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As I watch Audra repeatedly pick up a package from under Grandma and Grandpa’s Christmas tree – counting the hours until she gets to open it tonight – I have to notice the difference between our two kids.  Audra can barely contain herself when it comes to surprises, gifts and waiting, while Ethan is the picture of mature patience.

And apparently Audra’s wish list varies based on who she is sending it to.

Her letter to Santa included a microphone, a charm bracelet, and to have her lost mood ring replaced – followed by a question of whether she was on the naughty or nice list…  “please write me back to let me know what you think”.  (She then checked the mail every day for the next week until his letter arrived… which then was framed and hung on her bedroom wall.  “I think this means I’m on the nice list, Mommy!”, she exclaimed with glee.)

However, her wish list that was emailed to Grandma (and Grandpa) included both a Furby and an iPad, with the respective price tags of $70 and $400++.  (Apparently Audra has picked up on who is more likely to fulfill her larger wishes...)  I doubt she will be disappointed regardless of what she receives, hopefully in part because we have been careful to remind both kids not to expect everything on their wish list.

Ethan, on the other hand, doesn’t have a list.  Even now, on Christmas eve, he says that he loves the anticipation of the holidays, and the idea of surprises more than asking for any one particular thing.  When reminded that our trip to Edmonton was a big gift, he nodded in agreement, “That is the best present,” he commented.

When we asked him a month ago if there was anything he wanted, his only question was if it was okay to ask for money to go towards the computer he is saving for.  (“No…”, we answered, admittedly feeling a little weird about a 10-year-old only getting money for Christmas.   Although we’re not sure why that would be age-related… but logical or not, that was our answer for this year.)

“I don’t really care what I get for presents.” he offered.  “Last year I asked for a foosball table and instead got my guitar, which was a total surprise and it was the best present ever!”

From a parenting perspective, it’s kind of funny to see such different extremes in our kids when it comes to gifts and wish lists.  Obviously it falls partly down to personality differences.  And while I am much more inclined to feel like Ethan – loving the anticipation moreso than the actual gifts – as a parent, I also have great joy in witnessing Audra’s barely-contained excitement.

I’d like to think that we have reinforced to them to be grateful for all that they have: a loving family, a roof over their heads, great health, and good food to eat – not to mention the opportunity to spend the holidays with our long-distance family.  However, no matter what the lead-up has been, I fully expect to bear witness to many moments of gift-giving and gift-receiving joy these next few days.

Maybe we can see the best of both worlds: gratitude for our daily lives, gratitude for our time with loved ones… and joy in the presents to top it off.  And in the spirit of kids being kids… they can put those things in whatever order feels best to them.

For me it’s all about the memories we are making.