Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Sunday, January 4, 2015


(Oh!   I did NOT intend to have this post-continuation take place in an entirely different year!  How mean of me.  Also, the OCD part of me definitely hates the loose end I left for myself.  Let's fix that right now...)

(Preface: I feel a certain amount of shame as I purge this post from my dark closet corners, right there next to the late thank you cards and my hoard of chopsticks and cookie cutters. I know this is a first world problem. I know that in the grand scheme, this is a ridiculous situation. I get how lame it all is. If you want to throw rocks at me, I'll supply them.)

Last year I gave Guy a book called A Christ Centered Christmas by Emily Freeman.  My darling husband, who has only read recipe books and  Harry Potter since finishing a bazillion college classes, not only read the book, but took up the challenge offered by Freeman to change the way we celebrate.  After overhearing his comment to his sister, my shame was complete.  "Let's do it," I said,"let's do Christmas the way you want to."

First, beginning 7 weeks before Christmas, we focused a Family Night each week on one figure traditionally represented in the nativity.  We began with Mary, who reminds us to ponder the birth of Christ in our hearts.  Each week, with the unveiling of a new figure in our nativity set, we learned new lessons; service, giving thanks, testifying of Christ's divinity.  On the week that focused on the Wise Men, we learned about the nature of the three gifts they brought to the Christ child.  Gold, a joyful gift that would have been given to a king, myrrh, a needful gift, used in cleaning and burial, and frankincense, a meaningful gift, an incense used in the temple.

The challenge for Guy and I was this; to give only three gifts to each child; one needful, one joyful, and one meaningful.  (Now if you are one of those awesome people who always understood the less-is-more concept of gifting, you will forgive my materialism and small mindedness. Trust me, I'm plenty ashamed. Three gifts is, I understand, A LOT. )

This new guideline didn't preclude any one gift we had ever given in the past.  It just meant that each gift should have real intention; a meaning beyond "I think so-and-so would like this".  It took a great shift in my thinking to undertake this change.  In the past, I thought about so many things that each kid needed and liked, and when I would find them at a good price, I was eager to provide.  I think if I had to distill my prior gifting philosophy, it would have been: "see how much I can get for as little money as possible". Part of that came from knowing we could not afford big fancy gifts, so, like an emotional eater, I tried to fill the void with quantity.  A cheap-gift smoke-screen. It was not intentional, and I only gained an understanding of my off-centered thinking in the past few weeks. Hi, my name is Laine, and I'm a twisted gifter.

With the new parameters, I would have to choose just one thing each child needed, just one they would have fun with, and just one that held some meaning to them.

The shopping looked very different this year.  Because of my memory problems and my fruitful ovaries, I had a spread sheet listing each kids' name, and columns representing the different gift types.   Guy and I spent a great deal of time talking before we even got into the car to begin our shopping.  We discussed the various needs and talents of the children.  We learned quickly that "meaningful" was often "joyful" too.  We also found it was sometimes hard to choose a needful gift out of the many needs of a fast-growing child.  It was hard to pass up the many little gifts that were cute, but totally unnecessary; gimcracks, I have learned they are called.  

We learned a few other things along the way, like that it's very easy to come up with a needful gift, but sometimes very hard to know that you have chosen something truly meaningful, and that there is not much that a one-year-old needs that doesn't fit in a C cup.

The gifts were a surprise in some cases.  Tessa's meaningful gift turned out to be sheets.  They had horses all over them, and she adored them (as we knew she would).  Ethan's was a soldering iron and a few small tools to help him with his computer building.  Adam's was a real risk.  Each day when Adam comes home from school I look at his left hand to see what new artwork he has done when he's gotten bored after finishing his class work.  Some days he has embellished his arm with gears and pulleys, other days with muscles and tendons.  I had the idea of getting him a new skateboard deck that was blank, and some paint pens so that he could create his own image.  I was worried, but I hadn't needed to be.  He was thrilled and has been carefully planning his design since then.

Meaningful. How rewarding to give a truly meaningful gift. It filled my heart. I think I'm definitely in recovery.

There was another surprise.  In our preparations, we talked to the kids about choosing meaningful gifts for each other as well.  We had them decide what they would get before we left to go shopping, and I took each kid out one-on-one to make their purchases.  They started paying more attention to each other's likes, and on Christmas morning they were far more excited about what they were giving than what they might receive.  I was proud of the way my kids focused on each other, on strengths and talents, and on individual personality traits.  There was much hugging.  It was awesome.

When all was said and done, the depth of enjoyment over each carefully selected gift replaced that awful guilt I typically have on Christmas morning over my usual over-indulgence, and eliminated the feeling of gift inadequacy.  The concern over making sure that the kids had been treated equally evaporated, because there is no way of comparing horse sheets to a soldering iron, and no need to try.


Madelaine Sanderson said...

A very sweet and heart warming post!

jstme said...

Thanks for sharing!!
and inspiring so many, I'm sure.
with Christmas such a long way off,
there is time to convert one's thinking.

Jeannie T