The gifts they want

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Just a few more sleeps and some last-minute scrambling and we’ll have got there more or less in one piece and certainly in better shape than most of the rest of humanity, writes parenting columnist Ian Munro.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
Christmas Day. Another year almost gone with our children exactly one year more grown up than they were last Christmas Day.

Linda Sharp, author of Stretchmarks On My Sanity, has some food for thought that I’ve mentioned before, but it’s so good that it’s worth revisiting before yet another year passes and our children are yet one more year older.

She writes about discussing Christmas presents with her young daughter’s friends and asking them to name one thing they’d like their parents to give them that wouldn’t cost anything.

The most popular request was for parents to listen. They wanted mum and dad to stop what they were doing, put their phones down and listen to things that were important to them. Our wise little people instinctively know what they need and, if we don't listen, they’ll eventually stop trying and, come their teenage years, they won’t even bother talking to us at all.

The next most popular request was to learn to cook properly rather than just use the microwave. You might have addressed this already during lockdown but, if not, working side-by-side in the kitchen provides great opportunities to interact and have some fun together. Like listening, it does takes time, and it can be messy but there’s a spin-off - later they’ll be able to cook for themselves and the family.

Another wanted his parents to stop being so busy. It’s those "in-a-minutes" that turn into much longer or even into "not-at-alls" and end up with us being whined at or abandoned as a lost cause. The whining makes us growl at them and their departure, for either reason, means a little something has been lost.

They still wanted the bedtime story even though they could read themselves. There’s something very comforting about ending the day with mum or dad reading to you. Whatever else has happened in the day, the routine of the bedtime story signals a return to normality - all is right with the world.

Finally, they wanted "The Hug". Not just the bedtime hug but the spontaneous, any-time-of-the-day, "I-love-you" hug. We all need that reassurance but children and teenagers even more so and it’s so easy to let it slide.

So, here’s a thought. While we’re running around this coming week doing that last-minute shopping, we should consider adding some of those items to our children’s unspoken gift list. They don’t cost anything but time - we just have to stop long enough to do some of them.

Merry Christmas.


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