As we focus on being intentional this holiday season, let’s remember that the greatest gift we can give our loved ones is our undivided, attentive presence. Kids delight in being seen by us. (Recall how often their excited voices crowed, “Look at me!” They want us to look. They need us to look. This sends a message that they receive as “felt safety” that is an essential part of their emotional and mental health. Feeling authentically seen is an integral part of genuine connection. Surely this is what we want with our children. This is what we want from our spouses, partners, family, and friends.
What we all really need is more presence, not more presents! Handling logistical details is important and requires our attention. Just remember to reserve your greatest focus for participating in the fun. Join in the merry-making and the memory-making. That’s the real locus of the holiday magic.
Consider this excerpt from a previous blog:
Digital photography makes it easy for us to snap dozens—if not hundreds of pictures of our kids documenting almost every moment and milestone of their lives. As toddlers, they learn to pose for the cameras on mom or dad’s phones. Then eagerly and often, they repeatedly ask to see these photos. They look at the pictures delighted at their own images. Self-consciousness does not constrain them. They don’t care if their faces—or clothes—are smudged with dirt or if the camera caught them at a good angle. They do not ask us to delete the picture because it doesn’t look flattering enough. And so the entire family gets to enjoy the photographic documentation of a family’s life together. Except…
Too often moms avoid being in the pictures because they look disheveled, tired, or not quite up to par. And the photos reveal a mother’s absence, not a presence. Perhaps the dad is the family photographer and it is he who is an infrequent face in the family photo album. The result is the same. He’s missing from the picture. Whether it is one or both parents whose face seldom appears in the family photo album, whatever the reason, it is a huge loss and significant missed opportunity. A picture is worth 1000 words they say.
As a person who has lost loved ones too soon, I can attest that it is precisely the silly, less-than-perfect pictures of my husband, sister, mother… It is these photos that conjure the best memories, the most resonant emotions, and the deepest appreciation for having shared lives together. The fancy studio photos, edited and polished are fun for a Christmas card but they lack the vitality and genuineness of the candid photos. Someday all that remains will be the pictures. Make sure you are part of those photos being yourself and looking like yourself. That disheveled, imperfect, loving, “present” soul is the person your family knows and loves.
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