i remember when my dad taught me to wrap a present. being an engineer, his focus was on using a correct amount of paper, creating tight corners, and appropriate use of tape. it was like learning the secret to a magic trick. the way a plain package became cloaked in mystery. like dressing up dolls but with more math skills.
i've had my deep moments of wrapping-love. folding the edges before applying the tape- horizontally, of course. aligning the pattern so that the seam is invisible amidst the flowers or frogs or reindeer. ribbons coiled about the box and then -zipppp! viola!- they are curly. like the hair i always wanted.
i've experimented with ways to wrap with less paper, using fabric or making my own wrapping paper out of newsprint rolls left over from the herald or from sunday comics themselves. i've used brown paper bags from grocery stores and old buttons.
and i enjoyed it all.
this year, seren decided to wrap a book for his brother. this was a book he picked from a shelf in his room. a book, seren does not particularly like but maybe he thought the 2 year old would. i saw it as a good thing.
he asked if he could wrap it and i spied him on the floor with scissors and tape near by. his wrapping method is like making a burrito. you get the biggest tortilla you can find, pile the stuff in the middle, fold all points around the center and secure as best you can. in this case- he would often end up with about three times as much paper as he needed. and about 4 times as much tape as needed. and a finished package that in no way resembled the original item- the corners distorted with layers of shiny red paper.
he proudly presented the wrap present for my approval.
his brown eyes shined with pride.
"did you enjoy wrapping that?" i asked in my best impersonation of a loving, supportive mom who isn't overly focused on wrapping things correctly- the way her mechanical engineering father taught her.
"yeah! i'm the best wrapper!" he crooned as he put the present under the tree.
he wrapped several more gifts like this. i freely gave over gifts for him to wrap. i looked for things he could wrap.
each time he cut too-big pieces and rip off strips of tape long enough to disable all eight reindeer. and i held my tongue.
i was so proud.
of how i was holding my tongue and resisting the persistent urge to teach him how to do it my way. the way that gives crisp edges and swirly bows. how i was sacrificing for my child's needs. see, how well i was adjusting? see, how easily i gave up my needs for his?
then came the present that was to go to someone outside of the house. the present to travel. the present that had a really great, sturdy box. and all i wanted to do was decrease the amount of paper he used by about 14%. i made the smallest suggestion, followed by a friendly demonstration and "poof" the magic spell was broken.
he got that look. the look of "can't you just leave me alone to enjoy this small task? this task that ultimately does not really matter all-that-much because people just rip off the paper anyway!"
ok, maybe it was just a look of disappointment. actually- it was more a look of irritation. the look of "go away, mother."
so- i did. i said casually, "yeah, your doing great. i just thought i'd show you how i used to wrap presents. but you don't seem to need my help," as i slid into the kitchen to drown my shame in eggnog.
i peeked back in to see him working on the next present- his eyes focus on his task. not at all thinking about doing it "right"- just doing it his way.