It was like most mornings. I was sitting at the computer, looking at e-mail and Facebook, waiting for breakfast. My groggy-eyed son comes in and sits on my lap. This scene happens on most mornings in my house. But today was different. No sooner than he got in my lap he said, “Daddy, can we look at my Wish List on Amazon?” His focus was not on getting some hugs but getting some gifts. Now to defend my son his wish list is rather modest at the moment. I am sure it will grow longer as Christmas approaches. He will ask for gaming systems and tablets, along with video games and movies. All the things that boys like to play with. He is a normal kid. He wants it all.
But as I look at his list I know the most important thing that I can give him is not on his list. I need to give him myself. He would never ask for it on his list, but he expects it and sometimes demands it. It is funny how sometimes if I do not respond to the request or the need, he will ask for it in ways that are quite annoying. I get a note from the teacher or I have to reprimand him for something he does at home. If I don’t give him my time voluntarily, I will give him my time at a moment that is not as convenient for me.
Spending time with Joey also saves me time in the long run. As we spend time together, we learn to trust each other. Because of the trust, we can discuss what is going on. I do not have to drag it out of him. Don’t you hate dragging stuff out of your children? Spending time with him means he learns me and I learn him. It helps me know how I can best help him and not waste my time in areas that are not a challenge for him. I found out he is remarkably honest. I remember when he was younger; I kept trying to catch him being sneaky (because I was sneaky as a child). I could not catch him because that is just not him. But I do know he can be forgetful and has a hard time managing time. So I know I need to work with him on organization and time management.
And then there are the memories. Just yesterday, Joey was playing “Smash Brothers” with his friend. They were fighting each other on the screen. They were having a blast. The game and the video system were gifts from an earlier Christmas and birthday. But I don’t think he will remember the video games as much as the times we camp out in the backyard and just talk with each other about everything and nothing all at the same time. Or the memories made Saturday afternoons swimming at the “Y”. He will take his memories through life. They will affect him when he is feeling low. He knows he has a safe place at home because we spent time together. They will also impact the kind of daddy he will be.
Although you cannot buy the gift of yourself at the store, I do not want to imply that it is not costly. Being your real self is hard. In the classic storybook The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys become Real, the wise old Skin Horse is describes what it means to be real to the new toy a Velveteen Rabbit.
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand… once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
Being real and spending time with your child is the best gift you can give. After all, Christmas is the time we celebrate the greatest gift ever, when God himself came to earth as a man in the form of Jesus. As you wonder how can I get the best gift for my children (or spouse, or parent) look in the mirror the best gift you can give is already there.