This I Believe

Kathleen - Bloomington, Indiana
Entered on January 9, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
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Giving Comes Naturally

I had just collapsed onto the sofa and was ready to read quietly with my five-year-old daughter.

“Mom,” she asked, “where did Dad go?”

“To Target,” I said.


“He’s returning those pots.”

No sooner had the words left my lips than she started sobbing and slapping my arm with her hands.

“No!” She said. “He can’t take those back! Call him! Tell him you want them! Tell him to come home!”

Saying that my daughter was proud of the Christmas present she and my husband had given me is an understatement. Together, they had giddily placed the oversized red package under the tree. When I finally opened it on Christmas Eve, they had both watched eagerly. I had feigned more delight than I felt.

Now I calmly listened. Through tears and gasps for air, my kindergartener kept insisting, “We looked all over Target for the perfect Christmas present! That was it. That was it!”

I tried hard to reason with her. I didn’t need four new non-stick pots. I showed her that there was no room for them in the cabinets. I explained that only two pots at most warranted replacing. Phasing out any more would be wasteful, as would keeping a set I didn’t need.

She wasn’t buying financially-driven reasons or even environmentally-friendly ones. So I went for the practical.

“Honey,” I said, “the pots have glass tops. I would break those so easily. And if I didn’t, your little brother surely would.”

That’s when she really lost it. “Mom! I picked those so that you could see the food!” She cried harder and leaned into my side.

After several seconds of no talking, she looked up at me with puddly eyes. “Mom,” she said, “pretend that you were Santa Claus, and you gave me an American Girl bathtub, and I decided I didn’t want it. How would you feel if I gave it back to American Girl?”

Ouch. That smarts.

I flashed back to a few days earlier. During an afternoon spent shopping, my mother had purchased a wallet. One minute and one transaction later, my daughter bought a pad of paper. When the younger received two quarters in change, she politely insisted that her grandmother put them in her new wallet. Equally politely, my mother refused, urging her granddaughter to keep them. That’s when my daughter, unable to understand why her grandmother had rejected her gift, became unglued.

Back on the sofa, my daughter reminds me again of something I came to believe only through parenthood – children are born givers. Consider my son, who at seven-months-old tried to stick his pacifier into my mouth as we snuggled at bedtime. A few months later, this same child toddled to me, unfurled my fingers, and proudly placed a soggy Cheerio in my palm. “Mama,” his face said, “you really should try these.”

I believe children need to give just as much as adults do. I, for one, could do a better job of receiving.