For Easter our five year old son (I say "Our" where my wife always says "My") brought home what on first look seemed to be a pile of garbage. "IT's a butterfly!" he happily exclaimed. I guess I could see that. The half a milk carton, slit lengthwise, painted brown with pipe cleaners sticking out of one end and tissue paper stapled in the midsection could be a butterfly.
Okay. We smiled. In my mind I thought, "We'll keep this around for a week or so and then toss it in the trash." Then Nigel hit us with words that transformed this pile of recycled materials into a priceless family heirloom. "I made it for you for Easter! Because I love you." Cue violin music as clouds part and total awareness comes into view. This wasn't an art project gone wrong, a grouping of trash. Instead it was pure love. Something made by our five year old's own hands with the sole intention of bringing joy into the world. If it had come from anywhere else we would have considered it a bad gift. A very bad gift.
Trust me I've gotten some bad gifts over the years. Used oven mits, a football sausage and a sweater that even a Ricky Martin in his prime wouldn't dare wear. I used to keep a box of bad gifts in my closet for "White Elephant" and "Crap Poker" events. Both require you bring in the worst stuff you have to force on to someone else. At some point I had the idea that we can open a store in s mall somewhere called "Nothing Personal" where people can rgift all the bad gifts they got from rushed relatives or disconnected bosses. But this butterfly was too good for even that store.
Unlike the gift cards or ties you'll get from your kids as they get older, these early home made presents are made from pure love. So save them and keep them safe. Because one day soon your kids are smart ass teens who think they know better than you, you'll be able to pull them out, look at the shoddy workmanship and misspelled words and remember that once, those kids, who now think of you as an ATM, once loved you. And if you did right, they will love you again. But it may take years and that's The Bitter Truth.