This time of year stresses me out. I know it shouldn't and I wish it didn't, but it does. I threatened to postpone Christmas this year because I was simply not ready. If I had it my way, all my presents would be handmade, but as my children become teenagers, toys are replaced with all sorts of electronical gadgets. I can figure out how to make a teddy bear, a knitted strawberry, maybe even stilts, but I can't knit an ipod.
It wasn't so much that I wasn't ready for Christmas and the gift-choosing or gift-making, but rather I was not ready to let go of my gift giving principles. I know that I needed more time to acclimate myself to the idea that my children would actually prefer a bought gift over a handmade one. They even said so albeit in a loving way. They knew they were treading on dangerous ground because this Mama does not let go easily.
You see, when I find of nugget of wisdom that I really really like, I latch on to it, and I fight to let it go. For 25 years I have held (perhaps too tightly) to Emerson's idea of the ultimate gift: "the only gift is a portion of thyself." My understanding of this piece of wisdom is that we give what we can from who we are. A farmer gives food. A florist gives flowers. A baker bread. An artist gives her art. A teacher her knowledge. A mother gives her love and patience, time and support. In essence, I give all the time to my children and perhaps this is really the point of Emerson's wisdom. Share your gifts with the world. Whatever it is, share and share again. My desire to make my gifts comes from my desire to share my skills and my creativity. But there is another component of this giving that needs exploring. Instead of seeing this as a letting go of my principles, maybe my principles just need some expansion.
A few weeks ago, my daughter was crying to me about gifts. As Christmas was approaching it seems she too was having some thoughts about gifts. Her perception is that she always gets clothes or objects that seem to be a second thought. Without wanting to sound selfish or ungrateful, she wants a toy, a gift card, or a cd like her brothers receive, but more than that, she wants to be known. I understand.
Gifts sometimes have a way of locking us into a certain identity. I remember that well into my twenties my mother gave me gifts that had to do with teddy bears. I wanted to scream, "Don't you know me? I am older now. I have changed. I want you to know me, the real me." Now I see that perhaps like me, my mother was having a hard time letting go of an particular idea of me. She still saw me as her child when I wanted to be recognized as my adult self.
So while handmade gifts might be a way for me to give of myself, as well as reassuring me that I am living authentically, I am beginning see that gift giving has even greater power. Gifts have a way of saying to someone, "I see you. I am listening to who you are."
Under our tree this year there were bought gifts for my children--an ipod, stilts, a lego set, and a marble run. Nothing I could make, but gifts I had put time into choosing. I hoped that my children could hear my one silent message: I know you and I recognize who you are becoming. My ideas of you and my ideas of you and me are expanding, and that feels right.