All three of my kids have their birthdays in the months surrounding Christmas, which also happens to be the height of cold and flu season. Each year, we find ourselves wishing, hoping, and sometimes cursing as we attempt to dodge the germs that threaten to ruin our holiday fun. I dole out hand sanitizer like a grandma distributing butterscotch candies, and have been known to pull my coat over the kids’ heads to shield them from a wayward cough. When they come home with reports that someone in their class threw up at school, my first exclamation (and I’m not proud of this) is, “Does she sit near you?” in a panicked, clenched tone, rather than asking if the child is okay.
Inevitably, someone always ends up sick anyway. Molly has been sick for more birthdays and Christmasses than not. Probably a part of that is from the anxious tornado I sweet them up in.
This year we talked about how lucky we are to have ridiculous problems. That missing a turkey dinner and hanging out in our own bedrooms, surrounded by all of the comforts of home, and our favourite toys, while being sick for a mere couple of days, is simply an inconvenience. We talked about how kids must feel who have serious illnesses that they are battling for weeks or months. Spending Christmas in the hospital, away from the comfort of their homes. Missing school holiday concerts and shopping for gifts because being exposed to germs is no longer inconvenient, but life-threatening.
We always do a special donation leading up to the holidays, as many families do, and this year we decided to do something to brighten the holidays a little for the kids being treated at SickKids hospital. I wasn’t sure what we should do, but Molly suggested that we buy craft supplies. I loved how she was so decisive and didn’t let her anxiety/perfectionism get in her way. Often I will want to help someone, but I spend so much time stewing over the pros and cons of each thing, that it ends up being too late and I haven’t done anything. So I followed her lead, and we went on a spontaneous shopping spree while we were in Toronto last weekend.
I missed the turn for the theatre we were heading to and had to do the circle navigation of the labyrinth of one-way streets that city centres are famous for. Michael’s craft store was on the corner, and even though it was raining, I swear there was a beacon of sunshine coming from the building. I could see Molly and Grace’s wheels turning as they planned what they would choose for the kids.
Wanting to make sure that we donated items that the hospital can use, we checked out the donation guidelines on the website. The SickKids website also has a lot of great suggestions on different ways to help, including specific needs. Items for infants and teens are most needed currently. I really like it when an organization makes it easy to help.
We selected a variety of items that could be used in the Treasure Box (kids get to choose an item from the box after a procedure), or in the Holiday Room (a room open for the month of December for families to choose specific items for their child), and items for sharing in the activity room.
Check out our haul:
We loaded up our purchases and ventured over to SickKids, taking in the sights as we made the 20-minute walk. I chose to ignore the, “Let’s just take the car,” requests from my suburban offspring. Once you find a parking space in Toronto with a cheap flat-rate, you don’t move it. Ever.
We delivered our craft supplies to the Information Desk in the lobby of the hospital. Molly was disappointed that she couldn’t hand out the supplies, but understood when I explained the reasons. We were amazed at the people at SickKids have purposefully made it not look like a hospital inside—it’s designed to look like a city, with friendly teddy bear soldiers keeping them safe. As a mom with kids with special needs, including anxiety, it is really nice to see when the needs of the whole child are considered when treating medical injuries or illnesses.
Thank you SickKids for providing the opportunity for my family to do something to honour the true spirit of the holiday season. For more ideas on how you can help, check out The Huffington Post Canada, to see how other families have chosen to give back.