The Best Gift

Your time, your attention, and your love.

photograph by Candybox Images | Dreamstime

I was at The Village Toymaker recently, looking for a few cool things to feature in our December issue. And as I surveyed their offerings, I was reminded of Christmas past, when I would arrive here in a flurry of shopping to buy a goodie or two for my own little boy. I remember precisely the games and toys that were such a hit, the ones he would beg me to play. He loved Thomas the Tank Engine, and Legos, and board games of all stripes. His favorite thing would be for me to join him on the floor to tell Thomas stories or play with his cars. I could do that, and I did, at times. But when I look back on those years, I find myself wishing I’d done it more often.

Now my son attends college and our time together is sandwiched between classes and friends and job obligations. His calls to come play are mere echoes in my mind. But thankfully, he is still present and I was reminded recently of how grown up he’s become.  

I was driving from Collierville down 385 when I suddenly heard a dull thud that caught me by surprise. I glanced in the rearview mirror, expecting to see whatever it was I’d run over lying in the lane behind me, but there was nothing. Then, another noise started, that long, low rumble that tells you you’ve got a flat tire. Great. (Did I mention they were brand new tires?) Cars whizzed past as I began to slow down and look for an exit so I could limp off the highway and into a gas station. Thankfully, I didn’t have to go too far before I could turn off. I parked my car at a busy BP station and dialed my son’s number.

“Hey Ev? Listen, I’ve had a flat," I said. "Do you suppose you could come out and take a look?”

Since it was a Saturday afternoon, I had no idea where he might be or what he was up to. But his response came back confident and reassuring. “Are you okay? Where are you?” he asked as I answered a string of questions. “Give me about 20 minutes. I’ll come change your tire so you can take your car to the tire store on Monday.”

Sure enough, he arrived 20 minutes later, rummaged through the trunk to extract the jack and tire iron, and then proceeded to hoist my car up on the jack so he could attack the lug nuts. Since my tires had recently been replaced, the nuts were on tight. The first one came away fairly readily but the others required a lot of muscle. My son has been spending time at the gym this fall, and now, his hard work was being put to the test. The ropey muscles in his arms became apparent with each pull of the iron. Several wouldn’t budge, no matter how hard he tried. I wanted to give him an out.

“Don’t worry, I can call a tow service and have them take it,” I said to him. “No, Mom,” came his reply. “I’ve got this.” He stood up, stretching out his lanky frame, and then dove back in to the task at hand. With a few more grunts, the remaining lug nuts finally came free.

With the hard work over, it was only a matter of minutes before my flat tire was off and the spare had been rolled into service. I was so impressed.

Then, as we wrapped up, he gave me a bit of fatherly advice. “Listen, we don’t know how long that tire will hold air, so drive on one of the regular roads home instead of the highway, okay?” I loved that and heeded his advice.

So as you survey the bounty that lies beneath your tree this Christmas, and worry about whether what you have is enough or if you’ve bought the right toy, remember this: The best gift doesn’t come wrapped up in a bow. The best gift you can give your child is that of yourself. Your time, your attention, your love. Take a break from the busyness of each day and simply play a game when your child asks, or look closely at his latest project and find out more. Get down on the floor and don’t be afraid of looking silly. We are always expecting our children to reside in our world. Instead, clear your afternoon and reside in theirs.       

Take it from someone who stands at the other end of the canyon of childhood, the years are fleeting.

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