gifts are purchased, if not wrapped, by Thanksgiving.  Stocking stuffers I have gathered and hidden by mid-December.  This year my shopping list is different, shorter, and less child-centered.  My son is now seventeen and my two stepchildren are in their twenties. The wish lists, as you can imagine, are primarily made up of two categories - technology and cash.  Bah, humbug!  Gone are the days of creative gift giving that speaks to each individual’s passions and possible interests.  As I reflect on the true gifts I want to give my children at this point in their lives, the ideas that come to mind go back to practical life lessons and experience.  Can I give them the gift of financial literacy?  How about the understanding that giving back to the community through service, or smaller intimate acts of kindness, is really a gift given to oneself?  Maybe I should gift them a “life coach” so they spend the reflective time needed to see where they want to head and then plan how to get there.  Is there a way to give them the gift of reflection in remembering the values and skills they were taught growing up?  Certainly my son could use, and will receive, the gift of my help in this college-application season.   These are the gifts most on my mind when I think of what I truly want to offer my children.

Yet, the tangible things that can be wrapped and placed under the tree are easier to do; technology is enticing and cash is practical.  I’ll probably cave in and do the simple thing but I also will try to find a way to give the gift of these life lessons so crucial for young adults.  I miss the days when they were young and I could make the “magic” of the holidays happen by surprising them with a simple and well-thought out present.  What fun it was to see their faces as they unwrapped something unexpected!

For those of you who do have younger children, as you contemplate possible gifts at this holiday time of year, I encourage you to think about the words of wisdom and results of longitudinal studies shared at the recent Common Ground lecture.  Leonard Sax, researcher and author, shared the importance of monitoring and limiting the technology we choose to allow our children to have.  He shared that the technology executives he knows in Silicon Valley all send their children to Montessori or Waldorf schools, where the leadership has not given way to magical thinking about the abilities of technology over the importance of experiential and face to face relational learning.  It is not that Montessori doesn’t embrace the wonders and possibilities of technology, but that we know it is only a tool and one that cannot replace all other components of learning.  Knowing the developmental characteristics of children so well, Montessori teachers see the disproportionate amount of power the online world has over children and will always advocate for careful parental and teacher supervision and judgment.  

As you look to purchase gifts of technology for your children, you might consider the advice given in this recent NY Times article:  Steve Jobs was a low tech parent.  We hope, also, that you will consider giving to our school’s Annual Campaign where a healthy balance of hands-on materials and technology innovations are on the teachers’ wish lists.  These dedicated teachers remain, in my eyes, ‘on the good list’ and so we hope that we can make their dreams come true this holiday season!  I wish you joy, health, and peace, whatever the holiday you celebrate this time of year.  I am so thankful for the gift of this supportive and thoughtful community.