Monday, February 13, 2012

I Made This for You

Over the past few weeks, my son has begun to periodically bring me random objects and announce to me, “Mama, I make you this [X].” For example, he will hand me a plastic mixing spoon from the kitchen and tell me, “Mama, I make you this fork.” (He’s still a bit confused about the difference between a spoon and a fork. I’m scared to introduce him to the concept of a spork; he’ll never get it right after that.) This afternoon, my in-laws came over to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday, and when she walked in the door, my son proudly told her, “Bammy, I make you a cake!” (Her birthday cake was a gourmet cheesecake we’d bought at the store – although, in his defense, he had helped his big sister bake some cookies the night before.)

The point is, he understands that giving someone something that you made yourself makes it extra-special. On a few gift-giving occasions, my husband helped him to “sign” his name on a card he had either bought from the store or printed on his computer. But more recently, we’ve helped my son to make a whole card himself, by folding a piece of paper, drawing on it, and “writing” his name at the bottom. He recognizes that a card like that is special – more like another gift rather than merely a card.

For my birthday last year, my husband took my son to a “paint your own pottery” store and let him pick out a refrigerator magnet for me. My son got to pick out all the colors of paint (I understand that was quite a serious and painstaking process) and paint most of his chosen fish all by himself, in beautiful, even, sparkly stripes. Daddy added in a few details like eyes, but the vast majority of the project was done very, very carefully by my son. The magnet is in a place of honor on the refrigerator, way up high where he can’t accidentally knock it down and break it. (He was unhappy about its location until I explained that I’m pretty tall and where it is way up high is right in front of my face so I see it every time I go to the fridge.) And every once in a while when we’re both in the kitchen, he’ll point to it proudly and say, “Mama, it’s your present! I make that for you!”

It reminds me of all the gifts my sister and I gave my parents over the years. I remember helping to pick out Daddy’s birthday tie, but I remember the tie going into the closet while the handmade card sat on the mantelpiece in the living room for a month. In junior high, I made my mom a (hideous) cast aluminum spoonrest in metal shop, and it hung in a place of honor in the kitchen for years, while the Hallmark card got tossed a week later. I never understood why my parents adored stuff that I recognized was not the highest quality. But now that I’m a parent, I can see why a handmade gift is something so very special.

A gift says, “I was thinking of you.” A handmade gift says, “I want to do things for you.” But a handmade gift from one of your kids says, “I love you.”

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