[ 8 ] Comments

by Angie

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?


About Angie

I am a recovering attorney, mother of five children who are smarter than I am. I love to learn. I love to think. I love to read and I love to write.

8 Responses to Gifts

  1. Ramona Gordy says:

    What a good mom you are. Thank you, because I am reminded of my “childish” self, the one that always wants to appear this time of the year.
    I am striving to teach my “inner child” not to dwell on the “bad bits”, the hurts, the sucker punches, and the abusive behavior of all those I dwell with, whether at home, or at work or even at church. I am striving to overcome it and be like the Savior. I am trying to be like Jesus. He gave gifts to all men, liberally and with love. I am striving to practice forgiveness.
    So today is my office Holiday luncheon. I pray a lot about this occasion, there is so much negativity in my office and strife between co-workers and bosses. Sometimes it’s hard to even say “Good morning”. But I was reminded gently, that these people are God’s children and he loves them. And I tried to tap into that love and I found just enough to get over myself. Even if it’s just for today. It’s not the gift, but the giver of those gifts that matters, even Jesus Christ. We are the lights of the world after all.

    • Angie says:

      What a wonderful gift–enough love to see difficult people for the divine-in-embryo they are! It’s so difficult! I have been in offices like that and they can be very soul draining. I hope your holiday party is a peaceful and pleasant occasion this year, if only for this one day. Thank you for reminding to seek God’s love as the best of all gifts!

  2. Lisa says:

    I’m not one to give long eloquent responses, but I will say a few words. I feel as if your post left me think and soul searching. I sense a certain parallel between the gifts we physically give and the gifts we can give to our Savior. I most certainly do not want to leave Him wanting and disappointed, which prompts me to give the best possible gifts I can give.

  3. MB says:

    One of the finest things a disciple can learn in life is how to give without receiving in return: without receiving a gift in return and/or without receiving appreciation in return.

    God is the model for this. He loves, forgives and is holds no sense of being hurt by those to whom he has given the finest and hardest to give gift possible, resurrection, and who, in return, mock him, ignore him, and blame him for not making life as good/easy/peaceful/whatever as they would like.

    It sounds like your young son and your daughter have both been handed another of life’s many opportunities to learn how to respond in a godly way when their expectations of what they will receive in response to their participation and best, unselfish efforts, are dashed or they are reviled instead of appreciated.

    So, though this is an opportunity to teach children that they should always try to give freely and well, it is, as you allude to, an even greater opportunity for you to give them the gift of talking about how Jesus responded when the gifts he gave were unrequited or reviled, what knowledge and principles he employed so that he could respond that way, and learning the deep peace that comes from working with Him through such challenges.

  4. Liz C says:

    This is a deceptively hard question! Various thoughts:

    We try to foster an actual thought process in gift-giving, which requires a lot of parental mentoring and asking questions, and training very small people to really observe others, their needs, their wants, and how they feel and express affection.

    It’s really hard to see a child experience disappointment, but it can also be a pretty cool time to counsel together, teach about the peace that comes through trust in God (regardless of circumstances), and all the really key and foundational things that do set a child up for long-term emotional resilience.

    And sometimes, what’s really needful is to hold on to a struggling child, kiss them, smooth their hair, and tell them we’re sorry they’re hurting, with nothing more to be said or done.

  5. Emily says:

    I don’t know that this comment directly answers the questions, but it’s also something to think about. We do a family gift exchange as many families do and I asked a certain family if they had any requests. I got the reply, Well if we give you a $25 gift card and you give us a $25 gift card, why don’t we each just keep our own cards.

    I was kind of annoyed by that because over the last many years I’ve tried to connect to people by trying to choose good gifts, and I’ve tried to teach my children the same for their cousins in this case, and their friends.

    I feel that when we don’t give and we just think about ourselves all the time or make it some sort of equilateral exchange we lose touch with people. We lose connection. We lose individualism and kindness.

    Of course not all people put a lot of thought into gifts and sure we can find other ways to connect with people, but Christmas gift-giving is a great time of year to make these types of connections and teach giving to our children.

  6. Michelle says:

    This is such a hard balancing act. I’ve been trying to turn some of this on its head and talk about how ultimately, the greatest gifts will always be from God.

    For example, my daughter has been seriously pondering how to obey what Elder Ballard challenged us to do (something our ward leaders have repeated) — to find one person to reach out to by the end of the year to help them feel the love of the Savior. She’s been struggling at school and feeling like no matter what she gives or does, people continue to be critical and assume the worst.

    So I invited her to have that one person be herself. I think sometimes our kids need to be able to stop and consider the love God has for them. For me at least, that has been the critical missing piece of where I lacked emotional resiliency.

  7. ji says:

    It’s sad when gifts become expectations and burdens — but it is our reality. I have been considering gifts from a different perspective — for example, everything I receive at church is a gift from someone else — a sacrament speaker gives me a gift in his or her comments — a Primary teacher gives me a gift when occupying the time of my child. I don’t pay for these services, and any benefit I receive is a gift.

    Not every gift perfectly fits my needs, of course — some gifts I can immediately wear and some go into the closet — but if a sacrament meeting speaker says something I don’t fully agree with, or the organist plays too loudly (or too softly), or the Primary teacher plays hangman, well, I shouldn’t hate them — I should graciously accept the gift and move on in my own life of giving gifts to others.

    [I’m speaking of sincere gifts — not gag gifts and not gifts intended to shame.]

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