This morning while the kids ate their breakfasts, I attempted to finalize some camp plans for them. Because of their disparate ages yet immense desire to be together (can't do same programs but can be at same camps), scheduling their various plans is more challenging than solving a Rubik's Cube while blind. Nonetheless, with one eye fully open, the other struggling to keep up and a large coffee in hand, I persevered and met success. Each is doing Jedi engineering with Legos and each is doing a sewing camp, though of course not at the same times. I love that these were their choices. "Jack, do you want to do tennis or sewing?"
"Sewing, Mom, it's really more my thing."
I just love, love this. I can't sew a button on a flat sheet of cloth and have zero interest in learning, but I realize that skills with a thread and needle are useful, and the fact that Tom can both sew and iron really makes him that much more attractive to me. I suspect such will be the case for my boys; when someone falls in love with one of them, she/he will be thrilled if he can, in addition to being awesome, felt a bag and mend things. It's the flip side of DVD installation and tire changes. Three cheers for ability!
Jack has been studying money at school and is obsessed with making change, understanding worth, knowing cost and value, and saving versus spending. Naturally this is a great way to learn math but it's also an excellent means of imparting age-appropriate lessons about the role of money in life. That he understands what $5 is and how long it can take him to earn (dusting all the baseboards in the house earned him $1, for example) better puts into perspective that a half-gallon of milk is also roughly $5 and wow, that's a lot so let's not waste it.
He inquired about the cost of camp, and when I showed him the total for one week for him and Ol, he was floored. I don't want the kids to feel guilty about what it costs to raise them nor do I want them to worry, but at the same time, I believe that knowing these things and understanding what is required to make them possible (work, saving, etc) makes it much more likely that they will appreciate their opportunities and not take them for granted.
Jack and I ended up talking a bit about how lucky he and Ol are and how many children don't ever get to go to camp or the like. I can't remember exactly what he asked, but I told him about The Fresh Air Fund, an organization I've always loved and admired. Perhaps you've heard of it too; founded in 1877, it has long given low-income children from New York City the chance to spend summers in the country for free.
"When The Fresh Air Fund began, New York City was overflowing with children living in crowded tenements. Many of these youngsters were hit by a tuberculosis epidemic, and “fresh air” was considered a cure for respiratory ailments. More than 130 years ago, the Reverend Willard Parsons, a minister of a small, rural parish in Sherman, Pennsylvania, asked members of his congregation to provide country vacations as volunteer host families for New York City's neediest children. This was the beginning of The Fresh Air Fund. By 1881, the work of The Fresh Air Fund was expanding so rapidly that Reverend Parsons asked for and secured support from The New York Tribune. By 1888, The Fresh Air Fund was incorporated as “The Tribune Fresh Air Fund Aid Society.” Today, The Fresh Air Fund continues to benefit from the support of the media with invaluable assistance from The New York Times."
He asked how it was free for the children who get to attend, and I told him about donations and scholarships. We went to the website and he saw that $21 purchases a bus ticket to camp for one child, $50 provides a box of art supplies, $91 feeds a camper healthy meals for a week, etc. I could see him thinking and then he scurried upstairs. Just a minute later, he presented me with $10.50 from his bank.
"This is enough for half a bus ticket, Mom."
People, I am crying again as I relay this story to you. Sobbing. I started crying then and he looked worried and asked why, and I just almost couldn't get it out, just how proud I am of the person he is, how much he inspires me to be and do better, even when he's been filibustering for longer than Wendy Davis and I think my ears will bleed.
Oliver then went and got $0.42 from his bank and offered it to me proudly. And I started crying again. And then we all added up the things that seemed most special to us, and I kicked in the rest out of some money I received from Nanny after she died (she would have liked it spent in this way), and I made the donation in honor of Jack.
I hope that some wonderful child is helped have a wonderful summer when it finally comes. And I hope Jack can always carry with him the impact he made on me this morning. I hope he saw in my watery eyes and felt in my tight hug that he is such a fine boy and a fine person and that he is loved and valued to the moon and back. I hope that love is like a nugget of security that he can tuck away and hold onto forever, drawing upon it when he needs. I know I now have another such nugget.