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“What do you want for Christmas?!?!” A text from my son, about three weeks ago.

My response?

“Undivided attention and LOTS of hugs!!!! <3”

I don’t think he believed me, but I was completely serious.

At this stage in my life, I can, for the most part, buy what I want for myself, not that I don’t enjoy a thoughtful gift bought with someone else’s hard-earned money and appreciate the sacrifice involved in the giving of that gift.

I do!

It’s just that I want the things that can’t be bought so much more, and the opportunities I have to enjoy them from and with my children are growing fewer and farther between.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. I checked!

A random poll of my Facebook friends—this is all very scientific, of course—revealed that my other friends with college kids want, in some form or another, the same three things from their kids this Christmas that I want from mine.

Curious? Here they are, in no particular order. Note that quotes taken from the FB poll are in quotation marks.

  • Time. We know you’ve got places to go and people to see, but, we guarantee you, none of those people will appreciate face time with you more than we would, and you’ll find no warmer welcome than the one we would offer anywhere else you might roam. Settle in. Stick around long enough for meaningful conversations to develop and for new memories to be made. Let us know that for X amount of time, you are ours and ours alone, so that we can relax and enjoy you instead of feeling like we have to compete with the unexpected social invitations that keep your phone buzzing and keep us hopping back and forth between “grateful and content” and “graceful loser” mode.
  • Attention. Speaking of phones, could we just turn them off for a while? Please? Like, maybe for a whole day or group of days or, if that’s too much to ask, a solid chunk of predictable time, like mornings or afternoons or evenings? You may not be texting, but if you’re picking up your phone to check social media, you’re still splitting time. In fact, the time you spend on social media is probably more damaging to the quality of the time we get to spend with you than texting. At least when you’re texting, you’re focused on a single, intentional conversational thread. When you open up social media, you open wide an unfiltered portal to the outside world, say, “Tell me what to think about right now,” and split the time we do have with you grossly in the world’s favor, letting it affect the tone, mood, momentum, and focus of any special moment we might be enjoying or memory we might be in the middle of making. Just as you wouldn’t leave the front door open, let strangers wander through and guide thought and conversation, please don’t check your phone constantly. Instead, talk to us. Listen to us. “Let us tell you how much we love you and how proud we are of you.” Let conversation develop. “Play games.” Help with holiday preparations. Maintain eye contact. “Smile, laugh,” and give us a chance to love on you like we did when you were little. As one friend put it, “I’d love a hug or some couch time with a head on my shoulder!”
  • Peace. For you and for us. Please don’t bring the chaos and controversy of college life and conversation home with you. Instead, let us provide a haven for you from those things. Quiet your mind. Calm your spirit. “Rest and recharge.” Give your body the rest that it needs, and those of us who not only love you, but yearn and feel with you, those of us whose hearts are literally tethered to yours for all eternity will be able to do the same. Remember how to play and give us a glimpse of the child you were, the child you still are on the inside no matter how grown up the world says you should be by now. “Hang out. Have fun!” “Quote movies. Play guitar.” “Sing.”

Listen, kids—sorry, but you’ll always be kids to your parents!!—we know you’re broke. We know you’re stressed. We know that, with finals and papers and jobs/responsibilities on top of that, you haven’t had the time we might have had to think or do much about Christmas or gift giving at this point.

We’ve been there. We get it!

As the Scottish might say, “Don’t fash yourself!”

In other words, don’t fret!

If you feel you must put something under the tree—and this is actually a very thoughtful idea—write your intentions for giving time, attention, and peace this break, or even one day during break, in the form of a coupon or deck of redeemable tokens, wrap it, and put it under the tree for us to open so we know that the time and attention we’re receiving is a conscious gift from your heart to ours, but please don’t waste the time we could have together working extra hours to buy or running all over creation to find the perfect tangible gift.

All we want for Christmas is you!