When my children were smaller we lived too far away from their grandparents to just pop over on Christmas morning to exchange presents, so we would typically cram ourselves together with all the cousins and aunts and uncles into the grandparents’ place for the whole week of Christmas. That way, when the kids woke up at the crack of dawn (and not before, do you understand?), all the presents and stockings and puffy-eyed grown-ups with cameras would be right there, waiting for them. It was equal parts stressful and fun, as Christmas traditions usually are. But there was one major downside to this tradition for my family: One set of cousins always got much bigger presents.
Talk about a letdown! My poor children would wake up and rush into the living room to see what they got, but before their eyes could even find their own presents, they’d see some huge driving toy or dollhouse or indoor playground that took their overly-zealous parents hours to assemble sitting right there in front of the fireplace, taunting our puny little presents. Inevitably our kids would see the gargantuan gifts and get excited, ever so briefly thinking those were theirs. But then it would occur to them thatthey’re looking at the wrong side of the fireplace. Their presents are over there, taking up far less space and virtually hidden, dwarfed by the sparkling, sound-making childhood-dreams-come-true towering over them. That moment always put a knot in my stomach because the presents my girls got were usually exactly what they wanted, but their juxtaposition beside the Megatoys from Wonderland always made them look a little sad and disappointing. To my girls’ credit, they usually adjusted to reality pretty quickly, and we always worked hard to teach them to be happy with what they got.