When I was very young - perhaps six or seven - we had a gift exchange at school for Christmas. I don't remember what I bought or gave to the person I was assigned, but I still remember distinctly the gift that I received and I can envision it in my head if I close my eyes. There's a good reson for that.
I was disappointed when I opened the gift. I don't think I made that ovvious, but I know I didn't show any excitement or get worked up over it. It was a small metal bracelet with a yellow and orange plastic flower on the top - the kind of bracelet that's a fixed round shape with an opening to squeeze it over your wrist. Anyway, it just wasn't my type of thing and I was not terribly thrilled with it, I remember that.
But that's not the reason I remember this gift so well. The reason I remember it is that I learned an important life-lesson at a very young age because of that gift. Because a few days after I received it, my mother asked me about it. I hadn't even shown it to her because I just wasn't very happy about it and it didn't seem important to me. I told her it was in my room. She went on to tell me that she had been speaking to the boys mother (the boy who had given it to me) - they were family friends and I was very fond of the boy because we spent a lot of time together while our parents socializer - we were good friends. Anyway, her friend told her how her son had agonized over the choice of this gift, wanting to get just the right thing and worrying about whether or not I would like it, because we were friends and he cared about making me happy. Even at my young age I was totally guilt-ridden when I heard this story. I knew I hadn't been properly appreciative and I knew I should have made sure to hide any disappointment I may have felt when I saw it.
I've never forgotten that occasion in my life and I probably went way over the top when my own kids were young, stressing to them how important it was to look excited and show enthusiam for any gift they received because the people who had given the gift deserved that. I reminded them how hard they worked on choosing or making gifts for family members every Christmas, and how they wanted the recipient to be pleased with their choices. And I myself try hard to show my joy at every gift I receive, whether it fits or not.
Isn't it interesting how the lessons we learn at a young age seem to stay with us forever? I guess that's where good parenting comes in. Sometimes as parents we think we don't have all that much influence on our children. But perhaps we do.