My parents, empathy, and one Christmas morning

I grew up with parents who were extremely empathetic– both toward others and toward us, my sisters, brother and me. The Christmas season reminds me of a wonderful example of that.

As the oldest of the four kids, I was the first to learn the truth about Santa Claus. I felt very important and grown-up to be keeping this secret with my parents, and wanted to be a part of making the Santa magic for my younger siblings. I had the idea that “Santa” should leave a trail of presents from the fireplace to the tree– an idea I eagerly shared with my parents. They agreed to do it.

I got up Christmas morning, all excited to see the results of my collaboration with my parents. When I walked into the living room, I was surprised to see ALL the presents spread out between the fireplace and the tree, and none under the tree. I realized that my parents had misunderstood my idea, which had been to have most of the presents under the tree, and just a thin trail of presents from the fireplace to the tree.

I thought it looked really bad. And I was extremely touched to see it so. Because it told me that my parents valued me more than anything, certainly more than how something looked– even something as important as a once a year magical Christmas event. I figured they had to have thought it looked stupid, too, when they laid it out, but they did it anyway. For me.

They had such empathy for me (I felt it even if I didn’t know the word then) that they understood how excited and grown-up I felt to be in on the secret, and they honored that. What a beautiful gift, one that I have treasured to this day.

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