Since my last post confessed that we made our kids do some algebra on Thanksgiving, I'm sure it's no surprise to you that we made them do math on Christmas too. Could we be so heartless and cruel? Before you pass judgement... read on.
Christmas 2011 was a bit of a struggle for me. I have to admit between decorating and cleaning the house, shopping/wrapping/hiding gifts, shopping and preparing food, and playing hostess to both sets of parents, it was a bit too much for me. Piled on top of that was this underlying theme that the kids were focusing more and more on the gifts which they were about to receive and very little time pondering the reason for the season. Ugh!
Christmas 2012 was different. The kids gave me their Christmas lists in November and were not allowed to talk about what they wanted (or expected) to receive for the whole month of December. This cracked down on the 'self-focused' attitude and turned it into 'others-focused' as they worked on gifts for other people. I also purchased many things online this year and didn't have to worry about hiding everything because my youngest is now in on the Santa secret. I chose to serve fewer different kinds of food on Christmas Eve requiring far less shopping and planning on my part. And finally, we had one set of parents here for the actual holiday while we celebrated with the other after the holiday. Things were simpler all the way around. Now it was time to add in some fun!
I knew the kids were expecting one particular "big-ticket" item. I knew they would be able to figure out the package just on size alone, and even if I put it in a different sized box, they still would know they have one more present coming. Fooling my son James is next to impossible so it had to be something he'd never expect. What if I send them on a treasure hunt for their last present.... and I left clues in hidden places... and to find the next clue they would have to figure something out.... wait I know... how about algebra! Wicked homeschooling mama that I am, I set up the clues so each child would have to answer a question based on the lessons we had recently studied. Algebra, chemistry, history, spelling... it was all there.
After a wonderful Christmas Eve service and a fantastic (although reduced) spread of food, we headed into the living room to open presents. As expected, James knew where every present - that had his name on it - was located. We started with some small gifts, then gifts for grandparents, then parents, and then back to kids again until all the presents under the tree were opened. All that was left was a card for each of the kids hidden in the tree. I didn't know until after Christmas, but this is when James was sweating it out. No more presents under the tree and only a card left which he assumed had something to do with the trampoline we had already told them they were getting from their grandparents. Instead, a cryptic note was inside the card sending the kids to different locations to get the next clue. Once the next clue was retrieved the real fun began.
Kat was the first to break down. I gave her what I thought was an easy math question [How do you find the area of a rectangle?] but for some reason she was so thrown by it that her brain shut down and she began to cry. "I don't know!", she whimpered disgusted by the thought of doing 'school' on Christmas. With some help she moved on. Emily struggled as well but only because I hid her question in a slightly different place than I told her to check. My bad. James was already onto clue 3 or 4. I had to slow him down so the others could catch up. Then the algebra question showed up. "We don't really have to do this?" inquired Emily with a scrunched-up disgusted look on her face. Meanwhile James was already at the counter hard at work finishing the problem quickly only to find out that he came up with the wrong answer. Those pesky integers! So there they both sat, on Christmas Eve, working hard on an algebra problem. Kat on the other hand was catching up as she got all the right answers to her history and spelling questions. Surprisingly all three kids finished at the same time and were in the living room searching for that one package missing under the tree. I think James got there first, unwrapping the parcel and shouting with glee. Then Emily found hers with matched elation. And finally Kat, who struggled the most in the end, finally found her prize. I think all three were beyond overjoyed and not just because of the item itself. Something that seemed lost, maybe forgotten and perhaps hopeless, was now found and right there in their hands to enjoy.
I've thought about this Christmas a lot. I thought about how I had bought my children's presents a month before Christmas. They were getting exactly what they asked for; however I couldn't tell them that... yet. The time had not come. Asking me all month for the same thing would have been difficult to hear knowing they would receive it eventually. It made me wonder what God thinks of me when I ask Him over and over for the same thing. I know He hears me the first time. I know I am loved deeply and He has good plans for me. Am I like that child who must make their wishes incessantly known? And what if I don't see that item under the tree? Do I doubt that it exists or do I trust that all will be provided in due time? What a gracious and patient God we have! I think about how much I love my children. I think about how - in my small flawed human way - I'm working in their lives for their good in ways they may not even understand for years to come. I can't help but think of how God works in my life each and every day for His good purpose. I can't help but get excited - as a child on Christmas - knowing He has shopped, wrapped, and hidden gifts for me along the way. And most importantly, he has already purchased the biggest gift of all - eternity with Him - through His son Jesus. And that is the reason why I think every day should feel just like Christmas, even if it does happen to include a little algebra along the way. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!