When I didn’t understand a gift (& regret)

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Around Mother’s Day, my husband Patrick and kids took me to the local nursery and let me buy an abundance of bedding flowers. The kids brought me breakfast in bed, and Patrick made brunch, complete with homemade pain au chocolate (chocolate croissants) and crab soufflé.

My youngest, Julia, brought me several cards she’d made in different venues: home, Sunday school, and the fourth grade. Sophie, my eldest, created an elaborate many-lined poem, mostly rhyming. She included several coupons for chores around the house, promised to be completed with joy. Time went by. Aidan, my son, was in his room rummaging around. Finally, he came down and handed me a torn piece of notebook paper: his card. It said, “I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.”

Patrick said something like, “Aidan, you could’ve taken more time on that.”

“But Dad, it says what I want it to say. I can’t help it if I can’t make long, involved cards.”

I’m sure I looked disappointed. Even so, I thanked Aidan, gave him a hug, and we went on our day. Still, I wondered why he’d thoughtlessly scratched out a 30-second card. I got my answer a week later, driving Sophie home.

“Mom, I need to tell you something.”

“Yes, honey?”

“I don’t know if Aidan would want me to tell you this, but I think it’s important.”

“What’s that?”

“You remember his card on Mother’s Day?”

“Yes, I remember.” I pictured the penciled card, ripped in two, words scribbled hastily.

“Well, that’s not what he wanted to give you. He won a free massage for you at that food carnival we went to. He looked high and low for it in his room. I even helped him. He realized he couldn’t come to you empty-handed, so he wrote that card really fast. But what he really wanted to give you was a certificate for a massage. When he won it, he was so excited.”

My heart gave way a bit inside. My dear son whose love language was gifts must’ve been heartbroken. I could picture him receiving the gift certificate, cataloging how long it would be until Mother’s Day came around. Then I could see him searching for the elusive certificate, how crushed he must’ve been. I was immediately thankful that I didn’t tease him too much about the card.

Aidan’s card reminded me of something I learned about relationships: good relationships are those where people assume positive intent. It folds nicely into 1 Corinthians 13:7 that says, Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things . . . ” If you have a strong relationship with your kids, you’ll assume the best about them. You won’t jump to conclusions prematurely. You’ll believe they’re capable of beauty. You’ll ask questions to clarify. You’ll hope for the best.

Because, the truth is, our kids often astound us with their love, whether it be an over-the-top massage gift certificate or a humbly made card.

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