This is a post by Jamie Shafer who serves as the Communications Director for East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis. You can follow her on Facebook or check out her columnist page here.
As parents, we want to give our kids good gifts. I realized this on a day when life had become complicated by candy factories that rub peanuts and gummy bears together, being a busy mom, and gale-force winds.
Our son was turning four and I agreed to take treat bags to preschool. Jake chose Spider-Man as his birthday theme. Perfect. I purchased the supplies a week in advance, feeling like a super hero in my own right. There were cute red bags with coordinating Spider-Man candies — and all nut-free to comply with school rules.
On the night before school, my husband and I spread the goodies over our kitchen table. I printed the class roster; we sorted the candies; we set up our assembly line. Oh yeah, we were winning.
Then, my husband noticed the candy labels read “processed with nuts.” Say what? No, that’s not right. These were sweet tarts and gummy candies. Panicked, I snatched one candy packet then another, scanning only to find that each one wore a traitor’s label declaring it had been fraternizing with tree nuts.
Breathe deep. Let’s get on the solution side of things. We combed our pantry shelves for options. For a moment, we considered the leftover Halloween candy, then shook our heads and thought better of it.
My visions of Jake handing out perfectly coordinated bags to his friends as they cheered their birthday king were vanishing. Instead, I imagined the Wicked Witch of the West in the candy factory, cackling as she stirred gummies and sweet tarts in large cauldrons, brimming with peanuts.
You could just send them anyway, my husband said. No, I’m a rule-follower, I said. Plus imagine the humiliation as a preschool worker in a hazmat suit handed me the bags with tongs at the end of the day. “Mrs. Shafer, you broke the rules today. Don’t let it happen again.”
I decided that we would stop at Target early the next day and I’d fill the bags at school. We awoke to driving rain propelled by 40 mph winds. A little inconvenient, but there would be treat bags. Again the thought of Jake smiling and giving his friends high-fives got me moving.
At the store, we sloshed through the parking lot, our hats flying off and umbrellas snapping backward. Our squeaky shoes dripped a trail on the freshly polished floors as we picked up our supplies. When we arrived at the school parking lot, rain was pelting cars, kids, and parents. We pulled into a parking space and – thump! Another mom let her car door go sending it banging into our car.
“Sorry!” she yelled apologetically through the window, examining my passenger side. “It’s fine,” she said, shaking her head. “There’s no damage.” And with that, she raced for the building.
I ran around to confirm there wasn’t a dent. No damage. Jake and I dashed for the school, arms filled with bags. By now, I didn’t feel close to winning. I was cold, wet, and frustrated.
Inside, as other parents and children streamed to classrooms, I heaved our wet supplies onto a counter. I started stuffing bags with stickers, plastic toys, and treats. Two teachers spotted me and began to laugh. “Oh Jamie, what are you doing?” they asked.
“I’m trying to do the right thing for my son,” I replied, working frantically.
I looked down to see Jake’s big blue eyes staring at me, in my crazy-mom mode, seeming to ask the same question the teachers had.
“This is your mom, buddy,” I said in a soft voice. “It’s just reality. This is not who I want to be, but sometimes this is just who I am. I’m sorry. But, I love you.”
I wanted to give my son good gifts – the gift of a brief party with friends. To seize an opportunity to celebrate the day this boy entered the world. By now, I was smiling, having regained my composure.
“Do you have a treat bag for me?”
Pause. Sure. I think so. Yes, I…um, I’m not sure. My count might have been off.
“Buddy, I’m not sure. But, if there isn’t a bag for you, could you just give them to your friends, celebrate with them, and know I have a whole bag of Spider-Man candy for you at home?”
We want to give our kids good gifts. Sometimes we just have trouble choosing the right ones. It’s really not about the perfect treat bags, birthday party, game system, athletic shoes, phone, or car that matter most. It’s about showing them what counts in life’s real economy… grace and love, joy and peace – even when life is a little nuts.
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11, NASB).
Question: Have you ever found yourself in a situation similar to Jamie’s? Do you desire to do the best you can for your children? Leave a comment in the comment section below…