The family waits in anticipation as the carefully wrapped tinfoil is dug into...nails first, and violently ripped apart. The suspense is not about the gift but about the recipient. All eyes are reading body language and facial expressions. Are they happy, ecstatic, bored, or gasp!...dissapointed? For those sixty seconds, all else ceases to exist. All that time shared baking cookies or doubling over with laughter that morning at breakfast doesn't matter anymore. The mood can and will be dictated by his or her slightest gesture.
This is the sensation called opening presents. A type of nerve-wracking activity we bring upon ourselves as parents. We watch for any inkling that they are not throw-their-head back ecstatic, and cling to it. We may even wear it as a necklace at night. "Why do you think he looked down, then up? Do you think he liked his sister's gift better?"
But who is really at fault here? Are we putting wild expectations on our children that can't realistically be met? Or do we just want them to be grateful? And what of the child that isn't? Should they be punished for not expressing high octaves of emotions?
Look how we brag about reactions: "My daughter was screaming when she opened my gift." "I caught the sheer happiness of childhood as he opened mine."
I'll be honest, not every elf gift was received well this year. A globe was quickly tossed aside, as was an impractical but fancy bathrobe that wasn't "terrycloth." Are our children spoiled? Or are expectations through the roof because of what we perceive as "Being thankful."
To be honest, I did feel disappointed. And then later in the day, I realized we were laughing and singing and experiencing pure joy from just hanging out together. Perhaps as the cliche goes, Christmas, Hanukkah, or holiday happiness...doesn't come wrapped up in a box. It comes in spurts and unexpectedly like a rain shower.