I sat holding my sobbing Wolf scout son this morning. His pack participated in a Secret Scout program and all month long he has anxiously awaited his treat’s arrival. Today is pack meeting, the last day, and still no treat. He is my child most full of wonder, most inclined to believe in any and all magic. He believes that when he puts on the Ironman costume at Halloween that some part of him might become Tony Stark; he believes that Santa will bring his heart’s desires; he believed that a Secret Scout would bring him a treat.
My daughter is participating in (far too) many gift exchanges in her various high school activities. One of her gift recipients requested a Beta fish. My daughter tried unsuccessfully to find a Beta fish and got him a gift card instead and has been dressed down by her ‘friends’ throughout the last several days for failing to get this boy the ‘only thing he wanted.’ So, we will go on another Beta fish hunt this week, in part to give this boy what he wants but (mostly) also to quell the voices taking offense on his behalf.
Offense, I heard once, is someone being unwilling or unable to give you what you need. In this season of gift giving, the possibility for offense is rampant. It is so easy to get caught up in our own wants and needs and fail to see that we are receiving a gift and to accept it as given. Sometimes that is a mantra of mine—to accept the gifts being given—because of my own tendency to find offense whether or not any is intended.
My boys and I had a talk about how hurt my Wolf was to be forgotten. I asked them to remember this feeling, to try very hard not to give anyone else cause to feel this way. They will have constant opportunities for gift giving, for assignment and stewardship fulfilling. They need, we need, to remember how much it hurts to be forgotten, left wanting.
But they will cause others to feel hurt, even if they never leave an assignment undone or a gift ungiven. Some gifts we give with the best of intentions are received with offense, because they weren’t what was needed. Sometimes we speak unknowingly or even thoughtlessly and cause offense. Sometimes we can’t find the Beta fish.
I’m left wondering at the right emotional position to take. I know that I can’t (and shouldn’t) shield my children from all possibility of disappointment. I can’t (and don’t want to) give them everything they want, but I try to give them what they need (knowing I sometimes fail miserably). I want to foster emotional self-reliance and that means that they need to experience and learn to process disappointment. Secret scouts and youthful gift exchanges seem like sure occasions for disappointment that offer no real benefit, but isn’t learning to give gifts, to try and meet someone’s needs and wants, important emotional development as well?
How do you foster emotional self-reliance in your children, in yourself?
Are you a good gift giver; a good gift receiver?