Way back in the middle of the summer while I was still up to my eyeballs (literally) in yellow squash, green beans, and cucumbers, the media started poking at parents like they were cattle in chute. Their goal? To goad them into panic mode over not being able to fulfill their child’s Christmas wishes due to the (drum roll, please) supply chain debacle.
It’s true! I read it with my own little eyes (all four of them) and heard it with my own little ears—the media told us that if we didn’t start shopping for Christmas now (July), we would be out of luck come November and December. And ‘out of luck’ was code for ‘you will a complete failure as a parent because you will be disappointing your kids’.
Please tell me you didn’t fall for this! Tell me you aren’t beating yourself up because you can’t find or afford something your kids want for Christmas. Or please don’t tell me you are busting your budget or adding to your credit card debt for a gift that we all know won’t mean much a month or two into 2022. FYI: If either of those is true, it’s not too late to turn it around. Take it back and get a refund because I’m going to tell you how to give them something even better than anything you commandeered off the shelf or online.
What is this most amazing gift? It’s the gift of Christmas. Not a Christmas gift, but the gift of Christmas.
A Christmas gift is something you wrap, stuff in a bag, or put a bow around. Now don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with giving gifts. The problem is when the gifts are the whole of your Christmas…or your kids’. You know what I’m talking about. So, don’t let it happen. Don’t let the media and social peer pressure convince you that the supply chain is synonymous with Christmas.
Instead of focusing on the gift(s) and what may or may not be available, give your kids something that will never be in short supply—the gift of Christmas, aka your presence, memory-making experiences, a positive attitude, your undivided and sincere attention when they are talking, patience, compassion, and the unconditional love that loves them just because they are yours. None of these things will break the bank. None of these things will require you to eat pbj or ramen for a week. But the returns are priceless.
Your presence: Taking the time to read one more bedtime story, to be at every game (even if it means eating leftovers at your desk for lunch), sitting down together as a family to eat dinner, going caroling together, driving around looking at Christmas lights together, or playing together, or just hanging out and talking…these things are so much more important and will stay with them a lot longer than anything that comes in a package.
Making memories together: Baking and decorating cookies, learning to make your grandma’s hot rolls together, telling your kids your favorite childhood Christmas memories, serving others together, making handmade gifts or cards, starting a tradition to give yourselves and experience instead of stuff. Examples: a mini-vacation, bowling, pizza, and Christmas lights, hosting foreign students for a Christmas dinner complete with reading the account of Jesus’ birth and giving tiny gifts, a sleepover in the living room with junk food, movies, a dance-off, or something along that line, a mall or discount store scavenger hunt (each person gets $10 or $20 to spend on gifts for everyone—these are just a few thing that make memories larger than life and more valuable than anything you can’t find on the shelves right now.
A positive attitude, patience, and compassion: Whether six or sixteen, your kids are not out to put you in a bad mood or make you angry. When they act out and melt down, they are either reacting to upset and upheaval in their lives or they don’t feel well. Having a positive, patient, and compassion attitude is the best way to go. But the hubbub and stress of busy-ness that has become part of the holiday season makes this more difficult than usual. So, take a breath, let it out, take another one, let it out, then take your child in your arms, hug them close, and tell them you are there to help lighten their load.
Listen more than you speak: Let them talk without interrupting. Let them talk without criticizing and correcting. Let them talk without competing against your phone, your work, or someone else. Let them talk knowing you will be honest, but gentle, firm, but fair, and that you can always be counted on to hold what they say in confidence.
Unconditional love: When your kids wake up every morning and go to bed every night knowing they are fully loved by you and that you will always forgive, always give them your best self, and always encourage them to journey toward the best version of ‘them’ is unconditional love at its finest and it’s the finest form of the gift of Christmas one person can give another. And that is what parenting is all about.