As a child on Christmas day, I recall running to the tree first thing in the morning, hoping for Barbie accessories, books and whatever cool new toy was constantly being advertised at the time. I looked forward to spending the day playing with everything I got, and ending it curled up with a new book.
As I got older and started saving birthday money to buy my family presents, I would think long and hard about what they would like that fit within my meager budget. I enjoyed coming up with the perfect gift idea, and then trying to find a way to get it without them knowing, especially my parents who were my means of transportation. When I got old enough to get a job and ride the bus, I loved going Christmas shopping for my family. I couldn't wait for them to open what I got them.
That excitement for giving hasn't left me. What has left is the desire to open gifts for myself. There is nothing materialistic I want that I can't go out and buy for myself. Knowing how hard my family works, I don't want them to spend their money on me. I would much rather have them use it for the things they need. However, asking them to refrain means that I take away their chance at the joy of giving. It is a selfish request, even though it is a thought that is fully about them.
What I want for Christmas isn't found at the mall or on Amazon. It can't be put on a credit card. Yet, it might be the hardest to give.
My Christmas would be made if I got the gift of time. I am often running from job to job, meeting to meeting, one event to the other for myself or my daughter. There are days when I am up at 5:45AM making dinner for that evening so we can scarf it down in the fifteen minutes between getting from commitment A to commitment B. It leaves me very little quality time to spend with my daughter, or get a minute to myself. An ideal gift would be an invitation to share dinner so I don't have to wake up before the sun to ensure a warm meal twelve hours later. It would come with the additional gift of sleep.
In the days of a dual parent household I could escape to do something I wanted to do, like see an art exhibit without rushing because my child is bored and ready to leave, or shop for items I need, like winter gloves. I didn't have to hurry back in time for a sitter because Warren wanted that time with our daughter. They made memories and enjoyed each other's company. It allowed me the peace of mind to take my time, maybe even sneak in a chai tea and catch up on a magazine in one of my favorite coffee shops. Those days are gone. I have to take my daughter with me pretty much everywhere I go, while she usually prefers to be anywhere else and lets me know. She wants to be with her friends, or on the couch watching Netflix, not going from store to store comparing prices, or sitting silently through meetings. It stresses me out when I know I have someone in tow who would rather not be. It is not enjoyable for either of us. Even though I try to squeeze in conversations with her, it isn't exactly quality time.
Since losing her dad, my daughter revels in being around other families. She loves me, but I am just one person. She used to be surrounded by two people loving her. Try as I may, I cannot make up for that. I catch her staring longingly at families of 2+ when we go out. She misses sitting between us at the movies, holding both our hands as we walk, and having an audience of more than me to cheer her on. Giving her the gift of spending time with her is a gift to me, too. It gives me alone time, but more importantly, it reminds my daughter that we're not in this alone. It reinforces to her that she has a supportive network of people who love her and want to be with her. Whenever she comes back from spending time with others who love her she has a little more pep in her step. She smiles more and laughs more easily. It revives her and makes me happy in the process.
Sometimes the time we need isn't to be apart. It is nice to have our house filled with voices and laughter that is not our own. We love hosting others - formally or informally. It is something I am getting back into after a few years of not being able to bear too much life in my home. We miss getting unexpected visitors stopping by to say hi. It used to happen a lot more when Warren was alive. It happened a bit after his passing, but today it is rare. Our house feels warmer and more like a home when we share it. Share of your time with a visit. I promise it will be a gift to all of us that will create laughter and lasting memories for all of us.