Give your children the gift of presence

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In the season of gift-buying and gift-giving and gift-thanking, it’s easy to forget to be “present” with and to your children. It is nearly impossible to remember most presents people buy for you. You might remember the Singer sewing machine for kids that your mom bought you at age 9, or the brand new bicycle, or the pocket knife you longed for. But the vast majority of trendy dolls and toys and sweater vests and art kits and Nerf guns and Lego sets—these are happily enjoyed until they wind up lost in the basement.

What is remembered with the gauzy haze of romance and happy are the shared traditions—where kids got to do what adults do, and were enjoyed in the process. Mashing the potatoes, rolling out pie crust, creating a center piece, singing holiday songs while cleaning the kitchen, hand-drawing place cards with gold ink pens, hanging lights, lighting the fire in the fire place, touch football after turkey in the backyard with all the uncles and aunts and cousins, lounging in each other’s laps in front of the TV, taking walks in the neighborhood bundled in scarves and hats, eating as many turkey sandwiches as a person wants without asking permission, staying up late, sleeping in, sparkling cider toasts to the out of town relatives in for the weekend, taking turns bouncing the baby…

Ask your children what “traditions” they love. You will be surprised that some of the things you’ve done once (!) are on that list and now you know you’d better put them on the list for this year too!

One of our holiday traditions is to make an apple pie with a top crust made from maple leaf cut outs. I did it once—it became firmly cemented in all future Thanksgivings forever and ever, amen. Everyone wants a turn cutting the leaf shapes. My kids are adults. See what I mean?

Be present. Pause occasionally and appreciate the splendor of family that lives under one roof without the need to fly them in from anywhere. Look at the way the children light up thinking about their favorite foods when your energy flags. Ask for hugs and someone to tell you jokes while you cook to keep your own energy high!

Give to get to give to get to give to get… This is how the exchange works.

Be present to yourself, to your family, to your joy this holiday season.

Image © Alexander Shalamov | Dreamstime.com

2 Responses to “Give your children the gift of presence”

  1. […] What you do together isn’t the most important thing.  It’s committing to shared experience.  It’s setting time apart.  It’s closing up the laptop.  It’s creating a strong family culture.  It’s giving the gift of your presence. […]

  2. Joyfulmomof6 says:

    This is so true!
    I always wished my mom would have spent time with us instead of starting to worry (in October!) about Christmas and all the preparations and cooking and the slavery to “tradition” and keeping up with extended family members (who were very well to do and we were not) without remembering “why” it was being done.

    So glad that I’ve always done what you’ve noted here for my own children and have been able to
    “be present” for them.