Even before Halloween is over, store aisles are packed with Christmas everything. Mail catalogs arrive and television commercials promote things we supposedly can’t and shouldn’t live without.
Ikea is one of the stores getting into the Christmas spirit with a commercial called The Other Letter.
Ikea had children write a Christmas wish letter to The Three Kings and a second letter to their parents. The letters to The Three Kings were filled with items the children wanted, but the letters to parents were quite different. The children didn’t ask for things at all. Instead, they said things like:
I want you to spend more time with me…that we do more experiments at home.
I’d like it if you paid a little more attention to us.
I’d like it if you would have dinner with us more often.
Read us a story.
I’d like us to be together for a whole day.
I want to play. I want you to play cowboys with me.
The majority of the parents were not surprised by what their children said they wanted for Christmas. But most of them read the second letter through tears. One said she couldn’t read anymore.
Parents thoughtfully acknowledged their children’s wishes by saying:
- To spend all the time we have with them is the most we can give to our children.
- You want to give them the best you can and the best is yourself.
- The feeling of trying to substitute that vacuum with a toy.
While the children’s letters were thought-provoking, the biggest surprise came when the children were asked, “If you could only send one of these letters, which one would you choose to send?” Each child chose the letter to their parents.
Before your blood pressure goes sky-high about how to give your children everything they “want” for Christmas, consider their true wishes. Perhaps the most valuable gift you could give your children is your time.
As you prepare for the holidays ahead, consider these ideas:
Make gift certificates for special outings with family members.
Buy a game to play together like Clue, UNO, Skip-Bo or Catch Phrase.
Learn a new family hobby together.
Make a video scrapbook by asking family members questions like, “What’s your favorite family memory, family vacation or family tradition, and why?” Tell your children how things were different when you were little. Open and watch it on Christmas Day.
Schedule a family progressive dinner in your own home where each family member is responsible for a course. Have the courses in different rooms, decorated by each preparer.
Create a family photo album. Include old photographs alongside more-recent pictures. People rarely make family photo albums anymore.
Write a letter to family members. Tell them why they are special and what they mean to you. Put the envelopes on the tree for Christmas morning.
Families who spend time together make memories and feel a sense of belonging you can't buy in a store. Funny things happen when you laugh, start traditions and really get to know each other as family members.
People long and crave for intimacy in their own families. Store-bought gifts will never fill the void of precious time, so give it freely. It will last for a lifetime—no batteries or assembly required.