If you were to look at my children’s Christmas list, you would find some pretty outlandish requests: a life-sized fox that walks, boots that transform into skis with the push of a button, and a T-Rex that moves on its own without batteries. It’s going to be pretty hard for Santa to find those, even with the help of all his elves.
There’s another “present” that my kids haven’t formally written down on their lists, but belongs at the top since it is requested every day, year-round. This one seems equally as hard to find as the other presents, and I don’t have enough “elves” to help me find this one either.
The requests often sound like:
“Mom, sometimes I feel like you don’t love me anymore because you always play with the younger kids.”
“Mom, you promised me you’d play with me after dinner, but you didn’t. You just cleaned instead.”
“Mommy, can we have some time just me and you?”
Sometimes it seems like the hardest present to give my children, and the only one they really need, is me being present. But being present is hard to give because there are so many things that pull at my attention: the bills that need to get paid, the mail that needs to go out, the emails that need to get answered, the endless cycles of laundry that need to be cleaned and folded and put away, the constant clutter of toys that need to be picked up, the meals that need to be shopped for and prepared.
Even when I try to be present, I start to wander. I sit on the couch to read a few books with my pre-schooler, and stop reading to clean up the toys on the floor. I start doing play-doh with my toddler, and my eyes wander to the emails or text messages lighting up on my phone. I snuggle with my oldest daughter before bed and begin going over all the things I need to do that night before I fall asleep.
It’s hard to be present when I feel like I’m always fighting off impending chaos. It’s hard to relax when I feel like I’m forgetting to do something important. It’s hard to stop for even a few minutes when there are so many things that seem like they need to get done.
But it’s important. What could be more important than the gift of being present to my kids- especially when the specifically request it? Do the other things really matter that much? Who should wait…the kids or my to-do list?
My resolution this year is to try and be more conscious and more present. I plan to let the to-do list go. Everything will still be waiting for me later. I will put the phone away. Those texts and emails can wait. I’ll also (try to) ignore how my house always feels upside down. Straightening it up never lasts too long anyway.
My kids might not think to put this “present” on their Christmas lists, but this year it will be at the top of my list of things to do.