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Teaching Kids to Give Back

How to teach children to give back

I want the idea of giving back to be as core to my daughter's childhood as it was to mine. But when she was just a toddler I wasn't sure what sort of volunteering made sense. My husband and I decided to start small, by fostering kittens for a local shelter. Still, I figured Alcy, at age 2, wouldn't be soaking up civil concepts so much as simply playing with kittens.

Something was sinking in though. On her fourth birthday, after two summers of fostering dozens of kittens we'd dutifully returned, we took Alcy to the shelter to adopt a kitten of her own. All white but for a halo of calico, Alcy dubbed her Angel Love. On the ride home Alcy broke an uncharacteristic silence ("She never stops talking," my brother once remarked. "How do you know when to listen to her?") to ask: "Mom, another family took care of Angel Love when she was born, didn't they? So that we could have a good pet?"

P.S. Please don't fact-check this with my sister, Heidi (three of our fosters, Minnie, Jasmine, and Lady Sarah Love Pouf, ended up not back at the shelter but living with her in Rhode Island).

P.P.S. Or with my husband. He insists we took Alcy to the shelter that day to pet, not adopt, kittens. On the child's birthday? Come. On.

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