A Christmas Lesson

Unwrap a present.  Love the present.  Squeeze the present, sometimes too hard.  (We’ve broken a few before they ever made it out of the box over the years.)  After they process this new reason-not-to-do-homework comes the wisdom of children and their newfound loyalty.

“I’ll never ask for anything again.”

“Thanks, Mom, this is the _____________ I’ve always wanted!!!”  (Yet never knew existed until the paper had just been ripped off.)

“How did Santa know?”

“Can I eat the bow?”

“This is the best Christmas ever!”

Just when we’re checking temperatures, looking for hidden cameras and wondering when the aliens had come, it comes crashing down.

“Where’s my next present?”

The love is lost.  Worn off.  The package isn’t even opened properly yet.  The action figure’s only got one free arm.  The glittery lip gloss is all over my daughter’s face and somehow the cap is already lost.  IT’S ONLY BEEN 45 SECONDS.

A rushed “thank you” and what was unknown gets cast aside, now known.  The new unknown becomes more important, more thrilling, more attractive than the known.

At least that was my first impression.  I’d be lying if I said it didn’t aggravate me a bit.  I wanted them to dwell in the moment, if only for a few more seconds (at least five minutes.)  I wanted them to appreciate the thing in their hands long enough to read the words on the label.  After all, less than a minute before, it contained all their dreams and the entire world.  Now that it’s Legos, we’ve moved on to the next dream.

We gathered all the new toys and clothes in laundry baskets.  We discarded the wrapping paper, packaging and all the inadvertently lethal weapons they hide in those 7 layers of cardboard.

We left the kids to their new possessions to clean up the breakfast dishes and try to  restore the former glory and order of the living room.  Forty-five minutes later we could see the floor and feel normal again.  I topped off my coffee cup and sat down.

Andrew was playing with one of his super-hero toys.  He was flying the toy around the room making sound effects that I ought to market to Skywalker Sound.  He was shooting bad guys and rescuing good guys and… and he loved the toy.

Emma was already building a café.  The walls were up and she was detailing the inside.  I ordered a latte and she said “Dad, stop speaking Spanish.  You know it freaks me out.”  She began counting, “Uno.  Dos.  Tres.  Cuatro.”  She kept building and counting.  Block after block, she built the thing that was on the box.  She loved what she was doing.

I took a sip and learned a lesson.  They didn’t love the packages that I had wanted them to dwell on.  The package is not the thing.  The package is the thing that tells them about the thing.  The package is merely a the picture of the thing.

When the dust finally settled, it wasn’t the picture of the thing that they wanted or would ever want.  What they wanted was the thing itself.

Somehow, I’m supposed to be the one teaching them.



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