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Presence over Presents“I would rather have you.”

"I would rather have you"

A story that I once heard pops into my mind every Christmas/Winter holiday season. It goes something like this:

A father is preparing for his first Christmas season as a widower. It’s hard to think of the holidays without his beloved wife and he has a young daughter who has been struggling after the loss of her mother.

The father is determined to give his daughter a wonderful Christmas and bring a little joy back into their lives. As he thinks of what to do to make it special, he remembers that his daughter had seen a doll house advertised on TV. She had remarked on how beautiful it was, and her father remembered how her eyes lit up. He had seen a smile on her face for the first time in a long time.

He looked up the doll house, but as it was a popular item, it was completely sold out and will not be back in stock in time for Christmas. Being a handy guy, he decides to hand-make a replica of the doll house for his daughter so that she can have the gift she wants on Christmas morning.

Over the next few months, the father sneaks away to his workshop every night after dinner to work on the doll house. His daughter is disappointed that dad won’t help with homework, but he reminds her she is smart enough to do it on her own. While his daughter is doing her homework, he crafts the rooms in the multi-level dollhouse to exact proportions.

As Christmas gets closer, he begins to skip their bedtime reading routine to painstakingly carve the tiny furniture. When his daughter knocks on the door of his woodshop to tell him it’s bedtime, he opens the door just far enough to give her a kiss and remind her he’s working on something very important.

On Christmas Eve, dad skips the school play to hand-paint the entire dollhouse- with minutes to spare before his daughter’s teacher brings her home. Once his daughter heads for bed, he heads back to the workshop to wrap it and place it under the tree.

On Christmas morning, his little girl comes down the stairs to see the dollhouse of her dreams underneath the Christmas tree. “Oh, daddy, it’s beautiful,” she exclaims. Her father gathers her onto his lap and takes a few minutes, giving her a tour of all the features he so painstakingly recreated so she would have the perfect replica of the dollhouse on TV.

“See sweetie, this is what daddy has been working on over the last few months. This is why I couldn’t help with homework, or read you a bedtime story, or go to your play. I wanted you to have the best Christmas present ever.”

The little girl nestled her head into her dad’s chest and after a moment, lifted her eyes to his. They were shiny with tears.

“I love the dollhouse daddy, but I would have rather had you.”

There are a few Holiday stories on this theme — the Gift of the Magi etc, but this is the one that always sticks with me. And I am reminded of it every winter when the gifting and buying rush begins.

This holiday season, forget the “must have” list and commit to being present and making memories with your family. At the end of the day, your presence matters more than any present you can give. Your relationships with your children and loved ones, if nurtured, will last long after any present begins collecting dust.

Kristal DeSantis, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional is the author of STRONG: A Relationship Field Guide for the Modern Man (available for pre-order now

Follow my instagram @atxtherapist | Facebook @strongloveatx | TikTok @atx_therapist

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