The best gift is you

Except for some fancy footwork to acquire a hard-to-come-by Nintendo one year and a down-to-the-wire acquisition of a White Ranger another, procuring Christmas toys for my son was relatively easy. He was a huge Ghostbusters fan for several years and picking up the firehouse or ECTO-2 vehicle one year, or ECTO-blaster and proton pack the next was a piece of cake.

Still, no matter how many times his Christmas list was filled to the tee by Santa, for most of his early years my son and I wound up doing the same thing each Christmas evening: sword fighting with the cardboard tubes from rolls of wrapping paper.

The only times we didn’t sword fight with them was when we pretended they were light sabers from Star Wars. We each had that “whoomom” sound down pat.

All the expensive toys would be strewn about the family room and we’d be having a blast with those tubes.

It reminds me of the time I drew a picture of The Beast from the story book Beauty and the Beast I’d read to my daughter almost every day and hung it on the fridge.

She was perhaps three at the time and the first time she saw The Beast hanging there, she stopped to talk to it.

I picked up on it immediately and flopped down on the kitchen floor with my back to the refrigerator door. To her “Hi, Beast,” I answered in my best Beast voice, “Hi, Greta,” and that began an almost daily routine. I soon discovered The Beast I had drawn could get Greta to do things her mom and I could not, like eat her peas.

The point is my imagination and my time was far more important to my children than any store-bought toy. It was simple. My kids just wanted me.

Not long ago, a friend told me he was having trouble relating to his teenaged son because all his boy wanted to do was play video games. My friend said he tried playing with him but was lousy at it and therefore lost interest after just a few minutes.

“He doesn’t want you to play with him,” I suggested. “He just wants you to be with him.”

I told him how my son at the same age delighted in me watching him blast all sorts of enemies in video games. He wanted, and even needed me to be an audience cheering for him the same as if he were cracking home runs in a Little League game.

Parenting is only hard if you over-think it. Your kids want your time and your attention. And giving this to them is the best way to assure them of your love.

Ed Ackerman