Joannie DeBrito: To Your Children, Your Presence Matters More Than Your Presents

One of the advantages of having adult children is that they start to reflect and share their perceptions of your successes and failures as a parent. Those conversations tend to be predictable in some ways – and surprising in others.

Recently, my youngest daughter mentioned that she was planning an experience for my grandson’s birthday. She said, “Mom, I learned from you and Dad that quality time is a much better gift than anything I could buy him.”

We stressed that to our kids. Sometimes out of necessity when we couldn’t afford birthday or Christmas gifts. But I had no idea it had made such an impression on my daughter.

She reminded me of the many times we spent together – when the activity of the day was simply a way to connect, to get to know one another and to trust one another. She added, “I don’t really remember any gifts I got for my birthdays or Christmas.”

But as we talked, I learned what she did remember.

She remembered her dad taking her to the “Daddy Daughter Dance.” She remembered an impromptu road trip when she and I talked about everything from her current boyfriend to her dreams for the future. She remembered the entire family cuddled on the couch under a big blanket.

As a marriage and family therapist, I’ve heard similar sentiments from clients over the years. Some offered expressions of gratitude for the intentional presence of their parents in their lives. And others shared painful complaints that they spent much of their childhood alone, wondering why they weren’t as important to their parents as colleagues, business commitments, coffee dates with friends or even ministry.

Parents, as you’re battling the line at the mall or waiting for pictures of products to load on your screen, remember this: Your presence matters more than all the presents in the world.

What is presence?

Presence is listening more than you’re talking. It’s engaging with your words, voice, facial expressions, gestures, and physical touch. It’s celebrating successes with your child and standing by quietly as you allow him or her to fail. Presence is what your toddlers crave and what makes your teenagers cringe a bit. But it’s a stabilizing force in their lives. And it’s the first thing they look for in times of uncertainty or trauma.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Joannie DeBrito