My daughter loves Christmas. My husband and I try our best to keep the focus on Jesus’ birth but I’d be the first to admit that I have not been as consistent as I should have been. As a mom I get so excited when I see all the cute toys and things that my daughter loves and the delight I know she will get when she receives these things.
Months before Christmas 2014 I was already excitedly conversing with my daughter about the presents she hopes to receive. She was excited and I was excited to see her excited! We love spending hours in toy stores and we would make imaginary lists of things she’d like to receive. She ended up getting quite a bunch of toys that year and it seemed like what we did was harmless, until…
“Mom, I didn’t receive as many presents I liked this year”
I felt like a pail of cold water was poured on my head. I stared at her in disbelief. This is my daughter who thanked her aunt profusely upon receiving a plastic bag but now she’s complaining that she didn’t get as many presents THAT SHE LIKED? I was aghast. I am ashamed to say that I didn’t respond as well as I should have. I snapped at her. I alluded to her being ungrateful. She apologized and that conversation was soon forgotten by my daughter, but not by me.
I knew why my response was anger…anger is a topical emotion, there’s always something underneath it that’s more real. You know what was under my anger? Shame. Shame because I knew I did that to her. I knew that I made her focus on the material things that year. I vowed to change that in 2015.
When Christmas season started I did not ever talk to her about gifts she’d want to receive for Christmas that year. Not once. There was a time when we went to a toy store to get a present for someone else and she said that she’ll be asking for a certain Barbie she saw for Christmas. I told her “You can do that but there’s no guarantee that you’ll receive it. You know how you can be sure to get it? Save for it or work for it yourself.”
We stopped talking about what she’d want to receive instead we talked to her about the joy of giving. We talked about the happiness we saw in the faces of our relatives when they tried the cookies we gave them last year. This got Andrea excited (she really helped in making those cookies). So this year I asked her what she thinks we should give out. She chose our Oreo Cheesecake Cups. I told her I need her help in making them. She excitedly agreed. From the packaging, the creation, the purchasing of ingredients…she was part of it all. Come Christmas she was so excited to give out her treats to people! The people appreciated the treats and expressed their gratitude to Andrea. She was beaming! She enjoyed it so much that she wanted to start planning next year’s Christmas treats!
She still ended up receiving gifts she liked from relatives and she was filled with Joy. Because she didn’t have expectations every single present was a blessing and she was overflowing with gratitude. When we got home from the clan’s Christmas party she was so happy and tired. She was ready to go to bed but my husband and I stopped her. We said “Wait, you haven’t opened your present from us”. It was hilarious because her face was so shocked. She really didn’t think we had a present for her. Our conversation went like this:
Liv: Hon don’t sleep yet you haven’t opened our present for you!
Andrea: Huh? You have a present for me?
Andrea: (smiling excitedly)
Liv: You really didn’t know we had a present for you?
Liv: And you’re still so happy?
Andrea: Yes! I already have so many things I love!
(She received half the number of presents she received last year)
This really touched my heart. I saw firsthand the effect of materialism on our kids. When we make them focus on things and feeding their desires, they end up dissatisfied, discontented and unhappy. But when we shift their attention to serving and giving others they are filled with joy and a feeling of abundance. This is the beautiful irony of giving.