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The Best Present

I love being with my family at Christmastime. To help keep the stress out of Christmas, a couple of years ago, the adults decided to do a Secret Santa gift exchange. We put the names of the adults into a hat, everyone pulls out a name, and then they buy a present for that person. The gifts can be no more than $50, and it wrapped in newspaper that has the letters of the recipient circled in the newsprint. This gift exchange is so much fun and only buying one gift helps to lessen holiday stress.

But, Secret Santa is for the adults only, and I still had to figure out what to buy for my four grandchildren. And who knows what they are into year to year? And, I wanted to be sure to spend the same amount on each of them. At any rate, it was going to be challenging to get something for each of them that they would enjoy and yet be a meaningful gift.

So, after conferring with my children, it was suggested that I give them the universal catch-all gift: money. But, cash seemed too impersonal, so I thought I’d add some fun time with PaB (that’s me). I decided to give each of them $50 along with this invitation:


An Invitation

To: Maddox, Jacob, Carson & Kate

From: Pa B

Date: December 26th

Time: Pa B will pick you up at your house:

  • Jacob & Kate at 2 pm and

  • Maddy & Carson at 2:15

All four of you are invited to a day with PaB

  • Pa B will give you $50 that you may spend however you like.

  • You may spend it during our day, or not.

  • Each gets 30 minutes shopping at the store of your choice.

  • We all go eat pizza.

  • Then we all go to a movie.

  • After the movie, we all go for ice cream.


The first year I did this, I was somewhat anxious as to how they would respond. When their response was a polite “thank-you,” it seemed like their enthusiasm was a little cool. This response made me anxious about the outing and I was worried I’d given them the wrong gift.

But the next day my fears were calmed as I watched them having a great time! I had given them free reign to purchase whatever they wanted with their money, or to save part or all of it; each making their own decisions. It was interesting to watch each of them consider how to spend their money. As they were picking out items, I had each of them add up their items and figure out the tax. More than once, I was asked if I would cover a small overage to which I informed them that I would not. Then I watched them make the decision as to what they would put back and what they would make a priority and ultimately buy. Indeed, I could sense the personal empowerment in each of them that took place as they made their own choices without any adult interference or direction. They had a wonderful time! After shopping, we ate at the pizza parlor, went to the movie and then went to the ice cream store. When I dropped them at home, the hugs and the smiles they gave me let me know that this outing truly was the perfect gift!

I was so pleased with the whole outing that the following year, I gave them the same gift. On Christmas Day, as I passed out the envelopes to each at the same time, my youngest granddaughter yelled out, “Yeah!! I know what it is; it’s the BEST present in the whole wide world!!” To which, the three other grandchildren yelled out a BIG “Yeah!! It IS!” As they tore into their envelopes, my heart overflowed with joy and tears filled my eyes as I saw their happiness about the upcoming outing with PaB.

It’s hard for me to imagine that my grandchildren could teach me a lesson in Waldo Wisdom. But they showed me that anytime is a good time to empower a child. On this simple outing, they made their own decisions within the outlined parameters. And they were so appreciative that I did not interfere with their decision-making process. I was just looking for the right Christmas present and didn’t realize how right it was until I saw how this simple act changed the way they thought about their choices.

Guess what PaB will be giving his four grandchildren for Christmas this year?!!! Until they get tired of going on the outing with me, I’ll be giving them this gift every year!

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