Yesterday was my birthday.
The day before I had to run to the local pharmacy. So, the kids giggled and whispered and ransacked their piggy banks to come with me and buy me a present.
I found myself wanting to tell them “no”. No, save your money. Don’t spend your Christmas money on me. Just draw me a picture or make me a card or something.
But then I thought, okay, I do things for them all the time. I can let them do something for me. I can let them see how they are useful, thoughtful and needed. I can let them feel their power to affect good for those around them.
And, really, this is actually the sort of behavior I want to encourage. I do want my adult children to remember my birthday and do something thoughtful for me. And since I’m not the sort of fool who thinks this sort of behavior automatically springs out of an eighteen year old heart, well, then now is the best time, when naturally outpouring from their generous little hearts, to build the habit. So, I let them bring their monies in plastic baggies.
At the store I found what I needed while my daughter followed my son from aisle to aisle looking at all their options. Four little eyes kept peaking around end caps and warning me to stay away. At one point my son discovered the gift cards and was super excited.
He brought up a $25 gift card to Starbucks valiantly trying to cover the logo.
“How much is this, Mom?” he asked.
“Too much to spend on me for my birthday,” I said.
“Mom, what does 5 P-C-S mean?”
“Five pieces,” I said, trying not to see the five-pack of alligator clips in his hand.
“Mom, do you like skittles?”
“Yes, I do like skittles.”
I walked over to the cashier after purchasing what I had come for.
“They’re looking for a birthday present for me,” I said, “So, can you help them a little bit with the money?”
The cashier nodded and I walked a distance away.
I finally hear my kids decide and stealthily maneuver the present up to the register. I am able to see just the tops of their heads and the back of the cashier as they buy it.
“It’s a surprise, so can you not let her see it?” my son asks the cashier.
“Yeah,” she said, “I’ll put it in this bag.”
They all look over at me conspiratorially to make sure I can’t see.
Please, let them not spend too much on me! Please, don’t let it be the alligator clips! I would definitely have to wear them and I hate wearing alligator clips!
There was an exchange of monies. Some coins were counted out.
“One more of those,” the cashier said.
And then they were done. My son was slightly blanched as we walked to the car.
“She made him give her six of his paper monies, Mom,” said my daughter in an awed sort of tone.
“It was $5.99,” my son says a little gravely.
“Well, I feel really special for you to spend your money on me,” I said.
“I’m so excited to give it to you,” he said.
“I can’t wait!” I say. Whatever it is I will love it.
Yesterday, on awaking, I was instructed to stay in bed while they worked on their surprise.
After a while I was escorted into their room. All of their animals sat in a color-coded rainbow around their room. They had set up their legos in birthday panoramas on the dresser. And on top of a blanket artfully looking like a tablecloth across the toy chest was a paper birthday cake with candles and a “35” on it, and next to it, was my present.
“Do you want to open it now?” My son asked.
“Yes,” I said, “Can I open it now?”
I opened my son’s stellar wrapping job (really, he does a very good job) and what do I see? A 60 pack of hair bands, the same kind I always use, in a rainbow of options.
“I got you 60-P-C-S, Mom,” he said.
“I love it!” I said, “This is exactly the kind I always get! How thoughtful of you!”
“We got you all the colors because we know you like all the colors,” my daughter said.
“Now, you can pick whatever color you want. And if you lose one, there are two or three more of the same color,” my son says, “Look, there’s even skin color.”
I am so proud of these thoughtful human beings. I am proud of my son when he feels that wince and buys the present anyway. I am so glad I let him spend $5.99 on me.
I can’t help but think about how similar I must seem to my heavenly father. How he lets me give to him. How he takes pleasure in my meager gifts. How much I wince sometimes before I give him service, but feel the pleasure all the same. God doesn’t need me to give to him, but he wants me to give to him.
I will now be making a big to-do every day as I pick out what color to wear. For sure, I won’t have to buy anymore for a few years. And thank goodness it wasn’t the alligator clips!