I joke a lot here about my daughters being typical — sometimes snarky, sometimes self-absorbed, sometimes disconnected — teenagers, but the truth is, they’re also insanely beautiful people whom I cherish more than anyone else in the world. And there’s no time of the year when I tend to focus on that more than the holiday season — especially when they surprise me and get me exactly what I want for Hanukkah.
Need to back up, though, so you can really understand what I mean by getting me what I really want for the holidays.
Forever ago, when our girls were little but old enough to comprehend the whole gift-giving/receiving idea, Dave and I made kind of a blanket statement about getting us traditional, store-bought gifts for things like birthdays or Mother’s Day or Hanukkah. We said don’t. Like really, don’t. We both agreed (and still do) that there was nothing we wanted from either of them that would mean more to us than their time and attention or maybe something handmade from the heart. (Attention being key the older they got.) Because, to be honest, we’re both grownups who earn a living and can pretty much afford to get ourselves most of the stuff we might want. Which we do. So as far as we were concerned, there was no need for our girls to bust open their piggy banks and blow their whole Tooth Fairy wad on us.
So instead, we used to get the most adorable little coupons for hugs or cuddles or movie nights or handmade pinch pots or spiral art or breakfast in bed. Which, of course, is the best possible stuff that money can’t buy. Until they got older and started earning some real coin for themselves. Then they both started feeling a little more compelled to get us actual gifts. And even though we kept drumming it into their heads to save their money and give us the gift of their time (with possibly some eye contact thrown in), they liked having the independence and ability to walk into a store and shop for us for a change.
So nowadays, depending on what their bank account balances look like around holiday time, we usually get an actual present in an actual box for special occasions. And even though we try super hard to discourage them from spending their now hard-earned money on us, we try to remind ourselves of how accomplished and grown up it made us feel when we could go into a store and buy our parents that special necklace or wallet or ugly tie.
Flash ahead to this year, to Hanukkah 2017.
This year was a little different because one of our kids has been abroad for the semester and will barely be home in time to light even one Hanukkah candle. So that inadvertently put a little extra pressure on her younger sister to cover mom and dad for the holidays. Which is exactly why we saw it as the perfect time to reiterate, yet again, the whole no-buying-us-actual-gifts thing. Plus, coincidentally, what I in particular really truly wanted this year legitimately couldn’t be bought in a store. The problem was, I didn’t think I stood a chance of getting it because it was so obscure and ever-so-slightly absurd. But I dropped a not-so-subtle hint anyway. Gotta try, right?
So I hinted that what I really wanted more than anything was for my 17-year-old to go into Boston with me — at night, after school, after track practice, before homework, with total strangers, and in the rain — to shovel the snow off the steps at Harvard Stadium with a group of crazies that I work out with every week. Though I thought for sure I stood a less-than-zero chance of that actually happening. Cause I mean, really, what I was asking for was just left of insane and totally unappealing to a high school senior who’d rather be scooping her eyeballs out with a spoon than going into the city to do manual labor in the rain with her mom.
But as all of our kids often do from time to time, my daughter surprised me in a way I never expected. She said yes.
And even though it sounded like a ludicrous thing to ask for as a Hanukkah gift when I heard it come out of my mouth, it was truly the only thing I wanted. I wanted her to see the place where I spend so much of my time and meet the people I’ve grown to love and learn why it means so much to me and, of course, shovel snow with me.
Because as it happens, Libby was actually listening to me with both ears and a huge piece of her heart. She knew that, to me, going on this little late-night, super-spontaneous field trip was exactly what would mean everything to me. And since she truly wanted to give me something she knew I really wanted, she threw on her snow boots and parka and pom-pom hat and hopped in the car, AUX cord in hand.
And it was a total win. I got a ton of uninterrupted car time with my baby, a night full of singing her alternative (and pretty damn explicit) R&B music, and the pride and joy of introducing my kid to my friends. (I even got clearance for a selfie in the stadium.) Oh, and best of all, she actually wanted to be there, which was the hidden prize in the Cracker Jack box.
Also, it was quite possibly the single best holiday gift she’s ever given me.
Moral: There’s no greater gift or feeling than learning that our kids really are listening and paying attention to what really means the most to us. And being on the receiving end when it happens. Especially when we’re convinced it won’t. Because they all do get there, eventually.
Happy Hanukkah to me.