Today was the day that my little girl (age 6) and I took our annual shopping trip to pick out gifts for a local foster care program. She’d decided that she was going to spend twenty of the fifty dollars given to her by her (fire family) uncle on gifts to donate, and her dad and I would pay for the rest. She chose to buy a soccer ball and jump rope with her money, and then we continued to pick out games, toys, books, clothes, and stuffed animals together.
Well, one stuffed animal to be precise. One very soft, cuddly little fox that my daughter took an immediate and deep liking to. She hugged “Foxie” tightly (already named = trouble ahead) as we continued around the store. At checkout she carefully set Foxie on the belt then scooped her up as soon as she’d been scanned. When we got into the car Foxie was being snuggled closely. While driving I looked in the rearview mirror at my daughter with tears welling up in her eyes as she said, “I don’t know if I can give Foxie away, I just love her so much.”
I reminded her that Foxie wasn’t hers in the first place. We bought Foxie for a kiddo that really needs someone to cuddle and hug. I suggested that she put her love into Foxie so that the kid who gets her as a gift could feel the extra love she gave. She shook her head in agreement, and hugged tighter.
We stopped home before driving across town to drop off the gifts. Right away my little girl went and laid in her bedroom with Foxie, tears streaming down her face, with her heart wide open for this little stuffed animal. I asked her what we should do about this tricky situation and she said, “I don’t know what to do but can you drop the gifts off in a few hours instead of right now so I have a little more time with Foxie?”
Here I was, a parent in one of those situations that feels like whichever choice I make it’s going to be the wrong one. I didn’t want to give her Foxie and take that comfort away from a kid in foster care who could surely use it. But also, my kid rarely reacts with such strong emotions so I knew that it wasn’t her being selfish, it was more than that.
After a little while she said, “I just wish there could be two Foxies”. So, I reminded her that actually, there were two. There was just one more fox back at the store, and she still had money from her uncle, so if she wanted to go back to the store and buy the other fox she could do that. She cried even harder and said, “YES, YES YES!!! I want to do that!” She put on her shoes as fast as she could and we returned to the store for Foxie #2. Thankfully, it was still there.
Was it the best solution? I have no idea, but she didn’t take a gift intended for someone else, and she had to care enough about Foxie to want to pay for it with her own money… which she did, happily.
After buying the second fox I asked her which one she planned to keep, and she said she would keep the second one because she had put so much love into the first one; she really wanted to make sure the kiddo in foster care got that extra love.
I picked her up, gave her a hug and reminded her that she’s got a big heart and it’s one of the best things about her. She smiled, hugged me, and continued on being a six-year-old.