As I looked back at my entries in the 30 Days of Gratitude journal that celebrated the month of November, I was surprised to see that I was most appreciative of intangible “things”.
I was grateful that my husband returned home safely from business trips; thankful that my daughters’ ear infections went away; relieved to have been given a new project that promised a paid invoice by Christmastime. But as we move deeper into the gift-giving season, I should add an important footnote to my gratitude inventory:
I’m especially mindful that my two children rarely ask for anything.
Yes, I know my last blog post covered the story of Ava and Maryn finding their Christmas gifts. But, what I didn’t write about is that they didn’t ask for half of the stuff on the list. I prompted them, as I have to do every year. “Would you like to have a new bike? Did you see this cute little otter that claps his flippers when you talk to him?”
They smile politely and shake their heads in approval of the baby blue Schwinn and the baby harp seal. Then, I go out the next day and buy them. But they didn’t specifically say they wanted those things.
I’m blessed that I can take my kids into a store and walk around for 30 minutes without having to hear them whine about this toy or that game. The girls have never wanted anything, really, except experience. Ava and Maryn would rather go to the beach than press the fluffer-stuffer pedal at Build-a-Bear. They love concerts and amusement parks, and one of their greatest joys is exploring a hotel and splashing around in a heated pool. Expensive, yes, but also more meaningful. More memorable. And I’m indebted that their brains are wired this way…for now.
A little black cloud lingered over Thanksgiving Thursday — a twinge of sadness that the holiday wasn’t as important in our society as it once was. I commented to a friend on Facebook that Thanksgiving had become a buffet of carbohydrate-stuffed foods that provided fuel to help doorbusters fight their way through Walmart at 9PM. Thanksgiving is now about the feast, first of food and drink and then of material things. Merchants make us celebrate the day in August when pumpkins are plucked from the patch and turkeys take their place on store shelves. Have you ever tried to find a harvest-themed tablecloth on the Monday of Thanksgiving week? Forget it.
I’m not a procrastinator by any means. I shop for Christmas gifts year-round out of financial necessity and seasonal impatience. Few things are as unbearable to me than standing in line for hours, risking getting trampled by thrill-seekers racing to the Xbox display. Nothing on God’s Green Earth is that important to me and perhaps it’s because I’m not the competitive type. But above all else, I don’t want my girls to assume Thanksgiving is the day we express our gratitude for store discounts. Calling Black Friday “Gobble-Palooza” doesn’t change the way I feel, either.
No, my girls don’t write five-page, single-spaced letters to Santa, but yes, I admit they do ask for gifts that are rather significant.
“I’d like to have an American Girl doll and a bed for her to sleep in.”
“I want a monkey.”
A $95 doll and her $75 bed aren’t easy to pay for, and those 18-inch “babies” never go on sale. I have to plan ahead if I’m to grant these wishes, and I have to let them know that if Santa is able to deliver, there won’t be as much under the tree. Heaven knows a monkey is a hard beast to cage! But for some strange reason that I can’t explain — particularly since I was a “more, more more!” child at their age – the girls aren’t worried about coming up short. They’re content with what they have, and while we’ve provided well for them (and we’re grateful for our ability to do so), they seem to possess a peacefulness that we adults don’t have. We’re hunters — fighting for what we want and bargaining to get it for less.
It’s been a long time since I had one, simple Christmas wish. Even as a grown woman, I find myself sending Mike links to store websites that reveal a handsome, navy blue pea coat with matching boots. I still circle item numbers in favorite catalogs, dog-earing the pages that contain pretty necklaces that come wrapped in famous blue boxes. To this day, I suffer from Want Syndrome, yet my daughters – who are surrounded by advertisements and commercials — seem totally unaffected and rather unimpressed. Sometimes I wonder where they came from. But I know for a fact that I got the steal of the century.