It would have been so easy to skip myself. Seriously. The last thing I wanted to do on the sixth night of Hanukkah was wrap another gift. Enough already.
I had my kids’ gifts ready to go that night– Hello Kitty for her and Spiderman for him. (Remember when we weren’t going to buy licensed crap for our kids? That was before we had them. The kids, not the licensed flatware.)
Jeff was out of town, and he’s the Jewish parent but he left a phonetic version of the prayer right by the Menorah so I did my best.
“Baruch attah adonai. . . ”
On the first night, we didn’t do gifts. I wanted to focus on being together, lighting the candles, and learning the prayer. It was beautiful but then several Jewish people I talked to said, “No presents?” and I felt shame. So, I vowed the remaining nights would include presents.
On the third night, before he left on a business trip, Jeff opened a new fleece and the kids reveled in trinkets from the special section in Target where everything’s a dollar.
“Mama, where’s your present?” Sadie asked.
I didn’t know what to say. Nothing sounded right. Not “Mommy doesn’t need a present” or “Focus on yourself and don’t worry about me” or “I buy my own presents that come in the mail from Zappos and Amazon.”
And those statements are true-ish. Believe me, this mama isn’t afraid to treat herself. And Jeff and I hadn’t yet taken the time to discuss how we would do presents for our hybrid Hanukkah-Christmas celebrations, so the gifts he’d planned for me were still in the works.
But my kids noticed that everyone had received a present. Except me.
And I started to believe that it was important for my kids to see me open a present. I didn’t want either of them– a future wife and a future husband– to see me only giving. I didn’t want them to see me not getting the opportunity to sit down, unwrap something that makes me happy, and to feel glee and gratitude. Just like they were each night.
But it was more than that. I don’t want to burden them or Jeff with the spectre of the martyr-mom who gives gives gives but sighs resentfully at the table wishing someone– anyone– would read her damn mind . . . . and then buy her a nice leather wallet in a bright color so it’s easy to find at the bottom of her purse.
And there’s more. I don’t want to be a person who can’t teach her children how to take in gifts, and I definitely do not want to subliminally teach my kids that deprivation is a virtue. Or that the best moms are martyrs who just go without. Don’t worry about me, kids, I’ll be fine.
What I want is to join them at the table, at the feast before my eyes, and take a portion for myself.
Because there’s nothing wrong with taking a turn.
But really. It would have been so easy to skip myself and open the wallet privately.
I’m so glad I didn’t.