Best gift of all

Last night, Fenner was beside herself: “Ellen! That stocking is special to me!”

“Fenner, you had it last year!”

“Well it’s special to me!”

“So?! It’s not fair that you get it every year!”

“But Ellen, you’re not listening to how important it is to me!”

“Fenner … we should take turns.”

“I don’t like that idea!”

This went on for a long time with neither one budging. Fenner became more and more upset until she started to lose control. She tried to hit Ellen and then yelled at her in total frustration. Meanwhile, we just happened to be getting ready for our weekly family meeting. Fenner was sulking in the living room and Ellen came over to me. “Mom, Fenner wants the stocking with the trees on it but she gets that one every year and I think we should take turns.” “Hmm,” I said, “Sounds like a problem.” “I already wrote it on the board!” she said. “Oh! Yes, I see you did!” “But I like my solution so when do we talk about that?” “At the meeting we talk about everyone’s ideas and then we vote.” “Ok!”

Fenner came over next and whispered to me, still holding back the tears, “Mom, I’m afraid I won’t like Ellen’s ideas.” “Ok, well, remember we have to vote on it.” “But what if I vote no?” “Then we keep talking.” “Ok.”

Everyone came to the meeting and after appreciations and contributions we got to problem solving:

  • Ellen: “Ok, let’s do the stocking one. … I think we should takes turns every year. “
  • Fenner: “No!”
  • Ellen: “Fenner you won’t like anything I say because you’re mad at me.”
  • Silence.
  • Me: “I know, we’ll put all the stockings away and you can each pick out your favorite ski sock and we’ll use those!”
  • Ellen: “Noooooooooo, mooooooooom!”
  • Jerry: “What about the other two stockings? They’re being left out, poor stockings, they’re really nice …” I caught his eye and and gave him the ‘zip-it’ signal. “Ok, well, what’s wrong with Mom’s idea?”
  • Ellen: “You can’t fit as much stuff in our ski socks, they’re too small!”
  • Silence.
  • Me: “Timekeeper? How’re we doing?”
  • Jerry: “Four minutes to go.”
  • More silence.
  • Fenner, throwing the coveted stocking across the table to Ellen and holding back a fresh surge of tears: “I guess I’ll just take one of the other ones.”
  • Charlotte: “How about we buy another tree stocking?”
  • Fenner: “I don’t want another one, I want that one!”
  • Fenner and Ellen glared at each other across the table.
  • Me: “We might be able to find another one but dad and I aren’t willing to pay for it.”
  • Fenner: “How much do they cost?”
  • Me: “I think about 25 dollars.”
  • Fenner: “I don’t have that much!”
  • Silence.
  • Jerry: “One minute.”
  • Just then Ellen got very excited: “Hey, I think it doesn’t matter which stocking I have because the stuff I get will be the same no matter what so it doesn’t matter! I just realized that!!!” And she happily tossed the tree stocking back to Fenner who broke into a huge grin.
  • Me: “Ok, let’s vote! Raise your hand for or against the solution of Ellen realizing that it doesn’t matter which stocking she uses!” All hands went up. No fists in sight.
  • Ellen: “Ok! Now, here’s allowance!”

Ellen as the treasurer doled out the money just as the timer went off and the meeting ended with all smiles. Jerry and I looked at each other in amazement.

After that they wanted to decorate the tree. In years past, Jerry and I would put the lights on (assuming that was too difficult a job for the girls) and then I would hover over the decorating, making sure they were doing it right and evenly and all that.

This year, Jerry and I acted too busy to do the lights. “Mooooooom! We need help!” said Fenner several times. “Ok … um… after I’m done with this!” I kept saying until, after a while, Ellen closed the door to the living room and called out, “We want to surprise you!”

I don’t know how they did it, but when they called us in, the lights were on all the way to the top, and most of the ornaments were on (with the breakable ones out of the cats’ reach). I didn’t hear one fight the whole time and their smiles and pride filled the room.

I was genuinely surprised and impressed (and blissfully free of that whole job!!!!) but I didn’t say a word. I just stared and smiled and then hugged them all.

Explore posts in the same categories: Weeks following: Problem Solving

2 Comments on “Best gift of all”

  1. Catharine Says:

    Wow! I have tears in my eyes.


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