My Best Mistake

By Diane Stark

It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” my seven-year-old son, Nathan, sang with a huge grin.

I sighed. I love Christmas. I do. It’s wonderful and cozy and it brings families together. It’s a chance to show the people we love how we really feel about them. But it’s also busy, bordering on chaotic. My “To Do List” is longer during the month of December than at any other time of the year.

But I really do love Christmas.

One evening in early December, I flopped down on the couch next to my husband, Eric. I’d spent all day decorating the house for the season and I was tired.

“The tree looks great, Honey,” Eric said.

“Thanks. It’s a shame it will only be up for three weeks before I have to spend another whole day taking it all down again.” I shrugged. “It’s pretty, but sometimes, I wonder if it’s worth all of the effort.”

He smirked. “I told you last year that it’s okay with me if we don’t decorate. I know it’s a lot of work.”

I looked around the house, loving the cozy feel the decorations provided. “I can’t stop decorating for Christmas,” I said. “Think of how upset the kids would be.”

His smirk grew bigger. “Oh yes, it’s all for the kids.”

I nudged him with my elbow. “Okay, I admit it. I love it too.”

But the next day, I was not loving it quite as much. I had a long list of other Christmas-related tasks, and nothing was going right. The previous week, I’d sent my kids’ “Wish Lists” to my mom, my mother-in-law, and my former mother-in-law, who was still very much a part of our family. I’d been careful to monitor Nathan’s lists to ensure that he didn’t ask more than one Grandma for the same toy. I’d told him to make three separate lists, one for each Grandma. He’d done a great job, creating the lists with about the same number of toys on each list, but no duplicate items. He brought them to me, clearly excited about his carefully crafted lists.

I’d set them by the computer. “I’ll send them to your Grandmas tomorrow morning,” I told him. The next morning, I scanned the three lists into the computer. And then I emailed the exact same list to each Grandma. (I don’t know how it happened, except to say it was early and I hadn’t had coffee yet.)

Worse still, I didn’t realize the mistake until the Grandmas started texting me pictures of the toys they’d purchased. Three Star Wars light sabers – even in the same color. Three identical Star Wars Lego sets. Three of the same video game. Three of everything he’d asked for on one list. And nothing on the other two lists.

And it was all my fault.

“I was so careful,” I moaned to Eric. “How can I tell the Grandmas that two of them have to return all of the toys they just bought? And how do I choose which two to tell?”

“I’m sorry, Honey,” he said. “But I’m sure they’ll understand. Mistakes happen.”

“What mistake?” Nathan said.

I didn’t realize he was listening to our conversation. I sighed and explained the situation. “I’m really sorry, Bud,” I said. “I goofed up, but I’m going to talk to the Grandmas and try to fix it.”

His shoulders slumped with disappointment. But an hour later, he came back, wearing a determined look on his face. “Mom, don’t talk to the Grandmas,” he said. “The number of toys on just one of my lists is more than some kids get. I don’t need all those toys.”

“But the Grandmas already bought them,” I said. “So if I don’t call them, you’ll have three of the exact same toy.”

He nodded. “I know. That’s why I’m going to give away the other two to kids who don’t get much for Christmas.”

Tears flooded my eyes. My silly mistake had turned into a proud parenting moment.

We talked to the Grandmas, who all agreed that Nathan’s selfless decision should be commended.

And my careless, early morning emailing should be forgiven. The grandmas kindly understood that I’d sent the lists before being properly caffeinated. (Lovely ladies, they are!)

It’s true that Christmas is the busiest time of the year.

But no doubt, it’s also the best.

Especially when our kids remind us that it’s not about the decorations we put up, the gifts we receive, or even the food we enjoy. It’s about loving one another. It’s about thinking of others ahead of ourselves.

Christmas is about giving to others to show them they are important to us.

Even when the giver is a seven-year-old little boy and the gift is a Star Wars light saber.

And the recipient is another child. A stranger whose only gift this Christmas might be that duplicate toy.

It’s the best mistake I’ve ever made.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark

    Diane Stark

    Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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One Response to “My Best Mistake”

  1. Rose Ann says:

    I just love your son and this teachable moment! Merry Christmas to you and your family. I enjoy reading your family essays!

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