The gifts covered in red and green paper and hiding in bell-shaped gift sacks no longer sat under the tree. Their contents had been opened and enjoyed with much elation days before. Little did I know I was about to witness my greatest surprise of the season.
You know the feeling…we had experienced the high of celebrating the miraculous birth…but then came the postpartum packing blues. I had dreaded taking down Christmas decorations from the minute the last of the family walked out the door on Christmas Day. Though I loved the carefree schedule of the holidays and the beauty of the glimmering lights, the black cloud of having to pack it all away loomed over me.
Noting that the clock was ticking — it was the final day of December — I realized I must stare my procrastination in the face and do something. The energy drained out of my body as I mulled it over. I felt overwhelmed as I considered all the lights, garland, seasonal plates and decorations to put away…not to mention the sheets and towels that needed washing, floors that needed vacuuming, and the leftovers in the refrigerator that were becoming science projects.
Wait a minute, what about teamwork? What about breaking things down into manageable parts to tackle a hard job? And what about taking an undesirable task and making it into a game? These were things I had written and spoken about…could I apply these principles at this critical moment?
My heart began to lift, then raced as I pondered the possibilities. I considered each of the children and the talents they possessed. Hope swept in like a cool breeze on a hot day.
Not wanting to lose the inspiration, I gathered everyone and gave a quick off-the-cuff pep talk. “Team, we have a mission today that will include everyone. We are going to put away the Christmas decorations in record time. Everyone who works with a good attitude will be rewarded with a treat every thirty minutes when the timer goes off. After we are done, everyone will receive payment based on effort and attitude. Bonuses will be given if we come in under a three hour time limit. Prizes will be awarded, and we will celebrate with kids meals at your favorite restaurant.”
Where should we start? Karis Joy (3) and Micah (5) could be gatherers. “Your mission is to seek out every Christmas-related item in the house that you can reach and carefully bring it to one of the two large tables I have covered with table cloths.” They scurried off like two busy bees.
I then turned my attention to Caleb (7). He had always been our outdoorsman and was a take-charge guy who enjoyed time with his dad. “Caleb, you and Dad will be packing all the outdoor decorations and lights.”
As I could see the tables filling up with Christmas items, I knew just who I needed at that point. My spatially-gifted left-brained son, Dillon (11). Chris passed down the thirteen red and green plastic bins from the attic, and his job was to pack all the items brought to the tables.
That left Derek (10), the perfect right-hand-man for me that day. His strengths are flexibility, a good attitude, and a willingness to do whatever is asked, one task at a time. He and I covered whatever else was needed. As we turned on some upbeat music, I announced, “Let the games begin!”
Every thirty minutes when the timer rang, I dispensed “energy pills” (small chocolate candies) to keep them going. “Yea! It’s time for injury pills!” my five-year-old would exclaim when he heard the ring.
My heart welled up with joy as I saw my home transform before my eyes, inside and out. If someone started to tire, I reminded him of the good things ahead for the diligent who held good attitudes. One and a half hours from our starting time, I was in awe as we passed up to Chris the last box to store in the attic until next year. Was I surprised? It was greater than I could have ever hoped or dreamed.
We gave a cheer and I told everyone to head to the car to depart for our celebration. I quickly cut “ribbons” out of red construction paper, and grabbed my Sharpie to label the awards. We had everything from “fastest three-year-old gatherer in the U.S.” to “shrewdest packer in history” (Dillon had two empty bins left over). And of course my husband received an award for being so great and going along with my plan.
My favorite gift that year didn’t have a ribbon around it and couldn’t be held in my hands. I received the joy of marking a big job off my to-do list. But even greater was the joy of watching my family work like an All-Star team. Post-season play had never looked or felt better.