"" Writer's Wanderings: Christmas Past - The Barking Gift

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Past - The Barking Gift

[This was a story I wrote a few years ago for my grandparenting column at Positively Feminine.org. It always makes me smile.]

It was Christmas morning. The night before, we had given reverence to Jesus, trying our best to put the emphasis on the “reason for the season.” Full of anticipation, my kids burst into the family room and then stopped short when their Christmas present barked at them. Tied to one leg of the TV was a black and white Beagle-Terrier mix puppy. It was the only thing we could think of that their grandparents had not already purchased for them for the holidays.

The dog received little attention that day and the weeks that followed. Instead, my kids played with all the toys that had come from my mother who collected their wish lists long before Halloween. Grandma brought the seasonal catalogs she received in the mail to our house for the boys to look over. She coined the term “wish book” long before JC Penney and Toys R Us used the marketing ploy. My mother always started shopping early, so by the time I got around to doing Santa’s work, my choices narrowed drastically.

While my mother’s heart was in the right place, beating her to the toy store became a contest the rest of the year as well. There were some things that we wanted to be able to do for our children. We wanted to provide their first bikes and their first baseball gloves—even if it meant having to save nickels and dimes to do it. We wanted to be the heroes in our children’s lives once in a while.

It took a lot of talking and negotiating to come to an agreement over the division of gift-giving responsibilities, but we finally worked out a compromise. The kids circled their desires in the wish books, and we met with Grandma before she started shopping and divided the list between us. Grandma got a few of the “hot” items and “Santa” got the rest.

It was not until I became a grandmother, that I understood my mother’s desire to shower gifts on her grandchildren. As a grandma, I want to see the delight in their eyes, to hear their squeals of joy.

I’ve used the same compromise with my grandchildren’s parents that worked with my mother. The wish list is made and divided for Christmas and birthdays. Often we celebrate the holiday after it has passed. When that happens, we try to buy something that compliments what they have already received—a cartridge for their computer game, extra clothes for a doll, more tracks or buildings for the train set.

The compromise has worked well. The excitement is still there, and I maintain the respect of my grandchildren’s parents who want to provide for their children as I once did for them. Besides, they remember the dog—the gift that kept on barking.

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