"Covet earnestly the best gifts; and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way."
Almost from the moment our Christmas tree was up this year, my children were begging me for wrapping paper and tape so they could start putting presents under its welcoming branches. My young children. Who have no money for gifts and lack the creativity and ability of my older children to make worthwhile gifts. Needless to say, I put them off, hoping they would forget and stop bothering me about it.
But they didn't. Their pleas became more persistent as the days before Christmas disappeared. So, finally, I granted their requests, pairing the youngest two with an older sibling to help wrap the "presents." Before I knew it, an array of odd-shaped, hastily wrapped gifts appeared under the tree.
On Christmas morning, I was relieved that my husband and I had the same idea that I did: get the gifts from the younger kids out of the way first. We began digging under the tree to make sure we had gathered them all and started passing them out, not really giving them the same attention we gave to the store bought gifts.
Unlike most Christmases where I was the one to hand the gift to the next recipient, this year my husband took on the responsibility, giving me a little extra time to catch expressions on my children's faces. As my youngest son tore the paper from his first gift, I happened to glance at my six-year old, the giver of the gift, and saw his face aglow with excitement. When my toddler finally pulled the well-loved stuffed animal from the paper, his older brother leaned close and asked, "Do you like it?" with the same excited light shining in his eyes.
We continued opening presents, and I watched, more amazed each minute. More of my six-year old's stuffed animals emerged from their wrappings, and with each one, he beamed with joy, sometimes sharing why he'd selected that particular animal for that person.
Hiding in the gifts from my five-year old were some of his treasured cars, chosen based on his siblings favorite colors. He grinned his shy little smile as each one was opened.
Then came the presents from my ten-year old. Old enough to know that her brothers didn't want any of her princessy, girly things, she created gifts out of sheets of college ruled paper. My husband received a maze, my oldest son a bull-fighting game with various drawings and characters. For me, she wrapped a piece of paper around a stick that made an interesting vibrating sound when I tapped it on things. And on her face, I saw the same smile, the pure joy that comes from giving, as everyone opened their gifts.
The gifts my children gave were not elaborate, and they were definitely not expensive. But they were true gifts from the heart. Thoughtful and selfless.
When I close my eyes and think about how wonderful our Christmas was this year, I see my young children's smiling faces as the presents they gave were opened. And I almost cry to think I tried to prevent them from experiencing the joy of giving.
I'm pretty sure I don't have so many kids because I have so much to teach them, but because they have so much to teach me.