Setting the scene: It is Christmas morning and the mountains of colourfully wrapped gifts grow under the tree as family members arrive to share the festive celebrations. A few months back it was decided as a family we would only do secret Santa for the adults where we would pick a name out of the hat and just buy a gift for that person. While it sounds great in theory it did not work for me. As the mother I just could not bring myself to not buy for all my children so I sneakily bought gifts and pleaded my case of breaching the protocol of secret Santa on the fact that I had had the gifts way before it was decided to do secret Santa. My children gave me the ‘ sure mum’ look and smiled. Once again I went overboard for my granddaughter showering her with gift after gift. Lilly who is three years old sat there as the gifts were directed her way. At first she was excited and ripped open the paper but it didn’t last long. A lesson was about to be learnt. The student was me; the teacher was three.
Lilly had enough. She sneaked out of the lounge and when I went to find her she had settled herself on the floor in the family day care playroom and was building; not with colourful plastic blocks but with wood off cuts that were stacked on the shelf. She was totally engaged in a world of imagination creating a town using the blocks as walls and verbally constructing a manuscript. Not a new toy in sight.
I stood back watched and listened to the story she was developing and realised we as adults are sometimes getting it wrong, not because we plan to but because we have forgotten.
We have forgotten what it was like to be three, to not have a care in the world, to not have to live up to expectation. We have forgotten what it was like to play, to really play, to use our imaginations where anything can be anything, where we can be anyone. We have forgotten that at three we were testing our abilities, experimenting with available tools, challenging processes and making discoveries that amazed us.
Lilly didn’t care about how many presents she got on Christmas Day or what they were, she was just happy to be with the people who love her and in an environment that she is familiar with that makes her feel safe and secure and where she is allowed to be three with all that entails.
I had forgotten this in my love driven pursuit to make my granddaughter happy by showering her with gifts. I had forgotten how inquisitive, imaginative and self-driven Lilly is and that toy’s are not needed for her to engage in meaningful play; play that is raw and self-directed; play that comes from within, from her own imaginings not from directions on a box; play that prepares her for the world ahead but from where she is right now, and play that as a child, belongs to her to share with whom she decides.
Of course I will always buy Lilly presents but the lesson Lilly has taught me is that the greatest gift you can give a child is the environment they belong in. An environment where they feel they can just ‘ be’. An environment where they feel loved and safe and can explore possibilities; and that does not come wrapped in Christmas paper.
Merry Christmas Lilly xx