During the holidays, we are bombarded by the media with all of the latest and greatest toys, technology and treats. While shopping, we stress over finding the perfect gift for others, often finding that perfect must-have for ourselves—losing sight of the real meaning for the season. When I ask my four-year-old what she wants for Christmas, she says, “I want what you carry around in your backpack.” A computer! (Or in her words, “pewter”)
Now pause and take a deep breath….
Does my child really want a computer? Probably not. Does she really want to be like mama and “work” like mama does? Yes. Children today see us on our phones, iPads, and computers constantly (or at least mine does). And if we think these gadgets are so important, then to a child, one is necessary to feel important, too. I also have a sneaking suspicion that because I’ve been so busy with work these days, my daughter also wants a piece of the action. In other words, she wants me to put her into the computer and phone rotation of priorities.
Strip away all the toys, gadgets and gizmos. What does she really want? My guess is my time.
Recently, we were fortunate enough to have my dad come for a visit. He came twice this year, which was truly a treat. During the last stay, we thought it would be fun for him to go read to my daughter’s class. We arranged it with the teachers and planned it for the following day.
When we arrived, all the kids knew who I was: “Chapin’s mama.” And they were curious who this other guy was. Some knew: “Chapin’s Grandpa Harry.” Earlier during the day, Chapin had chosen a couple of books for Grandpa Harry to read to the class. Rather than sitting in a chair in circle, Grandpa Harry opted to be right there on the floor with the others. He had no idea what he was going to read, but when he was handed the book, Snowmen at Night, and started reading, the kids were hooked. Every one of them hung on to every word. Dad would occasionally stop to ask the kids questions, and they were eager to answer. At other times, the students would offer their own thoughts, even proclaiming, “I’m going to be in a movie.” Dad didn’t miss a beat and kept them each engaged, even when they were in their own imaginary world. Everyone was captivated, and there was a lot of laughter, smiles and big eyes of wonder. As he continued to read, the kids inched closer and closer to him, gravitating to his presence and attention.
That’s when it hit me. The gift of us, our time and attention, is really all our children want. So, rather than panicking over the perfect gift to give, sending that last email before dinner, or even checking your messages while kids are in the back seat (yes, I need to heed my own advice), take a minute to give them what they really want and need: you. Give yourself, your spouse and your children the gift of time to create the experiences and memories they’ll truly remember forever.
And have a very merry holiday season!