Kids & Parenting
Presents and Presence
by Priscilla McConnell
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My husband and I live modestly. We’ve come to only buy what we need and through this, have realized how very little we actually need. We rarely buy the kids gifts and toys throughout the year since we simply don’t have the money for that kind of thing during this season of life. We don’t follow the three gifts per kid, in reference to the three presents the three kings brought to Jesus for Christmas. My husband Brandon and I love to overwhelm and overload them with gifts. Isn’t that what Jesus does for us? At least that's how we justify the lavishness! We love the anticipation, the sparkle in their eyes, the excitement, the chaos, just the whole darn thing. We use the Christmas bonus to go a little crazy showering them with everything we couldn’t afford to get them throughout the year. We absolutely love it and so do they. Last year we just went out and threw things in the shopping cart without really thinking through the quality and the reviews of each toy. Many things we got didn’t last long and a few even broke on Christmas day! This year we wanted it to be different. On Black Friday I decided to check out the deals and saw quite a few! I needed to stay home and do it all online since the boys were home with me. I was in the trenches of online deals, researching, comparing prices, looking up best toys of the year by age group and all sorts of things.
My four year old, Silas and my three year old, Cannon were easy. I knew the kind of things they like to do and play with. Reeve, my one year old, was harder. When I was thinking about what he would like, I really didn’t know for sure. He is so quiet, so easy, that I couldn’t even think what he would want. He usually just plays in the cabinets or with his brothers following them around. Before I bought anything for him, I wanted to observe him and see what kind of toys he liked best. I found my opportunity when he woke up from his nap while the other two were still sleeping. After a little while I put him down on the floor, surrounded with toys, and watched what he gravitated to. He just sat there looking up at me probably wondering why I was just standing there. After a little bit of him not doing much of anything I showed him his talking dog with lights; he was not impressed. I gave him a book; he took a bite of the corner then tossed it. I zoomed a car over to him and he looked at it, smiled, then crawled on. He would pick up a toy, put it in his mouth then toss it. No one toy was really standing out as a favorite.
I looked at the clock and saw I had an hour before the other two woke up from their nap. I had major chores backed up that I desperately needed to do. As I looked at the happiest baby in the world and thought about the mountain of clothes that needed folding, I knew I had a decision. It was a no-brainer… I chose the baby. It was the best decision of the day. I decided to get down on the floor with him to see what other toys I could find. As soon as my bottom hit the floor I realized how rarely I do that with him. When he saw me on the floor, he actually squealed with delight and crawled as fast as he could over to me. I then got on my hands and knees and crawled all over his room chasing him and letting him chase me. His belly laughs made it so worth while. I had no other thoughts besides just loving on him. After the beating on my knees, I kneeled and played 'peek-a-boo' just to see that beaming smile, hear those squeals, take in his adoration and give him mine.
After several 'peak-a-boos,' he crawled right over and began climbing on me. I think he was trying to reach the top of the Mommy Mountain-giggling all the way to the peak. The pulls, pokes, jabs, yanks and drooling were his way of showing me that he loved me… and I was loving every second of it. I had an epiphany right there and then in the middle of the nursery, with a foot in my bra and a stream of drool flowing down my neck- I’m it! I’m his favorite toy! He could have a hundred different ‘Voted best toy of the year with five star rating’ toys and nothing would make his eyes sparkle like when he’s able to chase his crawling Mama on the floor. I had such a heartwarming time with my baby. I didn’t think I could love him more than I already did, but getting on the floor with him and playing made me remember how special of a kid he is and how much I love and adore him. I knew what I was going to get Reeve for Christmas… more purposed play time with Mama, which will inadvertently be my Christmas gift too.
The whole experience playing on the floor with Reeve reminded me of the last time I went to a local bookstore. When I went through the ‘Christian living’ aisle, I looked up at the seemingly miles long wall of devotions. I thought about buying one, and then decided against it since I already have several. I thought to myself, ‘I want more of God, but not necessarily more books about God.’ As I continued my walk down the aisle, I felt so overwhelmed. There were figurines, Scripture plaques, framed photographs with Christian quotes, beautiful journals, books, mints, belts- you name it. In the same way Reeve was in a room full of all sorts of toys but only wanted to play with me; I was surrounded by wonderful God related resources and the only thing I really wanted, the only thing that would make my eyes sparkle and my soul content, was to be in the presence of my Father. There is no substitute, no tangible means that ever comes close to relationships. What perfect timing God chose to share this with me- in the middle of the gift purchasing process, when my mind and heart needed reminding that the gifts are just tools that help build the relationship, not a substitution of it.
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Oh do I LOVE this! Such a wonderful reminder. I often used to say I was my kids' favorite plaything - and I was a "Jungle Joanne" (instead of a Jungle Gym.). Incredible application too. Thank you!
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