You know when you meet someone and you’re like, this is someone I want to get to know better. That’s Stephanie. I know her well enough to know she doesn’t want me to tell you all that I think she is deeply inspiring, but, she is. She’s also a super funny, badass, small-business-owning mother of 10. (Yep!) Today she is sharing some tips on creating a culture of giving back in your family, and turning darkness into light.
Creating a culture of giving back within our family
My first child was born just weeks before 9/11. I watched our nation hurting while I healed from birth. The most joyous time painted by a brush of sadness and loss. Since then we have welcomed nine other children through various paths: birth, foster care and international adoption, and every precious one has reminded me of the gift of young people, the hope that they bring with them when they are so fresh and new. Their passion is unmatched, their hearts naturally generous.
I’ve been thinking a lot about mothers who are welcoming brand new babies into the world right now in these turbulent times. I imagine they’re feeling many of the same things that I felt when I looked into my daughter’s precious face: joy, sadness, hope, fear. As much as mothers themselves can be diverse and unique, motherhood is a uniting journey and as we begin along it’s path, we often find we are more alike than different.
The story of “you were born in a pandemic” will be a life-defining one for many new babies, just as being born in the midst of a terror attack was for my own. Nearly nineteen years later, I can offer you this glimpse of what is to come, and I can assure you this: it’s going to be wonderful. The news being dominated by grief and loss will create a spirit of healing in your child. Children are naturally fearless, and watching them overcome obstacles and approaching their small world with bravery and determination will inspire you, too, to be brave. Their innocence as frightening news airs in the background will cause you to consider turning off the news and turning on some music for living room dance parties. Their contagious happiness will cause you to understand that, while we all think of changing the world as a bold and noble act, sometimes it is as simple as raising our tiny humans in love.
The greatest gift we can offer an aching world is to nurture our children’s hearts. Cultivating a spirit of giving has always been important to our family, but we have found simple daily choices to be just as impactful as the larger sacrifices our family has made. Even the smallest gifts teach our children that the time is always right to do what is right, and that lesson will carry well into their adult lives. It’s never too early to teach our little ones to give from the heart. Here are a few of my favorite simple acts of kindness:
- In lieu of gifts for birthdays they are too young to remember, request donations made in your child’s honor to your favorite local charities. One of our favorites is the fairy godmother project, which supports children with cancer and their families. https://www.fairygodmotherproject.org/
- Consider replacing one meal per week with rice and beans, saving the money you would have spent on a more robust dinner. This invites a discussion about global food insecurity as well as providing a way for your children to earn money to donate. Our kids like to take this money and shop for our local animal shelters… plus you can visit the cats and dogs when you drop off your donations!
- Stock your little one’s library with multi cultural books. There are several lists available online, we especially like the “global baby” line of board books.
- When possible, consider purchasing second hand items. Not only will it save money (an easy way to contribute to college funds!), it is an easy opportunity to introduce the concept of protecting the environment.
- For your every day personal care/home good items research local small businesses that offer those products and shop local. Typically the quality is higher and the money earned is usually invested back into your community by the owners. Our family offers high quality, eco-friendly and hand made goods at our apothecary, and the proceeds of all purchases help bring home our son from Eastern Europe. He is rocking his extra chromosomes (as is our daughter, featured on our website) and offers an excellent opportunity to discuss different abilities with young children. www.longertableapothecary.bigcartel.com
Stephanie McFarland is a small business owner and mother of many in the Fredericksburg area. She believes that no matter how your children find you, by birth or foster care or international adoption, that you can always find room at your table for whatever children need a place… or build a longer one!