It’s 4:00 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, and I’m sitting in the Phoenix airport with my husband and younger son, waiting for our flight to Denver to visit my older son and his wife.
As excited as I am to spend three uninterrupted days with the people I love most, I have this panicky feeling about getting home Saturday evening and trying to pack the whole weekend’s work into Sunday so I’m ready for the week ahead.
Decorating for Christmas, a Thanksgiving weekend tradition, will have to be moved to next weekend, which puts me behind schedule for my holiday baking, to say nothing of the shopping and parties and planning my husband’s birthday, and—AUGH! The holidays have barely started, and I’m tired just thinking about the next month until the New Year!
Holidays… who has the time!? Make it.
I’m sure I’m not the only person to get caught up in the busy-ness of the season to the point where it’s hard to enjoy it. So I’m encouraging parents to take a deep breath and remember: the most valuable gift you can give your children is time.
It sounds like such a cliché but the truth is, when multiple invitations and obligations beckon, it’s easy to submit to the siren song of, “You’ll have plenty of time together. You’ve got the whole season! You can squeeze this one thing in!”
You add more to your schedule, and move “time with kids” down a notch on the priority list. Before you know it, that “whole season” has turned into the rat race of second semester, and you’re feeling guilty that you didn’t relax as a family more when you had the chance.
The gifts will be forgotten, the time together will be remembered
Long after the boxes have been recycled and the enthusiasm for new things has worn off, what will really stay with you and your children is the time you spent together, laughing and connecting.
If you make quality time with your kids THE top priority — even put it on your official calendar, just like you do meetings or other events— they will feel your deep commitment to them, and they will return it. It’s a gift that gets re-gifted, over and over again, in the best way possible!
When my boys were growing up, we created countless happy, irreplaceable memories with simple activities.
Game Day: Everyone pick a favorite game and take turns playing one after another.
Games can be a gateway to conversation: You start talking about the rules and strategy and then gradually move into other topics that come up when everyone is relaxed and feeling comfortable sharing. It’s a sneaky way to get your kids to talk to you, but hey, whatever works!
Movie Day: Pick a theme like “Disney” or “Harry Potter,” and spend the whole day binge watching.
Enhance the experience with food that isn’t good for you and a quick pillow fight in between movies to get the blood moving again! (OK, so you’re probably not going to talk much, but there’s a certain camaraderie that develops when you do something that’s “not good for you,” together!)
Get outside! Gather neighbors, relatives, whoever’s handy, and play Capture the Flag or kickball at the neighborhood park.
Make it an expectation that adults play, too! You’ll be building relationship between generations and among multiple families, which helps to create extended partnerships for your kids to tap into when you’re not available.
Never too old for family time
My boys are grown now, but here’s a little secret: We still do all of these activities together, and we look forward to them for weeks before the holiday season starts.
In his resource guide for teaching children Dr. Michael Gurian, psychologist and author of many books on child development wrote:
“Nothing in a child’s environment is more powerful than relationships.”
He says that when we build deep connection with our children, we help them develop “character, a sense of competence, and courage.”
I always think it’s good news when doing something that makes me really happy—like hanging out with my children—is supported by research!
As I wrap up this article, I’m sitting in the Denver airport, waiting to get on the plane to go home. I don’t care if this trip puts me behind schedule.
I’m thrilled that we decided to come, grateful that my son and his wife wanted us to come, and when they make it home for a few days at Christmas, I’ll be clearing my calendar for them. Because it’s not the decorations or the baking or the presents that bring us together. It’s the time we took—and continue to make—for fun!