Ok, maybe it’s not all kids want for Christmas. I know from my own children’s notes to Santa that my son wants a sleeping bag for camping and my daughter wants an electric scooter (just like Taylor’s, please). There are a handful of toys and clothing items they’ve asked for, too. But I know what they want most, on Christmas and every day. What they really want…is me.
That’s right, all kids want for Christmas is you.
Childhood is for connecting
That scooter wouldn’t be nearly as fun if no one was there to celebrate her riding it. And a camping trip without Mom or Dad (or Grandma, etc.)? Forget about it. What kids are truly hungry for is connection, maybe moreso in this generation than any other.
Our kids have tablets, computers, and televisions at their fingertips almost around the clock, even if parents limit their use. Many of them can entertain themselves for long stretches and go off into their own worlds of favorite shows or games. But somewhere, in the recesses of their little hearts, they know that’s not the stuff of childhood. Given the opportunity to experience laughter and reciprocity and shared experience, they would choose it every time.
This is a good thing for parents to keep in mind as we’re shopping for just the right gift in these last few days before Christmas. (Which I know you all are doing, and I’m still doing it, too!) Whatever gifts are in your cart or under your tree Christmas morning are a distant second from the gift your child most wants: the gift of YOU.
(Can’t you just hear Mariah Carey singing in the background? “All I want for Christmas…is YOU!”)
So instead of focusing all of your energy on your “to buy” list this season, I challenge you to do what I did yesterday (that I don’t do nearly often enough): spend time playing with your child.
After school, for just 15 or 20 minutes, I went upstairs and played cars with Isaac. We sat close together, and I followed his lead. He wanted me to play the police car while he created all sorts of problems with the others (which feels strangely like real life, am I right?). After a while, we had a mystery on our hands, and Scooby Doo and the gang came into the mix, adding new dimension to our play.
There were a million other things I could have been doing to help the family…making dinner, doing dishes, accounting, shopping online, laundry, cleaning the house…you get the idea. But playing with Isaac was the most important thing. It set the course for the rest of the afternoon, Isaac playing peacefully in his room and a long, welcome stretch without screens. It can set the course for many afternoons. And over time, it can set the course for a child’s life.
We love our children with all our hearts. They love us with all their hearts, too. So let’s give them what they really want this year, and not just for Christmas.