The holiday season is a time of magic and wonder for most children. There is an air of mysticism as St. Nicholas, Santa Claus and Old St. Nick make their way to chimneys all over the world.
As much as children love the holidays, for many parents it is a time of struggle between the spiritual significance of the holiday and the time-honored tradition of gift-giving in abundance.
As a young girl, I remember my mother’s long days spent in the kitchen baking every kind of cookie possible for family, friends and neighbors. She slaved and sweat over each piece, boxing and wrapping them perfectly to be delivered. I remember the cookie tins and cellophane that littered the countertops, and the pure joy at receiving just one of those delicious morsels that she was preparing.
I remember the holiday parties, the lights, the tree trimmings, the gift wrapping, and the caroling. And I remember the mounds of gifts under the tree each year. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved Christmas growing up. I loved all that my parents did for me, but I remember the way my mom and dad would look once the paper had been picked up off the floor and I was safely engaged in playing with whatever new toy was my favorite in that moment. They were exhausted, spent, and ready for a good long winter’s nap.
I remember the long lines that my parents stood in for just the perfect toy, I remember the wrapping paper that was picked especially for each person, I remember what must have been a bit of a panic at how much had been spent, or if there was enough. I remember my parents’ beautiful expressions at how well Christmas had come together, how happy my face must have looked.
All of those things were a part of my Christmas, but none of them could ever hold a candle to my favorite moment of the holidays: the day that my mother would take me into downtown Boston, Chicago or San Francisco (the three cities I lived in growing up), for Christmas window watching. In each of those three towns, the windows would be decorated magically. Moving characters would bring holiday scenes to life, stories would be told as you passed from one window to another, and the city would be drowned in the most gorgeous twinkling decorations possible. It seemed larger than life, and my mother, in her gorgeous white coat, would hold my hand and guide me through it all.
I don’t remember any shopping that took place, but I remember the smell of chestnuts. I don’t remember anything being bought, but I looked forward to going to tea with my mother, and just having she-and-I time after the window watching was done.
I remember the sweet joy I felt on the car ride home, the way the smile refused to leave my face for at least an entire evening. I remember my mother and I talking in the way I so loved as a young girl and continue to cherish to this very day. I remember that we had time – all the time in the world – to enjoy the holidays. That was what I cherished most: the time. I loved the cookies and the parties, and the presents, but I loved the time most of all. The time to spend with my mom and my dad, time that was actually pretty rare throughout the holidays because life is always so busy.
As I am now a mother of three I have to remember that what my children need from me most during the holidays, and always, is my time. I know that all of the things that I do to make the holidays magic (as my mother did for me) will be cherished and loved and perhaps even passed along, but it is my time to hold their hands and walk them through the magic of this season that will have the most impact.
I often wonder what their moment will be. Maybe it will be the day that we bake cookies all day and eat all night, or the yearly trip tubing down the mountain, where their mother inevitably always has an accident of tragic proportions, or the time that we take them all bundled up to see the botanical gardens lit up like Santa’s village, or the long hours spent reading holiday tales by the fireside. Or perhaps, something that will surprise and delight me to know they even enjoyed. Whatever it is, I expect their fondest memories will be of gifts given but rather time that we spent together, and for that I am making more of an effort to give them, and myself, the gift of time.
Heather Fontenot, co-editor and publisher of Rhythm of The Home, lives with her family on the Front Range of Northern Colorado. As a writer, doula and yoga teacher, Heather has a passion for natural and creative living, and spends as much of her time outdoors as possible. She loves to knit, sew, garden, photograph, read and homeschool her three sweet little ones. She writes the blog Shivaya Naturals, where she chronicles her life as a mother, artist, and gluten-free baker.