'Tis the season for entitlement

In the past few years, I've approached gift-giving season with a bit of anxiety.  While I enjoy both giving and receiving, motherhood has added new perspective and unanswered questions to birthdays and holidays.

On Tuesday, gift season commences in our household when Dandelion turns four.  Blessed be the day when my first baby was born!

As I sit on the floor of our basement assembling her play kitchen, even as I connect the nuts and bolts and screws of her shiny new toy, I worry about how to keep her and her brother from a sense of entitlement.

I love giving gifts to them, material and otherwise.  I delight in my daughter's squeals of joy, her shouts of 'woo-hoo' when she thinks about her special day and the presents she'll receive and cupcakes she'll eat. I hope she always gets so excited to receive, and that this overflowing feeling is just a glimpse of the glory that will fill her when she truly takes hold of those life-affirming gifts called grace and love.

Perhaps the grime of the "gimmes" hasn't muddied her little spirit yet. But I worry about her future spirit because my own sense of entitlement has proven rather difficult to extricate from my heart.

As a mother, I wonder how to help her see that gifts and blessings aren't the trinkets underneath the puffs and mounds of tissue paper that will litter the floor of our large family gathering at Christmas?

How do I help her weave those non-material moments of joy more intricately into the knots of her spirit: dancing at sunset under a double rainbow, spending a week with Nana and Papa, crunching through the leaves of Autumn, sharing a meal with others in our home, inviting a friend over, learning to crack an egg perfectly into a bowl, playing with other kids at community meals?

And how do I wrestle with the Christ-amnesia of Christmas that winks at her in books, movies, and music, where Santa and presents are favored over the waiting and longing of Advent, and the great fulfilment and gift of a barn baby who would be king?*

I believe the answers lie in love, in service and in giving.  Those are vague words that I try to put into practice.

What are your gift and holiday practices or words of wisdom that might tackle this sense of entitlement?

*I don't think the tradition of incorporating Santa into Christmastime is bad in itself but the Santa suit and toy bag is a lot more glamorous than the dust and hay of a manger born Jesus, even when we emphasize the true "reason for the season." **

**I hate that phrase...