I saw new meaning in making gifts by hand while watching Rebecca work intently for several days on a garland of paper snowflakes, a Christmas gift to her nonni (my parents). One of the many things I didn't expect when I became a mother is how parenting is a learning experience not just about child-raising but about oneself, and about life in general. Watching one's child make decisions and choices, sometimes mirroring us and other times radically departing from the models we give, is a profound lesson in actions, values and motivations. And as I watched Rebecca choose tissue paper, cut it into squares, fold it into small triangles, then snip it with tiny cuts, finally unfolding it to reveal her creation, and then starting over and over again, I realized how handmaking gifts have less to do with striving for a simple, green and anti-consumerist lifestyle, than with altruism.
Well, of course, making a gift by hand also taught my child that when there's a festivity you don't need to go and buy a present or fall for any marketing mechanism. It also taught her useful manual skills, a certain dose of creativity, and lots of patience. But to me, the real value in making a gift for her grandparents was more in the intention at the heart of the gift: it taught her the joy that comes from working with skill, creativity and patience to create with love something for someone we love. On Christmas day in particular, this seemed an important lesson – for her and for me.