Do We Owe Our Children the Gift of Christmas Presents or Christmas Presence?

Like most I have been caught up in a never-ending stream of Christmas festivities recently (which is partly to blame for my shocking lack of blogging lately!): carol concerts, nativity plays, Christmas parties, Christingle services and late night shopping evenings. I’ve also had a ridiculously huge amount of business related work this month too and have been frequently away from home at meetings and training sessions or when I am at home – buried in my laptop furiously tapping away at the keys.

My children do not like this. (I do not like this).

Last week, my 6yr old ran into my arms, crying and said “mummy I’ve missed you so much” after I returned from a weekend’s training course, my 4yr old clung to me not wanting me to leave, my 8yr old told me “I hate your work” (when questioned why he said “because it takes you away from us”) and my 9yr old asked me “why do you have to work all the time?”  – my flippant answer to him “because we need money to buy all the stuff you guys need” did not sit well – with either him or me.

In my festive frenzy, it hit me – the mountain of presents for my kids waiting to be wrapped is meaningless, will the latest Lego set or the hideous pink Barbie car really mean something to them? is that really what they need, despite it being what they asked for? to me the presents represent my love for them – did I buy so much because I felt subconsciously guilty that I couldn’t give them as much of me as they really needed? is our gift obsessed, materialistic, consumerist nation of parents hiding their subconscious guilt in brightly wrapped bow topped boxes – just like me?

So I made a vow, this year I will give my children what I really wanted to give them all along -the gift of presence, not presents. I will read with them, I will sing with them, I will bake with them, I will play board games with them, I will listen to my  daughter’s 1000th rendition of  “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” as if it’s the first time she’s sung it to me, I will watch Home Alone with them and pretend I like it, I will make snowy Father Christmas footprints and magic reindeer food, I will take them to the Tree Lighting Service and I will let them make pictures with glitter (hmmm actually – I might not be able to bring myself to do that one – Glitter, in my house – eurgh!).

Now……where did I put the wrapping paper and sellotape? I have a remote control Lightning McQueen to wrap……

Happy Christmas Everyone, I hope you get all the presence your heart desires.


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About SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.
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