You spend hours on a project, and your loved one is clearly not excited upon the reveal.
The cookie making experience you designed for your kids ends up with you yelling and your kids in tears.
You design a fun outing for your family, and the kids just complain the entire time.
The perfect gift you found on the internet? Not so perfect and the recipient is not impressed.
Frustration. Disappointment. Disgust. All of these feelings can pop up under these circumstances.
I have come up with many ideas to do with my boys over the years that have gone awry. Last week I was sharing with the moms’ group I help with that I medicate my children to go look at Christmas lights. Let me explain! Driving around to look at Christmas lights is one of my favorite traditions. My boys tend to get car sick, the oldest especially. A few years ago the boys put on their new Christmas pajamas, we loaded into the car with our homemade snickerdoodles and hot chocolate, then things went south quickly. We ended up in some stranger’s beautifully decorated yard gracing it with throw up. At the suggestion of a friend, I now give both of them motion sickness medicine before we leave so we can continue this much loved tradition. That little pill is an amazing gift!
So, I call it a much loved tradition, but my boys may tend to disagree. They probably wonder why I have attempted to torture them with this yearly ritual. This will likely be the first tradition they drop when they are older and on their own. At least this will make for funny stories down the road!
Here are some things to consider to help prevent those feelings of exasperation:
1) Is it just you enjoying the activity? Will others really enjoy it, too? Sometimes we project our own excitement on others unfairly, as in the above example.
2) Is what you are planning to do age appropriate? Your kids may end up bored with a trip to a Christmas harp concert, even if it seems like a fun family thing to do.
3) Consider reasons for the reaction of the individual. Maybe he/she was expecting something else. Small children especially can build up surprises in their minds to such a degree that literally nothing in reality could compare. I remember having a terrible reaction to a Barbie doll my aunt and uncle gave me for my birthday one year. It wasn’t because I didn’t like the doll, it’s because it wasn’t the exact one I wanted (which I ended up opening later from someone else). I cringe writing that.
Or maybe, like me, they are terrible receivers. I rarely show enough of an enthusiastic response. Just because I don’t bubble and spew over something doesn’t mean I don’t love it.
4) Remember life with children is difficult and organizing anything out of the ordinary can be chaotic. Just because it doesn’t go as you hoped, doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t worth it. I know I have memories of things that didn’t go well at the time, but as an adult I am grateful for my parents’ efforts. Sometimes the best memories are those that involve a little mess.
5) Prepare your kids for any kind of gift opening. Remind them to say thank you. Remind them to not freak out if it is something they already have. Encourage them to smile even if it is something they don’t really care for. Then hold your breath and don’t beat yourself up if they end up having a tantrum at grandma’s house.
6) Remember the real reason why you bothered. You put in the time or effort because you love the individual(s). That really is reason enough, even if things don’t go as planned. Just ask yourself if the pain is worth the gain before you set out on some grand plan.
We talk a lot about the importance of being grateful for what we receive, but I believe it is just as important to be a cheerful giver, in spite of the response. I’m not sure which one is harder: to be grateful for things we don’t want or cheerful in spite of when our efforts fall short.
I would love to hear your stories! We all have them, I’m sure.
Happy gift opening and tradition making during this season of holidays!
Image from freeimages.com.