What do our kids really want for Christmas? Hint…it’s not their two front teeth! Or, the latest toy!

Our children are bombarded with marketing messages everyday. Anyone who tells me television advertising doesn’t work needs to talk to my 4 year old daughter. Recently she told me she “would like to vacation in Punta Cana” because that is where Spongebob lives. Full disclosure-I manage a local television station-and completely believe in the positive power of the media to inform, educate and entertain.  As a mother, I struggle with what my children want and what they really need based on what they “hear or see” they might need.  A trip to Punta Cana is something mommy needs…and, it has nothing to do with Spongebob.  Unless, it’s to escape that yellow pain in the butt!  We should be able to claim Spongebob on our taxes since there are days he takes over our home.

Now, I’m a sucker for over-buying for my kids.  They are not spoiled but I enjoy providing for them. I grew up with very little so I work extremely hard to give to them. As a little girl, I had big dreams.  And, they all centered around making sure my family would have the basics and a little extra. Watching their excitement and joy as they receive a new item, is like crack (or in my case wine) to me. I never knew what it was like to get that coveted present.  I just stopped asking.  Everyone’s dream is to give your children a better life.  My dream is time 100000000000xxxxxx! I know I am over the top.

But, then I see what happens to most of the items.  They are very appreciative in the moment. They aren’t spoiled and are very gracious.  But, there is a pattern.  Play with the toys for a short amount of time and then are on to the next latest and greatest.  Their excitement dwindles as does mine as I realize that these material items are just temporary “fixes.” The disappointment is 10 fold for me.  I want them to stay excited, happy and entertained.

Ice cream for dinner.

What I have learned from experiencing and publishing “Date Night With Mom” with my son is that what our children really want is OUR TIME AND ATTENTION! I always had this notion that I would work really hard so that they would never want. I had no idea that the work I embrace (and truly love) would leave them wanting something that money can’t buy.  My attention.  It’s something that I can’t always afford with my work schedule and travel.

I am the General Manager of a local television station and a Fellow in an industry association that takes me away one entire weekend a month to Washington, DC. I am a mother to two children, wife to an adoring husband, volunteer at my church and children’s school. I work hard to be active in my community giving back and representing my company. I’m like most of you…pretty busy.

14 hours since I had been home. Worth every minute to have dinner with Maxine and Santa.

But, like saving up for a big purchase…I have learned I have to sacrifice some things (like sleep) and dig deep to afford my children the most expensive gift on their list.  My time.  Quality (not necessarily quantity) time they crave. Stomp their feet.  Throw a fit. They want…they need! So, I put off my extra work until they are snoozing and I want to fall into my bed…but don’t.  Get it done while they are out.  Or, get up early and get it done.  Just get it done so I can schedule my date with my children.

I found this article that had some good ideas as “hacks.” There are so many helpful suggestions on various parenting blogs, sites and news articles.  The info is plentiful.  It can also be overwhelming.  My suggestion is to figure out what works for you and your family.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  Or, guilt yourself over the quantity. Just do your best.  At the end of the day, it’s all our children really want for Christmas.  And, throughout the entire year.

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