In my flustered push and pull through getting Christmas together for my kids, I was trying to see if I missed anything from my kid’s wish lists. We were in the car and I asked my boys if there was anything else they wanted that they didn’t tell me about. They’re getting better at telling me what they want. For a while they were afraid to want anything. At some point I made them feel like wanting things was a negative feeling. At some point I taught them to function and live in scarcity, and I get to teach them to live abundantly as I learn it myself.
My oldest son looked timidly at me, then tried to tuck himself away shyly into his hands and shirt. My 15 year old reminded me of a turtle. I could see his fear and uncertainty, so I encouraged him to talk to me. He told me about a friend of his that wasn’t expecting much for Christmas. My son understood that his friend was living on very little income and he understood that because it has been our reality. He asked if he could buy his friend a $40 game and pulled a little wad of cash out of his wallet to show me he needed my support. I’ve been trying to teach them that they don’t need help. They don’t need me to rescue them. They could use my support though and I’m happy to offer it. They can be supported through their journeys, and here he was, putting that lesson to work. I asked what he was willing to do if I had said no. He said he was prepared to ask his friends if they would work together. I mean seriously? I get to raise this kid. I get to be this young man’s mother. That night we went to two Walmart’s and a Target. We also survived Kid3’s meltdown.
We got home and with my support, he wrapped it himself. Then I had a moment of fear and it became a lesson for my son, and a lesson to me. My lesson was how my past so strongly influences my future. For me to worry about a reaction I had received and given . . . my hang ups on gifts . . . I get to look at that. I get to examine and change things.
In talking to my son, I realized my fear was about the many times I had given or received a gift and the emotions that go with that. It was about the times I received a gift that wasn’t what I would have wanted, but something the giver would have wanted, without any thought to who I am. It’s more honest than polite people would ever admit.
I wasn’t always great at gift receiving. Especially when it came to my Dad. I was never satisfied with what he offered. He’s given me jewelry, and it was always large and not something I would ever choose to wear. I would accept it and complain later. I once asked for a keyboard so I could learn to play the piano. It came several years later, and in my teenage selfishness, I couldn’t appreciate it until my ex gave it to one of his friends. Now I remember that not every Dad is around or generous, or half the man my Dad is. His gifts are treasured.
When my boys were young, I would try to find gifts for them, and they would be more interested in the box, or smearing peanut butter and yogurt on walls, because sensory integration dysfunction is an adventure that way.
I remember one Mother’s Day I was so upset that I didn’t receive what I wanted. It was a few years in a row of receiving less or other than I hoped for. Honestly, I would have loved a solo hotel stay with a full Kindle and room service. I was very vocal about it too. But I was in my mood and pretty angry at my ex. This was about seven or eight years into my marriage. I remember being able to count off the ways I was disappointed until the day my son handed me a gift he made for me. That was when I realized receiving a gift was about how much I could show the giver their thoughtfulness was appreciated and I really didn’t have to be so selfish.
So back to my really considerate son . . . Here he was, about to gift a present to a friend and I worried about his friend’s pride in terms of the gift. I worried about it being something that wasn’t wanted, and I worried that my son’s generosity would become a source of pain for him. I will always want to protect him.
I told him to think of giving as the gift he was offering. He told me about a game he had given to his brother that was lost and how angry he was. I pointed out that once you give a gift, you stop worrying about what they’ll do with it. You give a gift as an act of love. You don’t worry about how it would be used or if it would be immediately discarded.
It’s too much to expect a gift to live the way you want it to and the greatest example is the life of a child. I gave the world my kids and it’s hard to accept the world might abuse my children and it’s hard to accept that my kids won’t always behave the way I want them to. I get to send them out after caring for them the best way I know how, and I get to hope there is enough love to cover them.
As I explained to my son, giving is about giving and not how it’s received. Once we give a gift, we don’t worry about how it’s received or what is done with it. We find our joy in thinking of someone else. We think of how much they’ll like the gift because we’re not giving what we would want, but what they would appreciate and find useful. However it’s received doesn’t matter as much as the love we put into giving it.
Then I told him to consider how much joy he found in thinking of his friend. I told him to think of that and consider how much others enjoy giving to him. I told him to accept gifts with that same feeling because of how great it feels to give. We would want others to experience our joy in receiving.