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Judy Spooner Viewpoint: Through their eyes, meaning of holiday season emerges

Four fifth-graders from Sean Duncanson's class at Grey Cloud Elementary School talked to me last week. I asked them if the holidays are getting too commercial and what the season means to them.

From their comments, I have several observations. Kids watch the adults in their lives and learn a lot from them. They're smarter than most grownups think they are. They also understand what's important in life and they didn't get it on Facebook.

Adeline Walton said the holidays are not just about presents and toys. "It's about getting together with your family," she said. "Some families only see each other once a year. I have lots of cousins. It's awesome."

Adeline, Emily Chilton, Talia Vanassee and Lucia Witikko said a lot of kids only think about presents.

The girls agreed that they used to think about presents a lot when they were younger. However, they've older now and have a wider view of the world.

"Presents are just the cherry on top of the cake," Lucia said.

Their thoughts are not just surface conclusions they say because that's what people want to hear. They understand on a quite deep level.

Lucia's grandmother was in the hospital on Thanksgiving and is recovering. "She does everything for the holidays," she said. "The house seemed empty without her."

Talia's family celebrates the holidays with part of her family one year and another part of the family the next.

Some families have divorces and that affects kids at the holidays, they said. Kids are pulled back and forth between parents and their families. Kids want to love their families and, at times, it's upsetting when there are disagreements that test loyalty. You might not realize that your kids are watching and listening to you, but they are. Kids are wonderful observers. Adults rarely ask kids what they are thinking but it's a good idea. I learn a lot from them.

Not all of the girls go to Christian churches on a regular basis, but they know a lot about it and other religions as well. Some people celebrate the Santa Claus part of the holiday but not the Christian part. Lucia's uncle is Jewish and has her family over to this house to honor Hanukkah.

The upcoming generation is also tolerant. Messages of mutual respect and appreciating other points of view even if you don't share them has made it through.

"I completely respect other religions," Emily said. "It's your choice."

It's rude, according to Lucia, to put down someone if they don't choose to celebrate Christmas. "It's like you think you are better than they are," she said, something the other girls agreed with.

With wisdom beyond her years, Adeline summed up the discussion about tolerance: "I'm so glad," she said, "that everyone can have their own voice."

If they were in charge of Congress, the "fiscal cliff" would be solved. There would be one day to hear everyone's opinion and one day to work out a solution.