I especially remember one Christmas morning when my children were little. I had spent the wee hours of the morning wrapping presents, the ones from you know who. In doing so, I checked to make sure each child got the same number of presents. Even though they were different ages, I didn’t want one to feel slighted or treated unfairly if they counted and discovered the other had more. Because the presents were in large boxes, they didn’t fit into the stockings, so I just laid them out on the floor in a line from each stocking so it was easy to see whose presents were whose.
Christmas morning came early when the children ran into my bedroom and asked if they could open their presents. I got the camera and hurried into the family room to watch the fun and the delight on their faces. It is one of those special moments that only parents can truly appreciate to watch their children with Christmas magic all over them. Kristopher was two and a half and Kara was almost five. Kara systematically opened one present, held it up and smiled as she displayed it for a photo op. One after another, she opened her presents and repeated this ritual of posing for the snapshot. Suddenly I realized that I wasn’t taking any pictures of Kristopher. I looked at him to see what was happening and I had one of those paradigm shifts we talk about in the RCB parenting course. He had opened only one present; all the others were still wrapped, and he was happily playing with that present to his heart’s delight and blissfully ignoring all his other yet unopened presents. I said something like, “Oh, look, Kristopher, you have other presents to unwrap.” He replied, “But I like this one.”
I knocked myself on the head. What was I doing? I was teaching him how not to be satisfied with only one present, even if it was one he really loved. I was teaching him to expect a lot of presents in order to have a great time. I was ruining the moment he owned, that moment of being so content with what he had, of not being greedy or not being jealous of others who had more as his sister at that moment did.
I decided then and there to do something different next year that would counter this lesson. Little did I realize how different that next year would be! It was during that next year that the Center began and the children and I started going to school together.
Life proceeded, busy and fun, and before I realized it, it was December. We began making holiday decorations for the classroom and I decided to get a real Christmas tree for the children to decorate and enjoy in the classroom. We had great fun making the tree and our classroom beautiful. As Christmas approached, it was time for the school vacation and time to vacate the classroom. The children asked what we were going to do with our tree? It hit me. I knew what would be different this Christmas. We’d deliver our school tree to a family who otherwise wouldn’t have one. The children liked the idea, so I loaded the station wagon with the tree, and my little helpers, Kara, Kristopher, Justin, Rachel, and Paul. Off we went to downtown Palmetto to a neighborhood near the tomato-packing plant. I drove down a random street, parked the car at the side of the road, and the children and I boldly walked up to a house that looked like it didn’t have a Christmas tree. We couldn’t see any colored lights. The front door was open and through the screened door we could see several children taking care of themselves while their parents worked. Talking through the screen, I asked the oldest child if they had a Christmas tree. No, they didn’t. Would they like one? Yes, they would. So my little helpers and I unloaded our lovely tree and happily carried it, stand, lights, decorations and all, into this little deserving and needy home. My little helpers were all wide eyed as they saw for the first time a home whose interior was very different from any of theirs. They saw children who were their own sizes but who were taking care of themselves in the absence of their parents. They also saw children who became gleeful when their home, too, was graced with a real Christmas tree.
As we tree bearers returned back to school, the children were filled with questions about that other little house and its members. But we were all filled with something else, too. We were filled with a very special kind of joy, the joy of giving. Now that was a great lesson.
Director/Elementary 1 Teacher