“I just have to get this for little Tommy, he will just love it! Now I need to get something more for Suzzie or he will have more than she does.”
My parents didn’t keep Christmas fair for their five children. I’m sure they were tempted to, and I’m sure there were times when our complaints about the sibling who got the most gifts made them feel bad, but instead of giving into our (and society’s) pressure they responded with a non-apologetic, practical answer. “He needed the bike. You all already have bikes. This is his big year.” As children, we may not have known it, but we were learning powerful life-lessons from this response.
I will never forget my junior year of high school, when my parents made that Christmas my “big year.” I felt extremely humbled as I opened the beautiful ring they bought me. I knew we were in a very difficult season financially and I couldn’t believe they spent the money on me. The only thing I remember my brothers opening was sox! I don’t know how my siblings felt toward me that year, but I do know that if they felt it was “unfair,” they didn’t show it. Instead they joined with my parent’s attitude of joy in showing me the “favor” this time. Yes, a ring is a luxury and probably the last thing that would ever make the boys jealous (and my sister was only a baby), but I think they knew how badly I needed a boost in my moral. I was going through a major transition with our cross-country move. While it was a big change for all of us, I was the only one who had to leave a boyfriend and change high schools in the middle of my field hockey season.
Because that Christmas was “unfair” I felt the love and support of my family in a huge way. My parents’ confidence and bravery to appropriately show each child “favor” taught us to have compassion toward each other’s needs, not just our own. Recognizing where each child was at emotionally, physically, (and later, financially) and blessing them according to their need has been a powerful example in my life that I want to follow.
They say Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year” but not if we are striving and comparing.
How silly it would have been for my bothers to demand they also got a ring just because I had one! Yet, it seems to me that not only does this generation demand what their siblings and peers have, their parents give in to the pressure to keep everything fair. I feel the pressure, too, but to be completely honest, I feel it more from my peers than I do my children.
My kids know life is not fair. My parents have been a great influence on them as well. I have witnessed them experience the pain of living unfair lives. As much as I want to ease their pain and make everything better, I know that the tough lessons in life have to be learned the hard way. Of course each of us apply our life lessons differently–according to our personalities, maturity and emotional state. Yet I can’t help but wonder: if my parents had not been confident about how they handled gift-giving, who would I be today? One thing I am quite sure of: enduring the grief of losing my daughter at the same time two siblings celebrated their new babies’ would have been far harder if I had been taught to compare my life to theirs. Instead, that year my family claimed Romans 12:15 as our life verse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15
How foolish I would have been to think it unfair that my brothers were given a baby when mine was gone! And how foolish it would have been for them to sacrifice their joy just because I was in a season of grief. Yet this is the mentality we teach our children when we strive to make everything fair between them.
The root of all unhappiness is comparison.
I look back now at the unfair Christmases in my life and know that, without a doubt, my parents’ love was consistent and dependable no matter what was wrapped under that tree. I am so glad they gave according to our needs. Life is never going to be fair. I want my kids to be equipped, like I was, to deal with the adversities they will face with the confidence of knowing that no matter what circumstances they face, God’s love is still consistent and dependable.
One person’s joy should never have the power to deepen my sorrow!
As we begin our Christmas shopping this year, I encourage you to join me in allowing love to lead us in making our purchases. Let’s not give in to the pressure to spend equally. Let’s not put a dollar value on the gifts we offer. Instead let’s look into the hearts of those we love, bless them according to their needs and be a great example of consistent and dependable love.
Catrina Welch is an inspirational author and speaker whose passion is empowering women and girls to BE and LET BE. Her expertise as a cosmetologist, image consultant and Biblical life-coach, as well as her personal experiences with abandonment and grief make her message relatable to anyone dealing with rejection, betrayal or loss.
Her latest book, CONFIDENT BEAUTY: Reflecting the One Who Made You, with the Images in your Mirror and in your Soul, will soon be available as an audiobook. Autographed copies of all her books are available on her website at www.CatrinaWelch.com