Kids Think The Holidays Are About Presents, Presents And More Presents, Right?

Kids think the holidays are about presents, presents and more presents, right? Chances are, most kids really want more than toys under the tree. Writer Linda Sharp, author of Stretchmarks on My Sanity, shares an experience that will touch your heart.
Linda Sharp

Being there
I am a huge advocate of parents getting into their children's schools on a regular basis. As a stay-at-home mom, I enjoy being able to assist in my daughters' classrooms each week. Whether helping with art projects, reading or spelling, it keeps me connected and allows me direct insight into my girls' day-to-day lives. It also affords me the opportunity to connect with other children. And connect I do. The hugs and openness with which I am greeted are huge indicators that I have broken through that Grown-up /Child barrier.

It could be that when I go into the school, I don't dress like an authority figure. You won't find me wearing Chinos, skirts, loafers, untouchable hair or any other spiffy adult attire. Instead, look for the person clad in sweatpants or jeans, a comfy sweater and a baseball cap . . . always a baseball cap. I come prepared to hug, get dirty on the playground and sweep the floor with my butt during reading circle. I also come with enough hugs to go around, twice. As a result, I have been granted access into the Inner Sanctum of the Schoolyard.

Recently, while working on an art project with a rotating group of children, we talked about music, movies, jokes, parents, the holidays. As talk turned to what they hoped would be under their tree for Christmas or part of their Hanukkah Seven-Day Gift Haul, I decided to take advantage of my "non-threatening" status and pose the question, "Name one thing you would like your Mom or Dad to give you this season that would not cost a penny." You could have heard that penny hit the floor as silence enveloped them, and their young minds went to work.

As they each took turns answering, I was moved to tears by their candor, their honesty and in some cases, the heartbreaking realities revealed in their words. It is my holiday gift to you all that I share what your kids REALLY want this year. And no, an XBox or Gamecube is nowhere on the wish lists of their hearts.

Listen to me, please
At the top of their lists is for we parents to stop being so busy all the time and just listen to them talk. I know I have been guilty of this one. God knows, we really are not interested in hearing about the latest unpronounceable character in their Harry Potter books, but we need to stop, look them in the eye, and listen. If we don't, they will simply stop trying. And we all know that the teenage days will come when they won't want to discuss anything with us, be it Harry Potter or their newly hairy pits.

Teach me to cook
I was surprised by this request, but when I pressed for an explanation, it quickly became clear. We are raising a generation of Microwave Kids. They know how to use every button on the magic box, but have no idea how to simmer, bake or boil. Granted, there is great messiness in allowing your youngsters to cook with you, but take it from me, some of my happiest memories are in the kitchen with my mom, dusted with flour and smudged with love. \

Please stop smoking
One child spoke this wish and it was quickly echoed by many others. They have seen enough commercials to be truly concerned about your health and their own, but it goes a bit further than that. One young girl pulled me aside and whispered her reason in my ear, "The other kids say I always smell bad." I hugged her close and bent to kiss her head and she was right. Her hair did not smell of Johnson & Johnson's, but of Benson & Hedges. Not her choice and certainly not fair.

Stop being so busy all the time
If guilt were a color, I would have been painted with it when I heard this one. How many of us use the phrase, "Just a minute . . ." or "Hold on . . ." too much? Personally, there have been too many times I have looked up after "just a minute" to find my child has given up waiting and is gone.

Read TO me
We tend to think that once a child can read, our job is done. Actually, these children expressed a desire to have Mom or Dad read a chapter book TO them each night. And while they would really enjoy the reading, it leads to a deeper desire . . . the other request that made me choke back a tear . . .

Hug me more
I experience these children each week when I enter the classrooms. They cling to me tighter than a wet pair of Levi's. They are the ones that are not getting enough hugs and snuggling and attention at home. For them, I hug them not once, not twice, but as much and as long as they need.

So while you are running around doing that last minute shopping, add some of these items to your own child's list. Rich or poor, they are things that cost not a dime and we all have in endless supply. We just have to stop and open our arms and hearts a little

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