Finding joy in the cold, chaotic months of winter requires thought and planning, and a yogic awareness of time. Our winter celebrations of light and the real joy we find in simple gifts are too often lost in glitz and consumerism, even though we know the value of the presents we chose for our children is not measured extravagance or expense. A gift of great value is a small, loving investment of thought and attention, and an uninterrupted commitment of time.
This December, before you make lists for Santa and New Years promises, make a quick mental list of last year’s gifts and resolutions. Spend a few minutes . . . .ask your kids what they remember . . . ask your spouse. Within minutes, most children and almost all adults will realize how fleeting and insignificant many gifts are.
Cliché but true, the best gifts are those of time.
- Family Meals
It is absurdly difficult to gather a family around a table for a meal. When children are very young, they do not like to sit still. As they grow older, activities intervene into traditional meal times. Parents struggle to meet professional obligations and the desire to be present for at least some important events. Too often, daily meals together fall by the wayside. Eating together becomes mundane; other events seem urgent and more important.
This winter, commit to at least one meal together every week. Promise each other. Every person who lives in your home should be present. Those who are willing and able can and should participate in the preparation of the meal and the table. Every member of the family should sit down hungry, stay long enough to participate in the conversation, and help to clean the table.
When the meal in finished, every body and soul in the family will rise from his chair feeling nourished, connected, and deeply satisfied.
Old stories are always part of the ongoing dialogue that holds families together. For some, the stories are traditional or sacred, captured in books that grow tattered over years of fireside reading. Other families watch the same holiday movie every year. The one-liners become part of the family dialogue. Everybody knows what to say and when to say it.
This winter, share stories. Read together, or watch together, or ask an older relative to tell a story she wants her grandchildren to remember and pass on. When they are grown, children will remember the stories they inherited and the people who shared them.
A memory is the simplest, most valuable gift that parents can give their children. This December, do something simple and fun together. Spend a full day or just an evening together. Try not to spend a lot of money; try not to plan an event that taxes the youngest members of your family. Inexpensive time is easily enjoyed and creates invaluable memories.
Wrap blanket and coats over PJs and drive through the neighborhood looking at the lights. Bundle up and hike through a forest preserve when the snow is new-fallen. Build a snowman, or roast marshmallows. Bake cookies, play a board game, decorate the front lawn, or have an impromptu family dance.
This holiday season, set aside time to laugh and dance, sing and play. It’s worth it.
Time is valuable because it passes so quickly, especially when children are young. Money cannot buy joy or build a family, but time can. Time invested with memory lasts forever, a gift children never forget or outgrow.