Do you remember how I made myself crazy in Advent, knitting gifts for all five of the kids? You might even remember how one gift in particular made me Crazy-with-a-capital-C-and-perhaps-an-exclamation-point, because it combined a couple of things I don't do very well, and because it took for-freaking-ever, and because I really wanted the recipient to be happy with it. I finished weaving in the ends a little after midnight on Christmas, in time to give it to a delighted boy later that day.
This morning he confessed to me that the gift disappeared last week.
My husband cannot STAND it when our kids lose things, especially game pieces. "I never lost game pieces when I was a kid," I have heard him say approximately 2,096,365 times. "Never!" Is this really true? Perhaps it was. I, however, remember clearly the pain of losing things as a kid. (And as an adult.) I hate losing things -- hates it forever, as a matter of fact -- and yet I do it anyway.
Part of giving handknits to kids is detaching from their fate. Do I want it to be used and loved, or do I want it to sit in a drawer? If the former, well then: I have to accept that it won't stay pristine. I have a sort of mental rule, though, that I want them to wear the gift for at least as many hours as I spent making it before I can consign it to its uncertain future.
I can't quite bring myself to think about the ratio of work time to wearing time for this gift. It's not a pretty ratio.
I didn't yell or rant this morning, but my disappointment was very clear. He knows enough about knitting to know that the gift required a whole lot of my time, and he cried. He apologized. I tried to respond graciously to the apology, but I wasn't very persuasive. There's a tricky balance with kids and stuff, you know? We have to teach them to be good stewards of what they've been given, to take good care of their belongings (and others' too), to be respectful of the time and money that nice things represent. At the same time, we have to teach them that the people always matter more than the things.
When my oldest was a toddler he loved to tug on my necklace. I don't wear much jewelry, just my wedding/engagement rings and a crucifix my husband gave me on our wedding day. I told Alex again and again that he needed to leave my crucifix alone, until the day he snapped the chain. He looked aghast and burst into contrite wails. It was one of those crucible moments for me: how was I going to respond? Was I going to yell that I had told him so a million times? Instead I said, "You are more important than my necklace, even though it is very special to me." He and Elwood went together to the jeweler to have it soldered. The resulting little rigid spot was a reminder to me of the kind of mother I wanted to be -- as were the other little rigid spots that came along after later repairs. I think each boy broke that chain; finally a jeweler told me I needed a new one because it couldn't be repaired again.
I didn't get to the Office of Readings until after they left for school, and it felt like a nudge from heaven to see that today was the feast of St. John Bosco. (He is best known for his work with orphaned and abandoned boys.) Here's a snippet from today's second reading:
They are our sons, and so in correcting their mistakes we must lay aside all anger and restrain it so firmly that it is extinguished entirely. There must be no hostility in our minds, no contempt in our eyes, no insult on our lips. We must use mercy for the present and have hope for the future, as is fitting for true fathers who are eager for real correction and improvement.
My initial reaction was to feel sorry for myself: all that work, and poof! -- it's gone. Then I thought about how many gifts God has given me that I have failed to appreciate or even keep track of. I think I will swing by the school with a little note for my sad boy: "You are more important than the mittens."