This Christmas With Jessie

With each of my kids, I have enjoyed watching their personality develop.  I love seeing them become them become their own person, pondering the ways they are like the others in our family, and the ways they are distinctively themselves.

I’ve noticed some big changes in Jessie during the Christmas season in the last couple of years. I was just talking with a friend about the sweet changes this year that reveal ways that Jessie is maturing.

In addition to maturing, Jessie’s own individual personality is also becoming more evident. I enjoy watching her become her own person, with distinct and specific fashion choices, and other kinds of likes and dislikes. Although she is greatly influenced by us, her family, there are some things that are just her. I don’t think they’re about Down syndrome either, they’re just part of Jessie’s personality.

For instance, I have learned that gifts is a primary love language for Jessie.

It isn’t the cost that’s important, but she loves to receive and give gifts.  No matter how small, when I’ve been away from home and bring her a treat she acts like the recipient of a winning lottery ticket.  Hands clapping, grinning from ear to ear.  She thanks me profusely.  I get the same reaction for Icees, a stop by Sonic for a slushy with popping candy or sometimes even just for doing her laundry.

When she acts like you’ve given her a million bucks is it any wonder we get Icees too much?  She expresses her very sincere appreciation when she’s been sick and I take care of her.  Or when I do something like bring her a drink to her room as I usually expect her to be independent about such things.

I’ve known this for a while, but it has become increasingly noticable that Jessie enjoys giving almost as much as she enjoys receiving. She has wanted to purchase gifts from her, separate from the ones we give as a family to her siblings and cousins and always wants to buy gifts for her friends. At first it felt really stressful that I couldn’t indulge her in this, we simply can’t afford to buy 2 sets of gifts. And we can’t buy gifts for all her friends. Now, I’ve found ways for her to feel more like the giver of the gifts we buy as a family.  I tried to do that in years past, but she just wasn’t able to keep the gifts secret so it just didn’t work out.

Two years ago Jessie simply could not keep a secret if she knew a gift I had bought. She would snuggle up with her big sister to go to sleep and would say, ” I can’t tell you that we got you a present.  I can’t tell you that we bought you earrings.”  She just couldn’t stand it.  In her excitement, it was truly beyond her control to hold it in. Her communication skills have grown too.  She now will say, ” I bought you a gift and can’t tell you what it is.”  It helps that she isn’t sleeping with her sister these days because bedtime snuggling is the most vulnerable time for the secrets to escape.

Last year I didn’t let her know what gifts her daddy and siblings were getting because I didn’t want her to spoil the surprise. She really didn’t like being excluded. I honestly think this has given her the determination to keep the secret so she could be in on the excitement of shopping and then wrapping the gifts.

She so desperately wanted to buy gifts this year. She kept pestering me about it. She kept saying we needed to go Christmas shopping.  I decided to give her another try. I hoped she could keep the gifts secret.  We talked about it and I explained she could only help shop if she wouldn’t tell the recipients about their gifts. Although I didn’t feel sure she could keep the secrets, I  finally decided it meant so much to her that I had to give her a chance.   It wouldn’t be the absolute end of the world if she let something slip.

She knows most of the gifts that her siblings and our extended family are getting. She has done some of the shopping with me and has helped me wrap most of them, so she feels more like the gifts really are also from her. I can tell it hasn’t been easy for her, but to my knowledge she hasn’t given away any secrets and we’re just days away from Christmas! I’m so proud of her!

She even spent some of her own allowance to buy a small gift for a couple of her young cousins.

Last year, she wrote most of the gift tags. Partly because the space on the tag is small, and partly because she wanted to be the giver of the gifts, the FROM just said Jessie instead of all our names. She enjoyed that. She did that on some of the gifts again this year.

Another funny thing…..

When we were shopping this week at Walmart I bought her a couple of shirts and a couple for myself. In past years, when she’s asked for things during December, I would typically say, “It will have to be a Christmas present. You will have to wait till Christmas and I will wrap it and put it under the tree.”

So, when we talked in the dressing rooms about which shirts we were choosing, she spontaneously asked if she could wrap the 2 shirts I picked and put them under the tree. She seemed a little tentative when she asked.  The girl just wants to give gifts! Then she asked if I was going to wrap her new shirts. This time I actually hadn’t planned to.  I asked if she wanted me to and she said yes. Most kids would want the clothing right away. She really wanted to feel that she was getting a gift. Hey, that works for me!

We made some accommodations that made it easier for Jessie to enjoy shopping and wrapping with less frustration.

  • When possible Jessie has used the motorized scooters to enable her to enjoy shopping for longer. We also have a wheelchair, or use ones provided in store when needed. Without this, Jessie can’t shop for long before she doesn’t find it enjoyable because her feet hurt.
  • Jessie started off the season so excited to wrap but finds it frustrating after a while. She didn’t want to use gift bags in the beginning of the season, but after we had done some wrapping she decided using some bags was ok.
  • I have some pretty decorative boxes for clothing (Dollar Tree!). For the shirts she was giving me, she chose pretty decorative boxes that didn’t require any wrapping. She didn’t even want to tape them. She was tired of the tape dispenser at this point 🙂

Jessie mentioned quite a few times from Thanksgiving through the next few weeks that she wanted to go shopping and buy me a gift. She knows I like to wear earrings and she wanted to buy me some.

Finally, she took matters in her own hands.

She called her big sister and asked Jordan to take her shopping. They went the next night, just the two of them, to eat supper together and shop. When she left with her sister, she looked so grown up and sassy with her Vera Bradley cross body purse on and her money in her wallet.  She looked, felt, and acted so grown up about it all.

This whole season her sincere desire to give has been so sweet.

She loves the way she feels when someone gives her a gift and she wants to make others feel the same way. That’s a pretty mature thought process. I’m enjoying these grown up sweet changes in my girl.

One last sweet thing… the other night after we had been shopping and found those new shirts, as she walked by the recliner where I was sitting, she told me I was the best mom ever. Then as she teared up, she said, “I’m bout to cry.” Of course, that made me cry.

I hope your Christmas is full of such sweet blessings. Merry Christmas!

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