Yesterday we talked about the wise men and how their story is not a prescription for giving stuff to people as much as it is an inspiration to give ourselves to God. Today, I’m suggesting that Christmas gifts are to most kids what milk is to mine.
Our first was born with an allergy to dairy, so Becky eliminated the stuff from her diet. And not just the things containing milk, but everything containing one component of milk called casein. Becky had a friend or two marvel at what they called her “sacrifice”, claiming they’d never be able to give up dairy for their kids. Really? we thought. Have you seen the kind of extraterrestrial diapers dairy gives this kid? Apparently not. Obviously not.
These folks couldn’t imagine life without milk. And their nose wrinkled up at the mere suggestion of a substitute like soy or rice milk. They, of course, said they’d be fine without dairy, but, well, they drink milk for the children. “There’s no way,” one of them said, “my kids would ever drink soy milk. Yuck.”
I have three kids now and none of them grew up drinking a tall glass of milk every morning for breakfast like I did as a kid. They’ve only known soy milk. Soy milk in their mac and cheese. Soy milk over their cereal. And because it’s all they’ve known, they’ve never asked – not once – for cow milk. And they think it’s more than a little weird that most people drink “boobie juice” from an animal.
Before we go any further with this whole discussion of giving gifts at Christmas, I thought it would be a good idea to have a moment of honesty with our adult selves. Truth be told, giving gifts to our kids isn’t always about our kids. Sometimes it’s about us and what we’ve always known. It’s about our comfort and compliance with a societal norm, a tradition as old as milk on cereal. If we changed the tradition, the expectations, if we made a radical substitute, who would be most affected by it really: The children or the grown-ups?