In most young families with both parents in the home, life is a balancing act with many parents working full time jobs, raising children, trying to stay in touch with each other, friends and extended family. As a single parent, the challenges are often greater.
Occasionally, when parents are just too tired to care that the kids are chasing the dog around and around the kitchen table, they collapse. Sometimes they just sit and watch from the couch and only react when the dog leaps on to the couch to escape.
Then the magic happens; they look at each other and laugh hysterically and another priceless family memory is indelibly etched in their memories. This and many other stories will be retold over the years at family gatherings.
This year parents will do everything within their power to give their children all that they can afford and then some at Christmas. Parents might better forget trying to buy the newest PS-3, the Wii system, the newest i-pod or other new gadget. These are not ten dollar gifts; these are two- to four-hundred dollar gifts. As parents buy more and more, their stress levels rise in parallel dimensions as they ponder their burgeoning credit card balances.
Maybe it is time to take another look at establishing family traditions rather than spending a lot of money on gifts. Make Christmas cookies together as a family. Watch a Christmas movie together while sipping Mom's fabulous homemade hot chocolate; It's a Wonderful Life was my favorite.
Take a "do nothing" day. Play board games all day; stay in your pajamas; don't answer the telephone and no cell phones allowed. Let your kids' help you put up Christmas decorations or make your own. Make homemade Christmas decorations from a simple mixture of flour, water and salt that makes dough that can be shaped, baked, painted and hung on the tree. Go sliding at the nearest hill, have a snowball fight or build a snowman. Let your kids make you breakfast in bed even if they leave a big mess behind. Do something simple that doesn't cost money.
Do something nice for someone else. Bring some candy or cookies to a nursing home or just visit to brighten the day of folks that would really appreciate it. You will be giving your children the gift of caring for someone else, a great gift indeed.
Twenty years from now, your children may not remember the CD you got them this Christmas. They will remember the Christmas that you spent the entire day with them uninterrupted. They will remember the homemade cookies; the laughter and the other priceless moments together that will help make your family legacy.
This year, put your wallet away and instead, open your heart to your children by not over-spending and stressing yourself out. This Christmas, be safe, be happy, love your family and those close to you and if you are really good, those not so close to you. Merry Christmas. Remember all kids count.
Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org