Last month, I went to Nashville for the BlissDom blogging conference. I wanted to bring home something for each of my girls, a little treat from my trip.

The first day of the conference offered me the chance to shop the delightful wares at the Handmade Marketplace. I realized as I browsed the booths that I wanted to get my daughters something handmade, something that would hopefully hold more meaning than a tacky t-shirt.

I walked up and down the aisles, sighing more than once over the precious collections for little ones. Though of course I realize that my children are growing up, it definitely drove the point home when I realized that they were too big even for the sweet little handmade skirts I found at one booth.

Both of my daughters have been very into girly, feminine accessories lately, and when I spied the lacy fluffs at the Allora Handmade booth, I knew I had found the perfect treat for each of them. I picked light pink for my older daughter and the darker pink for the  younger one, bearing in mind that her favorite color is very specifically dark pink.

After my return, my girls had fun digging through all of the treasures I brought home with me. Predictably, they were slightly more interested in the free stuff from my swag bag (squeezable applesauce and a bag of chocolate mini eggs!) than they were in the gifts I had purchased just for them, but still they happily tucked their pretty new lacy fluffs into the bucket of accessories that sits on their dresser.

Something kind of fun and interesting that my children and their friends do is swap stuff with each other. It’s not unusual at all for them to come home from hanging out with friends with hands full of goodies passed along to them. Usually it’s a stuffed animal or a drawing book or some other little treat that their friends happily gave away. Likewise, I’m always delighted to see items from our copious collections of stuff walking out the door into a new home after a little friend visits here.

About a week after I got home from Nashville, my younger daughter decided she wanted to make a card for a special friend of hers—a friend from church who is several years older than my AJ, a sweet little girl who both of my daughters adore.

AJ decided that the card wasn’t enough; she wanted to give her friend a special present. No occasion, just because. And she had chosen the dark pink lacy fluff I had just given her as the gift to give to her friend.

I have to confess: I was hurt.

Now, I fully realize the weight of the irony here. I am, after all, the person who has shared with you on several occasions about how we can focus on less clutter, less stuff, and less angst over what to do about gifts. One might think that if there was any person who should recognize that the choice of whether or not to keep a gift that has been given has nothing to do with the depth of the relationship between gift-giver and gift-recipient, that person should be me.

Yet I found myself stuttering and stammering over my daughter’s decision to give away this little gift that I had put so much thought into giving her. I realized I was having one of those (often painful, yet much-needed) moments when  my philosophy was meeting my reality. If I wouldn’t allow my daughter to give her friend a brand new gift that I had intended for her to her friend, what message would I be sending?

Would she be hearing from me that shabby cast-offs are fine for giving away, but we keep the best stuff for ourselves?

Or worse, would she be learning from my response that we have to hold on to things given to us by those we love, lest we hurt their feelings?

Day by day, decision by decision, response by response, we are shaping the view on life that our children will take with them when they grow up and leave our homes as independent individuals. We can speak with our words as much as we want to that people are more important than things, but if our actions don’t support that belief, then all of our talk is a meaningless waste of time and breath.

All too often, I get frustrated by how much stuff my children want to hang onto, and I fear that they too often err on the side of selfishness. Yet in this moment, my four-year-old was displaying a wonderful spirit of generosity, and I made the decision to honor that spirit.

So with a smile and my blessing, I watched AJ give to her friend this gift I had hoped she would want to enjoy herself. A little case of hurt feelings on my part is more than worth it to be able to cultivate in my children a generous spirit that will allow them to bless others, both today and in the years to come.

Have your children ever surprised you with their generosity? Last week, as part of Project Simplify, we focused on kids’ stuff. Did you discover within your children or yourself a more generous spirit than you had anticipated?