So, why the question mark?
One of my favorite presentations in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is "The History of the Kingdom of God: The Gifts." How enchanted I was as I first watched the trainer introduce this material! All of history, and all it contains, can be viewed as a series of gifts from God -- and what a beautiful meditation it was for me when I made this material -- the text on the long strip is so beautiful -- and then collecting all the small items: rocks and minerals; seeds; leaf samples; photos of stars, planets, animals, and persons; the crucifix, paten, chalice, candles -- and then creating the small symbol for Parousia... It was the work of weeks, a time of wonder and deep concentration. I am still astonished when I present this material to the children, or when I contemplate its meaning on my own. Everything I see, hear, and touch, and everyone I meet, are gifts for my life -- gifts that I did not and can never earn or merit.
But lately I have been wondering about how my children, and people in general, are God's gifts to me. They are not gifts for me to possess or to think of as "mine." Though God has given them to me, they remain his possession first, but they also belong, in a very real way, to themselves.
In Learning the Virtues that Lead You to God, Romano Guardini writes about how all the virtues find their source in God -- that God himself practices these virtues in perfection. When it comes to reverence, though, how can we begin to imagine how God could be said to be reverent? Guardini ventures that God shows reverence toward us, in our littleness, by offering us freedom.
...all true culture begins with the fact that man steps back. That he does not obtrude himself and seize hold of things, but leaves a space, so that there may be a place in which the person in his dignity, the work it its beauty, and nature in it symbolic power may be discerned. (Learning the Virtues...)
So, God "steps back" and allows us to be. Not only can we have reverence for the great and mighty -- for God who is breath-takingly beyond us -- we can also have reverence before what is little, weak, in our power. We can imitate the reverence of God by stepping back and leaving a space, so that there will be a place where the other's dignity may be discerned.
We can show lack of reverence toward children in so many ways: treating them as extensions of ourselves, ascribing motives to them, speaking for them, forcing or manipulating them to hold our views, enjoying them as projections of our own need, etc., etc.
Though having children has been one of the greatest gifts for my life, I prefer not to think of the children themselves as gifts, given to me. The life of a child is first and foremost a gift to that child herself, a gift that she is invited to give, in its totality, to the One who breathes her into existence. The honor of witnessing this holy exchange is the true gift that I receive in living in close proximity to others, including children.