Every year around this time, my parents took my brother and me to the store to choose the toys we wanted for Christmas. We roamed the aisles searching for the toys we had seen advertised on the TV. After we have made our minds, we would walk away from the store and wait until Christmas eve for the toys to “magically” appear under the Christmas tree. From an early age, we knew deep down it was our parents and not Santa bringing the presents, but we liked to pretend. Besides, contrary to other children, we could never find where our parents stored the presents.
But despite knowing the truth behind the illusion, it never vanished the spirit of the celebration. The spirit of sharing.
As we grew, our parents tried to make us conscious about the cost of things, and to understand who had to pay the price. I remember that one day I asked for a costly toy, and my mother intelligently, translated the cost of the toy to the amount of hours that my father would have to work to pay for the toy, and then she asked, “what do you prefer: the car considering that your father will need to be away working those hours for pay for your toy or having your father with you during that time?”
I shared this story with a psychologist, and she said it was a case of terrible parenting, arguing that breaking the illusion from short age and conditioning the presents for a child was not a good idea.
I disagreed with her, because I had learned from even shorter age about the value of time, and more specifically, the value of presence. One year, when I was probably six years old, we traveled to spend Christmas with my grandmother, but because of work responsibilities, my father could not join us. Despite receiving amazing toys as presents, I was uninterested in playing with them, and during the remaining days at my grandmother’s house, I constantly begged my mother to return home to my father.
When we finally returned home, I was more excited about seeing my father than about the presents waiting for me below the Christmas tree, and I would never forget the happiness of hugging my father, who became my real Christmas present that year.
Back when my mother asked me about what I preferred, I decided having my father with me and desisted from the toy, because I understood nothing could replace having the presence of your loved ones. Today, looking back, besides the occasion I shared with you, I never missed sharing a Christmas with my father until the day of his death over twenty years later. And I might forget the presents I received each year, but never having his company with me.
I wish more parents could show their kids that the true meaning of Christmas lives in the time we share with those we love, and that we need to make our children conscious of the sacrifice the parents need to do, so a present can “magically” materialize below the Christmas tree. Because contrary to what the Psychologist said, I can confirm that knowing the price of Christmas helped me to value my loved ones.
PS. Happy Holidays.
M. Ch. Landa