Photo: Chris Kelly

Toys, toys and more toys! Presents galore under the tree that quickly end up with missing pieces likely underfoot in the middle of the night indicated found by the loud obscenities screamed by the lucky treasure finder. That’s one way of celebrating the holidays. Gifts which are ripped through faster than Halloween candy or there are experiences.

It became very evident to me as I raised my two sons, now adults and now, my grade school daughter, that Santa or Hanukkah Harry (I have served as both) could never really get it right. Cool thing about Hanukkah Harry is the limited number of gifts and he wasn’t a secret but merely an acknowledged made up name for Mom and/or Dad. My sons never put a lot of emphasis on the materialistic theme of this holiday and it was terrific. And a good thing because seriously I think they hated everything I chose except the Hanukkah gelt (chocolate coins).

My daughter on the other hand, celebrates Christmas with Santa and I eat the cookies. Either way I still end up with piles of her gifts, things I spent money on, just stuff, mostly meaningless (with too many pieces) toys or clothes she doesn’t like.

The emptiness of the leftover wrapping and quickly disgarded goodies got me thinking. What is it that my children, no matter their age will enjoy and remember, will have for a lifetime and I can’t screw up? An EXPERIENCE.

You know, activities that create memories instead of things that create clutter. For many of us, single parents especially, we find our time is very limited and can become so distracted by the routine of life we forget or find it very hard to stop and play. That’s what our kiddos most desire. Instead of spending the money on gifts and toys and wrapping paper and trash bags and maybe even doctors visits to remove the Lego embedded in your foot, make a list of activities to do that will leave a memory of holiday experiences. Time is priceless.

Just yesterday, as the holiday season is upon us, I took my daughter on an afternoon harbor cruise. We live in a city with year round good weather. She hasn’t stopped thanking me and telling everyone she sees how much fun it was. Not once have I heard her talk about the “Build-A-Bear” this way or the new Ugg boots with bows. 

Think about it, we spend more money on stuff which puts a smile on their faces for a moment than we do on that which will leave a memory in their hearts and mind for a lifetime. 

Create memories, fill their stockings with goodies and their hearts with experiences. Time is the most valuable gift we can share.