The holidays have a way of bringing out the best in people—and the worst. I learned this lesson last year, and I vowed never to let "the worst" happen to me again. I was sitting at the computer frantically trying to finalize an article that was due the next morning when I was interrupted by a tiny voice calling, "Mommy, will you sit with me while I go nighty-night?" Hoping my tone of voice didn't reflect my mounting frustration, I gave my standard line: "In a minute, buddy."
Some time later, the innocent voice called down again. "Mommy? Is a minute up yet?"
"Almost," I said, hurrying to get down the rest of the paragraph and quickly moving on to the next, feeling increasingly guilty. Just when I was convinced that the need for my presence had given way to slumber, I heard, "Mommmmeeeee?"
My three-year-old son, Jack, is a rough-and-tumble kind of guy by day and a sensitive mommy's boy by night. As usual, Jack wanted me to sit with him in the dark for a few minutes once he got into bed. Sometimes we talked, sometimes he sang me songs, and sometimes we were just quiet—comforted by each other's presence.
That was the case on that particular night when at last I made my way to his room. As I swayed in the rocking chair, I realized that there was nothing more important than what I was doing at that very minute.
The holidays have a way of making us busier and more stressed than usual. In our attempts to preserve traditions and family memories, we make homemade gifts, send greeting cards, and participate in elaborate family outings. When November and December days are evaluated by how many items get checked off the long list of obligations, I admit that I often let the important parts of life yield to the urgent. But isn't this the time of year when we need to spend time truly appreciating the moment ... the here and now?
Here's how other parents have helped their family members focus on the here and now, and enjoy the time they spend together, rather than getting caught up in the business this time of year usually brings.