The joys of giv­ing grow as we get older


Our youngest daugh­ter can be stub­born about re­ceiv­ing gifts and I told her so. She took it well. “Where do you think I get it from?” she asked. “I’m not stub­born when it comes to re­ceiv­ing gifts,” I said. “I used to be, but not now. I’m gra­cious.” “And you’re hum­ble!” she cack­led. She has a birth­day com­ing up and we want to get her new boots, cow­boy boots. All the fe­males in our fam­ily have cow­boy boots. We con­sider them a sta­ple — like choco­late. She is mar­ried, has lit­tle ones and, like many young moth­ers, fo­cuses the bulk of her time and ex­haus­tion on oth­ers. Boots are not cheap, but we wanted to do some­thing spe­cial, get her some­thing she could use and en­joy for some years to come. But she’s push­ing back, draw­ing a line in the sand — with old and worn-look­ing boots, I might add. I pushed back, she pushed back, and we are locked in a moth­er­daugh­ter wrestling match over stub­born­ness, re­ceiv­ing gifts with grace and how much is too much to spend on a spe­cial gift. She thinks we do too much. I used to think the same thing about my par­ents. My par­ents weren’t ex­trav­a­gant peo­ple whose giv­ing knew no res­traint, but they were gen­er­ous. They kept say­ing they en­joyed giv­ing, but I couldn’t hear be­cause I was fo­cused on money evap­o­rat­ing into the clouds. Years ago, I men­tioned to a friend that I thought my mother over­did when it came to gifts for our chil­dren. My friend, closer to my mother’s age than mine, looked at me with in­dig­na­tion and said, “Who are you to tell your mother what she can do?” I wanted to ar­gue with her, but I didn’t. I knew it was one of those mo­ments to file in my me­mory bank. I didn’t fully un­der­stand it then, but I un­der­stand it now — now that I’m a grand­mother my­self and older. The longer you live, the more you see how of­ten things go wrong. Mar­riages crum­ble, friend­ships are torn, fam­ily mem­bers be­come es­tranged and ac­ci­dents and dis­ease trag­i­cally cut lives short. There is a bro­ken­ness that per­me­ates much of life. So, when you see life go­ing well, fam­i­lies work­ing hard and grow­ing strong and chil­dren thriv­ing, you want to cel­e­brate. You want to ap­plaud. You want to buy boots. It took the sea­son­ing of time to help me un­der­stand that giv­ing is an ex­pres­sion of joy as much as it is an ex­pres­sion of love. I un­der­stand where my daugh­ter is com­ing from, but I also un­der­stand where my par­ents were com­ing from — a place of pure and sim­ple joy cel­e­brat­ing those mo­ments when life goes well.

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