The Joy of Giving

I like to have all of my shopping done before December 1. Our Christmas list is long, and I start shopping early in order to have it all completed. This, of course, includes gifts for our children. A few days ago I clicked the last “add to cart” on the last gift. I basked in the glory of being finished when a toy catalog arrived in the mail and somehow found its way into the hands of my children. Next thing I knew M had 5 things on her list, W had 13 (!), and they were starting to work on Baby J’s. I wanted to hit the Christmas brakes immediately.

Of course, none of these gifts were crossovers from the original ideas they had been floating. In reality, this year has been challenging enough given that W’s list included but was not limited to “a garbage truck I can drive down the street that does everything our garbage truck does and a jet pack.” Ok then. Fly high buddy. Additionally, he abruptly announced that the gift he had been talking about for months was no longer important to him. “Maybe next year for Christmas, Mommy.” I felt like I was playing Christmas Whac-a-Mole. And losing.

However, like all parenting challenges, this one held a mini blessing in that we immediately began reflecting on how to emphasize the true meaning of Christmas gifts with our children. I’ll note that we thought we had emphasized giving and gratitude not just during Christmas time but all year long, but I suppose that toy catalogs in the hands of a child are a powerful thing! So we talked with our kids and we reminded them that Christmas gifts are so much more than toys in a catalog. We shared that the true joy comes from giving to those who we love and care about and to those who need extra Christmas joy and cheer. We explained that part of the magic of receiving presents is being surprised by gifts that someone chose especially for us, and not just because it was on our list. Finally, we emphasized that Christmas was about love, kindness, and gratitude for all of our blessings, especially each other.

Christmas with littles is pure magic. It’s also a challenge to teach the reason for the season while balancing the experience of a day full of presents. For now, we continue to walk the line between those two as we work hard to teach humility and gratitude in our children. It’s not always easy, especially when toys are involved, but we are here for it and will continue to stay the course.

Meanwhile, if someone knows where to find a jet pack—send me a message.

Find the joy,


Jessica McCauley, M.Ed. is a parenting coach/consultant. She draws on her background as a Montessori educator and Child Life Specialist to help families navigate the challenges of the early childhood years. Contact Jessica at for more information or to schedule a consultation.