Ah, the joys of being a grandparent at Christmas. It's like being a parent, only magnified. My kids are both adults now, and I miss their little selves; there is nothing like seeing the faces of children at Christmas - children who still believe in miracles, in magic, in things they can't rationally explain, in pure awe. Of course, my kids have blessed me with two grandchildren each, so Christmas is again a time of wonder as the family with the "little ones" convenes on Christmas Eve to exchange gifts.
It's not so much a problem with almost-1-year-old Emily, or even 3-year-old Joshua, because they can't count perfectly yet. On top of that, it would never occur to them that one of their cousins or their own sibling might, just might, have opened more presents than they did. But nevertheless, I try to keep all my four grandchildren equal in the gift-receiving department. I can remember Matt and Rachel when they were adolescents - making their piles of gifts, and let me tell you, they had better come out equal. Older kids don't realize the visible inequality of several inexpensive gifts versus one costly gift. They can count, though. Their specialty is not counting money, but counting items!
I haven't seen that as much with my grandchildren, but maybe that's because I meticulously try to keep things coming out even. I can even beat them at their own game: I can keep the total number of presents to unwrap even, but put several different smaller items in one box, and they never know the difference. For instance, I got 10-year-old Caroline some art supplies on her wish list - colored pencils, a sketch pad, and a small blank canvas. They went in one box. That probably was worth approximately the same amount as 8-year-old Charlotte's Barbie thingamajig. But in their minds, they are each opening one present. Grammys learn this kind of trick early on.
Then, too, gifts tend to get more costly the older the child gets. That's something else the children don't realize. Even with all these things to keep in mind, my primary goal is to give my grandkids something that will make their faces light up - while keeping the whole situation fair.
The whole present thing made me think about my own life. One of my lifelong complaints has been, "But it's not fair!" Of course, that is usually when I've been given the short stick. I less often complain of things not being fair when the "victim" is somebody else. Actually, when I look at the all the gifts I have received in life - and obviously I'm not talking wholly material gifts here - I find the situation truly, horrendously unfair. So many people go without, yet I am clothed and warm and fed. So many lose their mothers before their time; mine is still here and thank God, still knows who I am when I call. And even though my dad died before we were ready, his love for me and my sister still pervades our lives. So many people grow up in abusive homes; mine was loving, patient, and compassionate. My parents encouraged us to appreciate great music, great friends, and great family traditions. My sister was and is a treasure. My cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles and beyond brought me boundless love. My friends have been faithful and supportive. So many people have unfulfilled wishes for children or grandchildren; we have two children and four grandchildren, all in good health. Both my kids married wonderful and compassionate spouses. My husband has been sober now for 29 years. So many people have no access to good education; I have had wise mentors and teachers who taught me everything from diagramming sentences to speaking French to playing piano and organ. So many people hate their jobs; yet I love my job and find that it uses all my strengths. I am in good health, I can walk, talk, hear, think, and create. I have been forgiven more times than I can even acknowledge. I have been praised and encouraged way more than I deserve.
So, no, life is so unfair! The things I return to the world will never, ever, equal the gifts I have been given in this miraculous life of mine. I think if a lot of us examine our own blessings, we will feel the same way. It will never come out even. I'm sitting here counting my "presents" and the pile takes up the whole area under the tree and spills out the front door in an endless march of blessings, and I sit silently in grateful tears.
Merry Christmas to everyone, and may your New Year be filled with awareness of the unfairness of life! Give, give, and give again - more of your money, your wisdom, your talent, your friendship, your listening ear, your patience - for although it will never come out even to what we have been given, our job is to do the best we can to get it as close as we can.