I used to truly believe that whoever coined the phrase “money can’t buy you happiness” was a real jerk, someone who was obviously born into great wealth and never had to toil in the coal mines like the rest of us, stressing and worrying about keeping up with the Jones’s, putting food on our kids plates, money into our retirement, and paying off a bigger mortgage every few years.
And then I paid attention to my kids. It’s funny, we always think that we have all the answers as the adults, the educated, the learned ones who have grown wiser throughout our years and learned from past mistakes.
But it’s amazing the life lessons that we adults can sometimes learn from our kids and their childhood innocence, if we’re smart and patient enough to just pay attention every once in awhile.
This year I celebrated Christmas with my kids early, last weekend to be exact, and I was so spun up and stressed out throughout the week planning and preparing that I felt as if I was back in the Middle East gearing up for a mission.
Even shopping a week early was met with long lines and crazed masses trying to get to the stores early enough to buy the perfect gift for their kids, the required meal for Christmas day, and the right wrapping paper and Christmas tree decorations.
Even picking my kids up on Friday I was pre-planning distractions and diversions to keep them away from the tree, worried about how I could fill their little heads with activities so as not to be pressured constantly to open the presents before the perfect time, that crescendo of Christmas craziness after which parents can finally relax and take a deep breath.
But it never came. They saw the tree upon entering my home, and didn’t give it a second notice until it was time to open gifts. Instead, they wanted something from me that didn’t come wrapped in shiny wrappers, require batteries, or cost me a single penny. They just wanted my time.
In their minds, the stuff under the tree was of no real importance…I realized the only person who had worked themselves into a frenzy about making sure everything was perfect was me.
The greatest gift I gave my kids this Christmas, and the one I now realize was the one they cherished the most, was time with dad. And when the wrapping paper was thrown away and batteries were installed in all of the toys, it was the only gift that they will remember, and the only one that really matters.
Please take that to heart, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve found myself over the past year pushing my schedule to the absolute limits working on the various projects I’m involved in, which in my mind was all for my kids, so I can one day send them to the best colleges and ensure they never want for anything.
But they don’t care about that; all they care about is our time, and that’s the gift that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.
Merry Christmas everyone, give your kids an extra hug for me this year, and I promise it will do you much better than any material gift on any store shelf.