Pinterest and I were quickly becoming pretty good friends. I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning scrolling on my computer, pinning, planning, and making lists of the specifics that I would need to create the perfect Hanukkah gifts for each of my kids. My husband was innocently snoring on the next pillow, totally oblivious to all the plans I had in store for him—a mighty long list that included a sewing machine, screwdrivers, hammers, and lots of nails.
After years of giving my kids all kinds of gifts for Hanukkah each year, last year I decided to do something different. The year before I had bought my 7-year-old the remote control car that he begged me for, thinking it would be the highlight of his year and keep him fascinated for hours. Well, that didn’t go exactly as planned when he lost the remote less than two days later. And that art set that I thought would excite my 4-year-old’s creativity? It ended up making a mess all over the kitchen windows, walls, and even the ceiling. That only made me question where my sanity went. Seriously? What was I thinking a 4-year-old boy would do with paint, glitter, and a million beads, besides for make a gigantic mess?!
And that is what led me to my late night Pinterest obsession. I wanted to give my kids something meaningful. Something beyond another store bought LEGO set or a Thomas the Train. That’s when I decided that I would create gifts. Surely my kids would appreciate the love, the hours and dedication that would be invested into creating their most perfect gifts. Of course they would adore their new Pinterest-inspired indoor tents that my husband and I spent hours creating so that they could have their very own camp-out overnights in the living room, complete with a fireplace bonfire and roasted marshmallows. This would surely be a meaningful gift for them. Wrong. After the grand unveil, all I heard that night was, “His foot is in my tent;” “He just touched my pillow;” “He’s too close to me.”.
Well, maybe the first night gifts didn’t go over so well, but certainly I’d get a better reaction from the bean bag pillows that I would give them the next night. Stuffed with the softest and fluffiest stuffing to ensure they would have the coziest reading nook to spend hours reading their favorite books, they were sure to be a hit! Wrong. After they unwrapped their gifts, I heard whines of, “Why did he get the one with the rocket ships and I got the one with the robots?” and, “My brother’s bean bag is bigger than mine.”
I had worked so hard to give my kids the most perfect, meaningful gifts, and they weren’t happy.
One day while my oldest son was at school, I glanced over his little brother’s shoulder to see him typing a message of, “I love you. I miss you so much.” That’s when it hit me. In reality, they didn’t need or want my gifts, and I finally knew just what they needed.
The best gift I could ever give my boys is each other. Much more than any toy or hand-made gift, what my kids craved was time together. No matter how much they bicker and squabble, there is nothing that can compete with the twinkle in their eyes that they get when talking about the memories that they have of spending time together.
Life is busy, and we often forget to stop and smell the roses. Hanukkah gives us the opportunity to slow down and spend time with those we cherish. Hanukkah means rededication. After the battle with the Greeks, the Jews were victorious and they rededicated the Temple that had been destroyed. Let’s rededicate the temple within our own lives. The temple of our home, the relationships with our loved ones, our family and friends.
I’ve decided that this year, we’re not going to be distracted by gifts and presents. Each night of Hanukkah, I am rededicating myself to giving my kids the most meaningful gift of all, the gift of spending quality time with each other.
Whether we’ll be making latkes while having a Hanukkah “sing-off” as we watch the menorah candles burn, or savoring some home-made caramel and chocolate ganache doughnuts while handwriting notes to our family and friends, these will be the Hanukkah gifts they will talk about for years to come.
Of course, my kids will be getting the traditional Hanukkah gelt, but that, too, will be more about creating the memories than the actual dollars themselves. Each night, each kid receives a dollar amount representing the number of candles. (e.g. night #1 a $1 silver coin, night #2 a $2 bill, night #3 three crisp dollar bills, etc.) Each night they put a portion of their “gelt” in a charity box. At the end of Hanukkah we decide together where to donate it. Every once in awhile, throughout the year, I overhear them talking and reminiscing about what we did with the Hanukkah money and where we donated it. I hardly ever hear them talking about what they bought with their Hanukkah money.
I knew I hit the jackpot when at a recent Shabbat meal a guest asked my 9-year-old what his favorite part of Hanukkah is. Without skipping a beat, he excitedly shared, “Spending time with my family and making things together was even more fun than getting presents!”