From Ugly Ornaments to Real-Live Parent Gifts!

Christmas, birthdays, and holidays in general, are changing a lot in my household. It has always been about making the most of these big days. Presents, decorations, and making things extra special was all that mattered to us. One thing we, as parents, have inculcated to our children is that it is so very necessary to celebrate important days. These are the days that really matter in life. The celebration and the togetherness matter most.

Over the years we have been consistent with this message and the rituals of birthdays, anniversaries, and every single holiday. We even have an annual fall celebration before back to school night. We light a special candle. A purposeful conversation is had at bedtime. We celebrate in intentional ways, whether it is in the honor of one’s birth, a union made, or a holiday we share with the rest of the world.

This last Christmas was very different for us as parents for many reasons. Each one of our boys, 15, 13, and 8 years old, did things just a little bit differently this year. The subtle differences really touched our hearts in three distinctly different ways.

The morning was extra special because, for once, there were presents FROM the kids TO the parents. My kids have always been the receivers. Two out of our three boys intentionally purchased presents for us for the first time ever. They were extra excited about the small presents they had placed under our tree.

Apparently, our 13 year old had saved up very small amounts of occasional money from us. He doesn’t receive an allowance because, in our home, chores are routinely done because we all do our part to keep the family humming. But we also have a seasonal, extra chore list available to the kids if they want to earn extra money of their own accord. Examples of the optional tasks include washing the car, gathering wood, or taking their younger brother on a hike in the woods. Unbeknownst to us, our 13 years had been saving up his money and planned ahead to buy us gifts. How much his gifts meant to us as we learned of his preparation and saving! In many holidays past, he had always wrapped up long owned CDs and books or various things around the house and presented them to us as we affected (faked) amazement to his giggled glee.

Our eight year old had been hard at work as well preparing his gifts. Without any prompting, he gently took each parent aside. He wanted secretly to go to the store to “buy” something special for each one of us. For the first time, he wanted to GIVE rather than just merely RECEIVE. Warm, fuzzy socks for mama and a nice tea for Papa.

Ok, so check, two boys had finally shown what we had been trying to teach them for all of their years. The art of giving was catching on amongst the ranks. Then there was our 15-year-old. He is our only child who had really had any kind of income this year. He had started last spring babysitting for a friend of mine. Each Saturday, my husband would deliver him to her house at 0600. He was also doing yard work for two elderly members of our church. His newly opened saving’s account began to fill up fast. Not to mention summer grass cutting. He had grown into quite the entrepreneur! Much aided by the relationships formed and encouraged by his two parents.

So, Christmas morning comes and we are so surprised by the gifts from our younger two children. The long-awaited morning has come and gone and we relax as its glow finds us relaxing in chairs, watching our kids all enjoy their gifts. My eyes come to rest on our oldest and I start to wonder why he hadn’t thought to get anyone gifts this year. We never expected gifts from our children but now it stood out in contrast to the kind deeds of his younger brothers.

We quietly discussed it as the boys were enjoying brunch and we realized that maybe he was more forward thinking, as a teen so close to that next big step. Was he planning for that first a car or a phone? Or maybe he was just a “typical” teen, a little more self-centered than the rest of us.

Regardless of what it was that made the difference, all three of our boys had presented us with a very different Christmas holiday this year. Our boys were showing signs of maturing. Showing us that they understood the importance of celebrating the special days. They were finally showing their understanding of giving rather than receiving.

Those days of hand-made ornaments are disappearing fast. It is such a parenting step. We are proud that our boys are growing up and in a giving manner. Our 15-year-old is learning that he will be out in this world before he knows it and he is preparing. We have grown and grown these boys to men since day one. Christmas morning was a small but very important step closer to that future for all of us.

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