To give birth – whether to a person or an idea – is to bring something new into existence. Its origin is from the Old Norse word meaning “bear.” My assumption is that this was an early acknowledgment of the intense labor that is intrinsic to the act of giving birth.

When we give birth to anything it brings with it a combination of immediate joy, hope, anxiety and fear. All entrenched in the reality that while we have brought something beautiful into the world we are wholly uncertain of how things will turn out.

So it is always wonderful when we receive some affirmation that what we have birthed is exceeding our wildest hopes.

On Christmas, in addition to gifts that travel by way of Santa’s sleigh or Amazon’s truck, we also each year give our children a hand made gift. This is something that they in turn, several years ago, have begun doing for us.

So on Christmas eve, after careful planning, our three daughters huddle together in one of their rooms for hours to make our gift. During this time, we hear giggles and an occasional scream of frustration – often involving a hot glue gun.

This year, born out of the imagination of my middle daughter with an assist from Pinterest, they created a collection of 52 playing cards, ring bound, with handmade art and heartfelt sentiments on each. Every card reflected one of 52 McKinnon Family Traditions that they had collectively remembered and brought to life. Some were funny, others tender or sweet. Each tradition was something we, as parents, tried to establish as a ritual which could bind us together. Their remembrance and the creation of this beautiful artifact was a testament that these traditions we had birthed had taken root in the minds of our three girls – more than we had ever realized and perhaps to an extent that many may carry on in their own families one day.

A sucker for thoughtful gifts, their labor birthed tears as I read each one. It would not be the only time that the ideas of our offspring would do so.

Earlier, my youngest daughter presented me with my secret Santa gift. She created a handmade craft frame of popsicle sticks with a beautiful drawing in its center of a rose. In her words, she then compared my traits as a father to those of this flower. As I read it, I imagined her spending time intricately bringing this idea to life in the hopes that it might bring light to mine – which of course it did.

Christmas is also my birthday. As a gift, my oldest daughter presented me with her guitar. Along the fingerboard, she had attached to its strings twelve coupons, each with a different picture of the two of us going back many years and announcing that it was good for a monthly jam session where we could play guitar together. At the neck of the guitar was a final note, telling me that she had read this piece I had written a month ago about the unexpected gift she had given me one day by joining me as I was playing guitar. It also reminded her of how much she too enjoyed playing together and gave birth to this wonderful idea that will keep giving throughout the year.

Each child also gave me a birthday card, with sentiments that reflected their unique personality.

All of which to say, the words and creations born from the minds of my children were not only incredibly moving but also an affirmation that my hopes for them were being realized. They are all incredibly thoughtful, kind and creative human beings and I could not be any prouder of who they are today or confident in their future.

This is not to say that there aren’t days filled with frustration or annoyance. Days spent questioning my own actions, decisions  or even capabilities as a dad.

But it is to say that all of the labor, uncertainty, fear and anxiety of bringing something new into existence is unequivocally and without any doubt worth it.

To be part of the birth of something – an idea, art, music, a thoughtful act and yes especially a child – is not easy, but I believe it is exactly what we are here for. To perpetuate good in the world, deliver love to others and make life – both literally and figuratively.

May 2024 bring the birth of many good and thoughtful gifts into your world.

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