Any fathers of kids under the age of 5 who are reading this I am suggesting you hop up from your seat and go grab a pen and piece of paper. What I am about to tell you qualifies as a certified golden nugget of truth that is worth writing down. Don’t worry, we’ll all stop and wait for you to get back to this riveting blog (a writer can hope, can’t he?).
I know some of you dads are completely exhausted and cannot remember the last time your head hit that precious pillow. The past few days have been a whirlwind of family dinners, office parties, shopping and gift-wrapping. If your house was anything similar to mine it means you were up no later than 5 am on Christmas morning. Santa fever swept over my family with my youngest suffering the worst case. Maddie and Paige were jumping off the walls jonesing like crack addicts for some presents. They needed sweet relief and the only thing that would do the trick was something wrapped with a bow.
Both girls came nowhere close to budging when mommy and daddy pleaded, begged and actually bribed them to go back to bed. It did not phase them in the least bit when they found out it was so early that Elmo, Dora, Shrek and the Disney Princesses were still catching some Z’s. Once Maddie spotted some weakness in her good old pops, she instantly turned into Ivan Drago from Rocky and said “I Must Break You!” Break I did as we were opening presents a few minutes later.
Nothing causes Jenn (my wife) more heartache than the annual experience that is Christmas shopping for the girls. She pours her heart out over every gift as she pictures the girls going bonkers as they peel the paper away and unwrap pure happiness in a box. There are some nights when I experience her restlessness. She tosses and turns in bed as her mind races about what the ideal gift looks like.
In a weird way as a man, husband and father I know what she is going through. If I could buy the entire world and stick it underneath our artificial tree I would. Every man wants to be the provider. It is not that I want to raise spoiled brats, but for one Christmas I would like to not let the quality of my presents be dictated by the balance of my checking account. Funny how easy it is to become ungrateful and bitter on a holiday centered around thankfulness.
Growing up, Christmas was much like attending a firework show in that each gift built its way up to the grand finale. The last gift defined if the holidays were a smashing success or an utter disappointment. For some reason, this tradition is something I’ve carried over now as a parent with kids of my own. This year’s end-all-be-all gift for Maddie was a Ukulele. I know it is random, but if we had to hear one more time that is what she wanted for Christmas we were going to ship her in a box one way to Hawaii so she could experience the music firsthand.
Now care to wager what gift caused the biggest reaction out of my sleep-deprived daughter? Nope, not the computer games, clothes or even the Ukulele. The present that led Maddie to shriek and jump for joy then promptly plow over Jenn with a bear hug was a coloring book that cost 100 pennies at the Dollar Tree.
The morale of the story and golden nugget of truth for dads with kids: stop worrying about what gift to give your young one…. toss some bubble wrap and a cardboard box into their room and they’ll be entertained for hours. The magic my grand finale toy held wore off in a few days or a month if it was truly extraordinary. These items, which my parents wondered how they could afford, were quickly tossed aside as I looked for the latest and greatest thing that would capture my attention. Yet, the things that have stuck in my brain about the holidays were memories like decorating the tree, shoveling the driveway and breakfast on Christmas morning. Or how my dad and I would always chuckle when the donkey in the live nativity scene would take a deuce as Joseph, Mary and the Son of God baby would make their home in a manger. Just being there for your wife and kids is what matters most. The toys will make their way to the back of the closet while the moments you spend together will create memories that last forever.