Gift giving is a double edged sword. When a gift is given that is a delightful surprise or a longed for treasure, all is well. The giver is happy, the recipient is thrilled, the tree seems to be bigger and brighter. But when the gift that was desired does not appear, something else happens; the tree is somehow not as pretty. A child fights to hold back tears, especially if his brother got exactly what he wanted. A cloud hangs over the festival atmosphere of Christmas Day. And, of course, the disappointment of the missing gift is not limited to children, mom & dad can know this ache as well.
Not getting the gift that is wanted can happen for several reasons. The budget dictates trips to Walmart instead of Neiman Marcus. Usually this kind of disappointment can be addressed with a loving dose of reality. The secret desire for the latest Star Wars Lego system was just that, a secret that no one knew about except perhaps Santa. This, too, can usually be addressed in a helpful way. Sometimes, the giver is simply unaware of what is going on inside the person that he is giving the gift to. A little more sensitivity would help here.
However, there is another reason for disappointment that must not be missed. It is the problem of unrealistic expectations driven by selfishness or its equally destructive sibling, self-pity. This kind of disappointment cannot be solved by sensitivity or a dose of reality. The basic Star Wars Lego set is not enough. There is no indication of gratitude for gifts that are given. There is no joy at seeing others receive gifts.
This type of disappointment is a major heart issue. If it shows up on Christmas morning it is present on all the other days as well. This is something that only has one cure – the gospel. Look for these indications of self centeredness and seek God’s face daily to address this. This is not a phase that your child will one day move beyond. If you find this sort of disappointment on Christmas morning be thankful you have, by God’s grace, been able to identify it. Then, seek this same grace to help you to bring the reality of the gospel to your child. His disappointment will only be resolved in the person of Christ. This is the gift your child needs.