December 28, 2010

Opening Presents

In the present opening department H takes after my brother.

When we were children, Santa carefully arranged twin piles for Johnny and me. They were very equal piles, and really, we always got what we wanted. But every year I would tear through my presents. I’d unwrap one, give it a quick look, and set it aside. It was the anticipation, the newness that I loved. I wanted to open presents. Johnny on the other hand, would open a present and examine it. He’d look at the box, open the toy, and start to play. My parents had to coax him to go on to the next present. And of course, the process was repeated with each box. As you can imagine, this meant that I would open all my presents, and Johnny would still have a pile left over. I could never understand how he could always have “more” presents than me.

 Don't judge us and the ooze of gifts from under the tree.
When H came downstairs on Christmas morning, there was quite a good pile under the tree.  Probably a third of all the presents were for H. And right in front were a new baby arm chair and popcorn popper push toy. Really, those two toys are all that she needed for a merry Christmas. She plopped down in the chair, ran around with the popper, and had no interest whatsoever in opening presents.

We skyped with Grandma and Grandpa in Texas so they could share our Christmas morning. Once the computer came out there was really no hope of H having anything to do with opening gifts. She wanted to play with the computer. This was good for the grandparents, as it gave them a much closer view of their main object, namely H. I tried to get her to help me open the gifts. She was down with pulling off bows and handing her Uncle Johnny the ribbons. But removing the paper was of little interest. Eventually we had to sign off just so we could finish opening presents before dinner.

Clothes were ignored outright. This is no surprise. Books were given only the most cursory inspection. Toys, however, were fascinating. Each toy that emerged from shiny paper and ribbon needed to be opened right then. Dolly needed to be taken out of her packaging so she could be hugged and shushed and carried around. The ride-on Mickey Mouse airplane needed to be assembled immediately.  I was thrilled to discover that it had no volume control or off switch. And on it went.

My new favorite no-off-switch toy. Actually, it's pretty cute.

Clearly, at 19 months Christmas is still something of a mystery to H. She doesn’t really know why there were presents or who Santa is or why we celebrate at all. But it does make me wonder how she will act as she gets older. Will this “go slow” approach continue? My brother gets it quite honestly from my dad. You practically have to hold a gun to his head to get him to open a present. I’m told it took years of teasing from my mother (the queen of tear and flick) to get my father to stop taking out his pocket knife to slit the scotch tape and carefully peel back and fold the paper. (It has to be good for something.) Given that kind of lineage we may be stuck with a present slowpoke for life.

On the other hand, careful training paired with aging may turn her into a gift-wrap-tearing maniac. It’s really a question of nature vs. nurture. Perhaps this is what will solve that age old debate. Or at least it will keep me guessing for the next six months as we gear up for another birthday.

All I know is that I now have good reason to say, “One present per giver.” If we let H set the present pace, we could be opening birthday gifts until Christmas!

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