When my children were little we were very broke and couldn’t afford cable. My children didn’t watch tv except for the PBS channel. Which was great except for my children didn’t know what toys existed in the world. When it came time for Birthday and Christmas wish lists my oldest daughter was incredibly creative. She would go into great detail as to what the things on her list were actually able to do. My mother, bless her heart, would go in search of these things without realizing that they were made up.
“Becki, I can’t find what your little baby angel wants for her birthday. Do you know where she saw it? Or who made it?”
Me, knowing full well what is coming at me, stands there not at all ready to ask the question that I must ask, “What did she ask for?”
“It’s a bear that walks and talks and drinks tea!”
“That’s a cartoon called Little Bear, Mom, they don’t actually make those.”
My mother looking at me and says “Well that was all that she wants!”
In my day we would circle things that we wanted in the toy store flier to get the knock off version of it. My daughter asks for a real live walking, talking, tea drinking bear and my mother searches the depth of the Earth trying to find one. Now I am trying to figure out what to do because it is the only thing that she has asked for. She wants the walking, talking, tea drinking bear that she saw on little bear. She wants a furry friend to romp around the English country side with. We lived in Massachusetts.
“I don’t want to disappoint her!” my mother says. Which is completely true! None of us wanted to disappoint the sweet little girl. She never asked for anything but when asked she said these completely unreal things that she wanted. So my mother would take her out and have her search for her gift. They would have a day together, just the two of them. It was valuable.
Another example: “Sweetie what would you like for Christmas?”
“I want Balto.”
“A stuffed animal Balto?” (for those of you that do not know, Balto was an animated movie about a dog that had to race against time in Alaska to get the medicine that saved his friend who was dying of diphtheria)
“No, the real Balto in case I am dying of diphtheria and he has to save me!” she was two years old. My two year old is needing this dog that will save her from the deadly disease of diphtheria that she has been vaccinated for. What do I say to that? No! No you can’t have a life saving fucking dog. You don’t live in Nome, Alaska. You have already had that medicine but it was delivered by the middle aged doctor in a cold sterile office on the other side of town. It was less traumatic and more routine procedure! Keep in mind, SHE IS TWO YEARS OLD!!!!
So I took her out to look at the toys and asked her very poignant questions so that I could get the best option B. It was a full day of she and I talking and really getting to know each other.
She once asked for a fairy catcher. A Fucking Fairy Catcher!!!! What in the fucking hell is that? I don’t even know. So I followed it up with the follow up questions “Can you describe it to me?”
“It looks like a house and it has little plates and cups and a table that I can feed them. I will keep them in their very own little garden and they can be friends with the dragonflies.” She smiled at me and she had the BIGGEST Bluest eyes you will ever see and all she is asking for is this fucking made up shit that doesn’t exist and I really want to give it to her. So I got her a doll house. And a stuffed bear. And a stuffed Balto dog. But most importantly we spent time together talking. I was learning that my daughter was beautiful and intelligent and sensitive. She was so creative and fun to be around.
My oldest daughter to this day hates to make wish lists. She is in her twenties and she gets super stressed out by it. I know that somewhere along the way it was because she asked for these remarkably wonderful things and instead she got some cheap knockoff version of what she was asking for. Ah, Yes, the circle of life. I asked for a Barbie Doll and I got the “Barbara Doll” which was Barbie’s cousin thrice removed. She didn’t bend and her legs didn’t move. My daughter asked for the REAL LIVE Balto that would save her from a deadly childhood disease and instead she got Stuffed Balto dog that didn’t move or save lives.
At a certain point children have to learn to accept little disappointments and Wish lists are a good place to start. Truth be told my oldest daughter doesn’t actually feel like she needs anything and that is why she hates making a list.
“Mom, I already have everything I need. Maybe just pay my rent!” or “Why don’t we get together and go shopping!” she responds, now in her twenties. Maybe she always knew that she didn’t need anything and she would say such outrageous things because the question was so outrageous to her. “What do you want for Christmas, sweetie?” this is an outrageous question and my two year old knew it. She understood that. “What would you like for your Birthday?” another outrageous question. My oldest daughter is practical, in fact so isn’t her brother and sister. They now will ask for experiences, such as “Take me to a show!” or “Why don’t we all go to the amusement park?” Basically what my children now ask for is “Can we all get together and spend time with each other? Can we give each other a bit of ourselves to enjoy without worry and time constraints?” And they are right!
Moral of my story: In this hustle bustle world my daughter valued time more than anything. She valued the search for impossible gifts more than the gift itself. What your children want more than anything in the world is for your whole family to be together. They want you to focus on them. They want to play boardgames and to laugh with you. They want to sit on your lap and read. They want you to be present in their lives. The greatest gift of all is time! Give your time to your children and see how precious it is. Turn off the screens and the worries and the constant pull of the outside world and invest some quiet moments in your children. It is the one gift that they will never be disappointed with.