Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Best Gift

My daughter decided on the perfect Christmas present about a month and a half ago.

The only problem is her idea about the perfect Christmas gift -- a Nintendo DS -- wasn't in our plans or budget this year.

Back in October, we had opted for a larger family gift with few individual gifts for Christmas. The "we" who made this decision was Andy and me. Ashley, not being part of that decision -- and not really understanding quite what it meant, even when she was informed about it -- remained focused on a DS.

The first time she asked, I told her that I didn't think she would be getting a DS for Christmas. She just looked at me -- quite smuggly -- and said, "That's okay. I'll ask Santa. He'll bring one."

Each time the subject of a DS came up, I tried to prepare her for the reality that she would not be getting a DS for Christmas. And, each time, she remained confident that because she'd asked Santa, she would find a DS under the tree.

One of Ashley's greatest strengths is her boundless enthusiasm. And that has typically made her extremely easy to buy gifts for because she's always excited by whatever she receives.

But this was the first time she had ever staked her hopes so completely on a single wish. So I thought that this year would severely test her ability to be happy with whatever she has.

And, on top of her singular focus on a DS, Ashley has recently added a new act to her drama queen repertoire -- whenever she is in trouble or when things don't go quite the way she planned, she becomes teary and exclaims (multiple times) that "nobody in the family cares about me."

And so, I went to bed on Christmas Eve envisioning all sorts of meltdowns -- because there was no DS, because there weren't enough presents, because she hadn't been consulted on the family gift.

Christmas morning arrived. We opened gifts. And, Ashley was once again excited about each present she opened. After opening gifts, she moved into the kitchen to play with art supplies she had gotten.

And then she said quietly to me, "I didn't get a DS."

Oh, no. Here it comes, I thought. "No, you didn't," I replied.

"But I asked Santa for one." It was a simple statement, no whining, no attitude.

"I know, but you don't always get everything you ask for." I hoped my matter-of-fact tone would lessen the coming explosion.

But, to my surprise, she simply went back to her drawing. And the conversation was over.

Later, she showed me a thank you note she had written: Thank you for a very good Christmas. From Ashley. To Family.

"You had a fun Christmas?" I asked.

She nodded.

"I'm glad," I responded. "What was your favorite part?"

"All of it." Then she paused a minute and added, "But mostly the family time."

"Really?"

"Yeah, I like it when we get to have family time."

Me, too, kiddo, I thought. And shame on me for doubting her.

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