Originally published in the December 2016 edition of 605 Magazine.
It’s here. You can feel it, smell it in the air. The Christmas gift buying and receiving frenzy has begun. Actually, it probably began sometime back in September according to Hobby Lobby’s inventory stock, but for many of us, this month of December is really when the gifting fervor reaches its peak. If you’ve been reading this column for any amount of time, you know, I am extra passionate about making sure the meaning of Christmas isn’t usurped by presents. I limit the gifts we give and I place strong emphasis on the faith component and try to amp up excitement surrounding giving to others versus receiving only for ourselves.
Well, in true tell-all fashion, I have to admit, based off of a conversation I had with my five-year-old last night … I thought for a moment we were completely and utterly failing miserably.
I was playing with my daughter in our living room with a nativity scene we brought out and we were talking about Christmas and the conversation went something like this:
“I really like your placement of baby Jesus on the roof of the manger, honey.”
“Thanks, Mommy!” She said as she took him off the roof and put him outside by the cow trough. I laughed.
“Um, Mommy, in this nativity scene, where are all the presents?”
“Well, baby Jesus is the present, honey and you know, Christmas isn’t just about presents …”
“Yes, it is, Mommy!”
“No, honey, it’s about God’s gift to the world and that gift ---”
“Is a gift, a present? ”
“Yes! A gift is a present and we give each other presents to represent --”
“Yay, presents! I LOVE presents. I hope I get presents this Christmas.”
It was at that point, I realized I wasn’t going to win any sort of philosophical argument with her while we sat playing with the nativity scene. I decided to switch directions and go with her train of thought and then steer it back to the meaning of Christmas when the time was right. So, I said, “I love presents too, honey, is there something you really want for Christmas this year?”
I cringed as I awaited her answer. I anticipated a long list of toys, dolls, Play Doh or a new thing she may have seen on TV. As I waited, I wondered how I was going to make this a perfect Full House parenting moment complete with awful sappy music and spin the conversation back on the joy of giving. I watched as she took the angel and placed it on a camel’s back and giggled. Then, she nonchalantly said, “Remember when you and I went on our special trip, just me and you? When you did my hair, we watched movies together, and we had a slumber party? I want that for Christmas.”
I looked at her as she said this and her words sliced straight through me and gripped my heart. See, a few weeks ago, on a whim, I took my daughter on a special mother-daughter weekend down to see my sister-in-law ride in a horse show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ever since my son was born and with the drama that went with his possible (and thank God, negative) health scare, my daughter and I haven’t had any long moments of one-on-one time together. So, when I heard about the horse show in Tulsa, I seized the opportunity and we went. We had a truly wonderful time; eating junk food, petting horses, watching movies, doing each other’s hair and makeup, sleeping in, etc. But I didn’t realize just how wonderful our time together was until this exchange.
“You want to do that trip again, Avi?”
“Yes, Mommy! Can we? Can we? That’s what I want for Christmas!”
Here I was ready to pounce with all my “parenting wisdom” surrounding Christmas and she turned the tables on me and schooled me. Out of all the things she could have chosen to want for Christmas, what she really wanted was to spend time with me. Me.
It really and truly is not the gifts that matter, even to our children. Sure, they like a gift here and there, they are kids, after all. But, at the core of them, fellow parent, all they really want is time with us. They want to connect. They want our attention. They just want the ultimate gift; the gift of sincere, loving relationship. Coincidentally, that just so happens to be what the very first Christmas was rooted in, too.
I will still fight the battle against consumerism at Christmastime. I will continue to teach my children that it is better to give than to receive. But this year, too, I’m giving my daughter everything she asked for. Everything on her list: My time.