Sunday, December 19, 2010

The season of giving

I shouldn't declare victory this early, but it looks like I'm going to get all my handmade Christmas gifts made in time for the big day.  I'm on track to finish the second part of my mother-in-law's gift within 24 hours, and then there's only one more small thing to make before they arrive.

Getting them made is not the same as getting them under the tree, though.  We're planning on sending boxes of stocking stuffers and the few gifts we have to ship to out-of-towners tomorrow.  That gives them the whole week to reach their destinations, but I know that if we were more on the ball, we'd have sent them last week and not had to worry about delivery times.

Noel and I took the kids -- separately -- to pick out gifts for each other.  They have a "behavior fund" left over from last year when we were using monetary rewards to motivate Archer to stay engaged at school (and gave Cady Gray the same deal even though she didn't need the incentive).  We've treated it like a line of credit and encouraged the kids to draw $10 out of it when each other's birthday's came around.

They've been generally enthusiastic about giving to each other. And interestingly, even though we've never used Christmas or Santa as a threat to improve Christmastime manners, I've noticed a marked uptick in thoughtfulness in the last several days.  At bedtime recently, Archer blew past me into his room with the remark, "I'm going to clean up my Mario Party 8 level," a reference to little slips of paper denoting a Mario Party 8 gameboard he had scattered around the room.

Tonight, driving home after dinner out, I asked Archer if he'd let Cady Gray play Wii before bedtime.  "Yes ma'am," he said -- a phrase that we've never actively encouraged, and that I can't specifically remember coming out of his mouth before.  "Thank you, Archer," Cady Gray responded, and Archer replied, "You're welcome."  It sounds so ordinary, but emerging from the darkness of the backseat as we drove through the winter evening, it was like listening to an instructional film on childhood etiquette.

"You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry," as they say.  I don't think it's the notion that Santa is watching that is leading to all this niceness (only a slightly noticeable uptick, it must be said, from their normally sweet and loving dispositions).  Rather, the friendly spirit of the season seems to have made an impression.  More "friends shaking hands saying 'how do you do' / they're really saying 'I love you'," than the imagine of a naughty/nice list, I'd say.

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