Next Friday, the frenzy begins. Holiday shopping season is officially upon us.
Parents are scrambling to discern their children’s wants and needs, scouring ads and collecting coupons, desperate to make sure our idea of a picture perfect Christmas comes to fruition. We want no child left behind; counting gifts for equality, making sure we get just the right requested toy or gadget, and often adding to our debt in the process.
I have already seen some suggestions to frazzled, even unemployed parents, to just shop the multitude of second-hand sites. Solid advice… but for Christmas? Does second-hand match our fantasy of this one day of the year where we indulge our child’s every whim? Will they notice??
We had some pretty prolific Christmas mornings during my childhood. I look back through pictures and am astounded at how high the piles of presents were. I remember the excitement of finding the former void under the tree filled to the brim, the packages with my name, the special ones from Santa, the huge haul of toys I’d bring back to my room as the night drew to a close.
However, when I try to recall what gifts I actually received, I can only come up with a handful – from a real nutcracker prince (magical since I’d just watched the ballet), to modeling wax in a rainbow of colors.
The truth is, I remember more about the day than the toys – the excitement, the magic, the food, the decorations…. my parents’ moods.
As I grew older, Christmas became somewhat of a depressing day… sometimes feigning excitement over gifts that really weren’t anything I wanted. By then, my parents had divorced, and any gift I pined for couldn’t be wrapped.
The truth is this: make your lists, but know that all our children truly and absolutely need is our presence, not the presents.
They need us to sit with them, undistracted, and be fully present in the moment, aware and attuned to them. If they’re infants, they want us to hold them. If they’re young children, they want us to play with them. If they’re teenagers, they want us to be available to talk them, to engage in their interests and activities – play sports, board, or card games with them.
Of course you can create the magic! Of course you can indulge and buy the perfect gifts! But do so knowing that at the end of the day, all your child wants and needs is your full-on presence. They need to know that they are seen, they are heard, and they are worthy. If you don’t believe me, check out this commercial from Ikea where children wrote their TRUE wishlists.
“You want to give them the best, and the best is yourself!”
I’m setting my intention now for our Christmas to be magical, but to not be so focused on the production that I’m too busy, too stressed, or too tired to be fully present. Whatever that means – maybe I prepare more meals and snacks in advance or refrain from scheduling travel – I choose to spend that precious time with my children, fully present with them so we can experience the magic together.
What would you like your children to remember about this holiday, with you?