Tag Archives: gift

Birthday Surprise

It’s my daughter’s birthday. I promised her I would visit her during lunch and surprise her for her birthday. That was the plan until my boss scheduled a luncheon meeting, which is another way of saying I was working through lunch.

But I didn’t want to disappoint my daughter. After all, I was working more than I had ever worked before during her short life and the following week I was going out of town for business. I would not see her for a few days, which seems like forever when you’re young enough to count your age on your fingers and your toes. I had to do something to stop those big crocodile tears from ruining her pretty face.

So…I devised a plan. I would tuck a birthday gift inside her lunchbox.

I bought cherry-flavored lip balm and an ice cream cone-shaped mirror in a gift bag that said, “A girl can never have too much stuff!” along with a card signed by her father, her brother, and me.

When she woke up in the morning, I told her I had already packed her lunch. She eyed me suspiciously, but went along with it anyway since she had been sick the whole week and knew I was wont to spoil her. But on the drive to school, her tell-tale smile gave away the fact that she knew my little secret.

I thought the surprise was ruined, but it was not. “I saw the gift, but I didn’t open it,” she said. “I was just looking to see why my lunchbox was so heavy.”

“It’s because I packed you a drink,” I said. “The gift doesn’t weigh much.”

“I promise I won’t open it until lunch time,” she said.

“It’s all right if you open it up sooner,” I said. “I know you want to show your friends.”

“I’ll open it at lunch time,’ she said.

For a long moment, neither one of us spoke.

I parked and started the short walk with my daughter to school.

I didn’t know what my daughter was thinking or feeling, but I knew what I was thinking and feeling. “I knew you were disappointed that I had to work so I just wanted to surprise you.”

“You did surprise me,” she said.

In front of the lavender tulip tree, my daughter and I embraced. “Happy birthday,” I wished through her freshly straightened hair.

“Thanks, Mom,” she said.

I strolled down the sidewalk, thinking about how different my childhood would have been if my parents had valued imagination over facts. Maybe I would have had a few surprises in my lunchbox instead of the big things that caused so much heartache in the end. As a child, I had very little control over my environment. But as an adult I could act in ways that I felt were not only appropriate but lifesaving. By choosing to take the time and the creativity to show my daughter how much I love her, I was able to fulfill both my role as a provider and my role as a mother without anyone losing anything.

Poetry…a Priceless Gift


My daughter hates when I write about her. But I’m so proud of her. I can’t help it.

Rose has always been good at math. She intuitively understands abstract concepts and algebraic formulas. But she has always struggled with language arts. She was slow to talk, slow to read, and slow to grasp the structure of a sentence.

A couple of years ago I purchased Rip the Page! by Karen Benke as a gift for my daughter. I had the pleasure and the privilege of meeting Karen at Hedgebrook, a writer’s retreat on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound in the winter of 1997. Karen is a creative writing expert and an award-winning writer. She is the author of the poetry collection, SISTER, and teaches as a Poet in the School. She also offers creative writing workshops for children and adults. Although our busy schedule conflicted with the workshops Karen offered, the book is written to mirror a writing workshop. Rose dove into the workbook-style writing manual designed specifically for children. By the time she finished the book, she had improved her writing skills and increased her confidence as a writer.

She was so confident of her writing skills that she wrote a poem for me on Mother’s Day.

Hummingbird

Mom, you are like a colorful hummingbird
Your soft wings rub against me and comfort me when I am down
Your singing is so beautiful it comforts me more

You wake me up at sunrise with your singing
Then you sit on a branch and watch me
You will never leave my side
Soon I am walking on earth and you are flying right above me

You watch me move ever so softly
You are one of the closest people in my life
You understand me like how you understand the wind

Mom, you give me strength
You are always there for me
You are very special to me
You are my mom and I LOVE YOU WILL ALL MY HEART

After reading the poem, my eyes brimmed with tears of joy and pride. I know my daughter could not have written the poem without Karen’s wonderful instructive writing guide.

If you have a child who loves to read and write, Rip the Page! is a gift that will give back to you just as it has for me through my daughter’s poem.

Watch a video of Karen Benke promoting Rip the Page!