I can’t wait
[This tale is running in the print edition of the Chronicle, but they don’t have it online yet. Enjoy!]
DaddyTales: Christmas Surprises
By Patrick Matthews
I love Christmas. I love the traditions, the presents, the sense of anticipation, the whole thing. Most of all, though, I love the surprises.
Every year, Christmas brings us new surprises.
When my oldest was little, the surprise was that he didn’t care about his presents. That one wasn’t so great. Discovering that he was happier unwrapping toys than playing with them left both my wife and I feeling more than a bit disappointed. We had, after all, spent a great deal of effort finding the perfect presents. Instead, we should have just wrapped a bunch of empty boxes.
Subsequent Christmases have been significantly better, particularly as the kids have revealed new quirks and interests.
Last year, for example, Santa brought our three year old a red bike with training wheels. After the little guy unwrapped it, he climbed on and stayed on. He didn’t pedal, but just sat there. When we brought him his other Christmas presents, he balanced each on the handlebars to unwrap, and then handed it back to me to put on the floor for him.
He spent almost the whole morning on his new bike.
My father had his own happy surprise that morning, when he unwrapped a wooden airplane that the boys (and their mom) had spent the previous weeks making for him. It was the only moment of the morning that pulled my youngest off his bike. He hopped down and ran over to show my dad how it worked.
“Look, grampa,” he shouted. “The wheels move – and the propeller moves!”
“Yeah,” my oldest said. “But don’t throw it. It doesn’t really fly.”
“Oh no,” his younger brother nodded seriously. “Don’t do that.”
My dad agreed, trying to look serious, but unable to control the renegade grin that had taken over his face.
My oldest’s surprise last year was a bit more sobering. He was in full gift comparison mode, checking everything he received against his younger brother’s pile of gifts. Since he received nothing on par with a bicycle, that approach left him somewhat disappointed. I’m hoping he also learned something.
This year, however, the big guy has left that Christmas disappointment behind. Instead, I’ve been watching a Christmas transformation take place. It started a few days ago, when I was cleaning the living room.
An outburst of crying exploded from the kitchen, followed by my six year old running towards me. He held a plush toy car in one hand and his favorite plastic mug in the other.
I caught him in a hug. “What happened, big guy?”
He sniffled back his tears. “He looked! He looked at my presents!”
“Presents?” I asked.
He pushed away from me, holding up the car and the mug. “Yes! I was wrapping these up to give them to you and mommy – but he looked! It was going to be a surprise.”
“Oh, big guy,” I said, giving him a hug. “You don’t have to give us those. Those are yours. I’ll take you shopping next week – just the two of us – and you can pick out gifts to give.”
“But I want to! They’re really nice!”
“You keep those,” I said. “We’ll go shopping together.”
“Okay,” he sniffled. He turned and slumped off towards his bedroom.
The next morning, I noticed two little wrapped packages under the Christmas tree – our first two of the season. They were too small to be his mug or his stuffed car, but the wrapping had clearly been done by six-year old hands.
That evening, another little mystery package had joined them beneath the tree, and yesterday I spotted the big guy carrying wrapping paper back to the closet where we keep it.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Oh nothing,” he smiled. “But it’s a surprise.”
I can’t wait.