Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Hanukkah!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! For a Jewish kid, that is. Bambina is INSANE about Hanukkah, which is right on time seeing as she's five. It's wonderful to see her so excited to light the menorahs (we have 6 because I'm a light-up-the-darkness kind of girl) and to open her presents. The primary issue, as I suspect is the same for Christmas-celebrators, is allowing that joy about presents to be expressed without having it become the sole reason for the holiday. We had a few moments of joy-reducing drama the first night of Chanukah because she had no sooner opened her gifts, got giddy about them and played with them for 10 minutes, when she said, "I can't wait to see what I get tomorrow night!" Well, that didn't sit well with me one bit. Which I of course expressed to her in rather stern terms involving (perhaps unnecessary and as I reflect, overwhelming) sentiments like, "Ingratitude" and "Selfishness." Calm down, Mama. Settle down! So what I ended up saying after being ridiculously mad was, "When someone gives you a gift, you are to be thankful for it, and I know you are. But when you immediately start to talk about the next gift, it makes it seem like you don't really care about the gift you just got, and it can make you seem like someone who just cares about presents."

Well, duh. She's five. She just cares about presents. But you know what I'm saying. I'm trying to raise a human here, and that means she needs to learn things that can only be taught when she's still too young to understand them. So now we're practicing our "gift-receiving actions." Look at the gift, be excited (no acting necessary here), look at the person who gave it to you, tell them you love it, say thank you, hugs and kisses if appropriate, no discussion of tomorrow's gifts until tomorrow. In doing this exercise, I realized that kids really don't have this stuff innately, no matter how sweet they are; it simply has to be taught. A kid is all about the Id, right? Which is why grown-ups have to channel those impulses into socially-acceptable behavior.

So as mad as I was at Bambina, I realize now that she was just being five rather than demonstrating some profound failure in my parenting to date. I mean, now that I think about it, I turned out fine and I was as ungrateful as they came: my Mom had to rip up a thank-you letter I once wrote (at 5 or 6) because I ended the beautifully-written paean to the gift-giver with "Please give me more presents!"

Nice kid you have there, Mrs. Haggis.

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