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Teaching Grace

I learned very quickly after my sister was born when I was 10, that Christmas with children can be a magical time. But it can also be a time of great strife, when one would sooner set themselves on fire then deal with the wailing and whining of what they want and when they can open the presents.

I wasn’t a wailer, I was a sneak, and quickly found my presents in whatever lame hiding place my parents had thought would keep them secret from me.

After having a child, however, the mild sense of annoyance of my sister sitting with a pile of presents bigger then she was, while mine was much smaller, paled in comparison to dealing with a child I had created that was aghast that he could not open packages that clearly had his name on them. That complaint has not lessoned over the years, but has grown until this year; I have threatened to take every present wrapped under the tree back to the store, and tell his creepy elf on a shelf to have Santa skip our house. Harsh, but it did the trick. Kind of.

My child’s birthday is just two weeks before Christmas – it’s today, actually. But that makes no difference to a little boy who wants those sweet, sweet presents under the tree. I see it on his little face – they taunt him, call to him. I’ve watched him walk over and gaze at them lovingly. I’ve seen him cut his eyes at me, wondering if he could get away with opening one and not having me notice that a present was missing AND that he was playing with something new. It’s a good thing he’s smart and knows that would be a very unwise move on his part.

And because his father and I are divorced, he gets two sets of presents – one from Mommy, the other from Daddy, plus grandparents, aunts and an uncle. The kid doesn’t lack for anything, and I know he’s probably a little spoiled. I don’t mind that so much, I’m spoiled too. But in an effort to make sure he realized that while it was okay he had things, but not okay to demand and whine for them, and think presents were his due for being born as adorable as his mother, I decided to be mean.

Not intentionally or anything, but I hate that sense of entitlement so many kids have. You see it on Buzzfeed and Tumblr, the Facebook posts and tweets from horrible children, complaining that Christmas was simply ruined because they got a Kindle instead of an iPad and because their iPhone wasn’t the right color. The ones where they brag about the tantrum they pulled on parents who probably feel bad that the thousands they spent on their precious angel baby wasn’t enough. We don’t play that game in my house, and my kid is smart enough – thus far – to get it. I will take your stuff in a heartbeat and not feel even a little bad.

So this year we did things a little differently.

After squawking about opening presents, and attempting to tell his father on me for being such a mean Mommy and not allowing  demon boy the ability to open presents the first week of December, we had a come to Jesus meeting in our house. Now he doesn’t ever realize it, but I always purge his toy box and give to Goodwill this time of year. Not to teach any lesson, but simply because he has too much stuff that he never plays with, that some kid would love. I never mention it; because this is a child that will be incredibly offended if he sees I’ve thrown away a pair of socks with a hole in them, all because they are “his.”

This year, the brattiest kid in Covington got to go through his toy box – at first begrudgingly, I’m sure thinking every mean thing his little mind could conceive about me – and purge it himself. Attempted trickery of giving away broken McDonalds toys and random pieces of games were caught early on, and eventually, with a lot of talk about how lucky he was and why it was bad to be a selfish jerkface, he actually kind of got into it.

See, we always do an Angel Tree thing, but this was different. It was HIS stuff. In the end, he was actually being a nice little boy about things, and I was amazingly proud of him. And I told him so, as he beamed and narrowly avoided decapitating the cat by tossing some large action figure across the room into the give pile.

Has this stopped him from wanting every toy with a jingle on the television? Heck, no! He’s my kid after all, and he likes fun things. I get it. But he also, just a tiny bit, is beginning to realize that while he might be the center of his family’s life, no one else owes him anything. And that the elf he hates so much WILL tell on him. Whether it’s the elf or him growing up into a nice child, who knows? Check back with me next year.