Many winters ago, I sat all three of my children down in our kitchen and handed them each a piece of paper and a crayon.
Their task: to write down their Christmas list.
Little heads went down, and in retrospect, I am imagining a beautiful cascade of snowflakes parading past our windows. It rarely snows on our island, but hey, it sure makes for a sweet vision.
Sacred silence wrapped up the kitchen as all three laid down their wishes on paper—wishes which, I was hoping, would be on the budget-friendly side of my mommy spectrum.
After a few minutes of super-focused attention, my youngest son looked up and asked: “Mom, how do you spell ‘Wade’?”
I was confused. Wade was his best buddy and our frequent overnight guest, as his mom was often gone or busy. For a second of horror, I imagined that maybe Costa wanted Wade for Christmas. Being trained in the fine art of “wait-till-you-know-for-sure,” I willed my eyes to not get big, I cleared my throat, and I asked Costa why he needed to spell his friend’s name in order to write his Christmas list.
That’s when his eyes got big.
“Mom, Wade’s my best friend. Of course I want to get him a Christmas present!”
That’s when I got it.
My son, at six years old, was making a list of what he wanted to give to the people he loved.
That’s what he thought writing a Christmas list was all about.
Boy did I feel unenlightened and slightly dirty.
I think that as parents, we tend to think that we are the teachers, and that—if we are lucky and do our job well—our kids will allow us to teach them all the good stuff we have learned ourselves: table manners, how to send a thank you note, and how to grow up and be kind and get work that feeds them and makes them happy. Which is, in part, true.
And yet, this one-direction flow is so limited, especially since so many of us continue to do a whole lot of growing up alongside our kids.
Here are a few potential game-changer questions:
>> What if we agreed to propose a little less, and listen a little more?
>> What if we truly wondered what gem was going to come our way from our children’s mouths today? Stuff we could actually use and learn from, not just smile about?
>> What if we trusted them with the bigger questions, and put aside their size and numbers of years on the planet, and really considered their answers, their solutions?
>> What if in doing so, we put down our big, heavy parent suitcase and rested for a while?
As the holidays barrel our way, we may still be able to get back some of that magic we are looking for all over the mall—some of that beautiful essence which our hearts often miss around this time—just by following our children’s lead, instead of exhausting ourselves by thinking that we’re the boss of Christmas—and life.
Author: Laura Lavigne
Image: A Christmas Story (1983)
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren