Once strangers find out you have children or see you out and about in the community with your family, many are quick with a smile, a story or a comment.
And more often than not, one of those often repeated comments is, "Enjoy these years."
It's something a parent never can hear enough. Amid the chaos, the ups and the downs of every day and all those cherished moments together, it's reassuring to know that what you are living daily is a treasure and that childhood and the years kids spend at home pass way too quickly.
It's an instant connection, a bond that we as strangers, as parents can share - veterans passing on their wisdom to another generation. Appreciate it.
I instantly was reminded of that when the holiday toy catalogs started arriving in the mail and in the newspaper. Last year, all three took time to peruse, make a list and share it with Santa.
This year, only one grabbed for the magazines - Lucas. Benjamin no longer is interested, and Grace's tastes are growing up. She will make a list, but it won't be from a toy catalog. Hers is made after visiting a few of her favorite stores.
As soon as the first catalog arrived, Lucas immediately started making his way ever so slowly through the entire thing, sometimes returning to a few pages to take another look. After he had gone through it, he got out a piece of paper and started making a wish list "draft." Once he had his initial ideas down, he took out another piece of paper to rewrite it for Santa, erasing any possible doubt or uncertainty in the process.
Every carefully written and extremely legible item was followed by an exclamation mark. Puzzles! Beyblades! Scooter!
At the very end of his list, he had an item his brother had said he wanted: a Robert Griffin III jersey. Lucas made sure to put it on his list for Ben so he was covered with Father Christmas.
As he worked, I took pictures of him in his red fleece pajamas sitting down at the kitchen table, his fingers tightly wrapped around a freshly sharpened pencil. The photos soon will make their way onto a scrapbook page for me to look back on and remember. After all, you never know what next Christmas will bring.
These are the gifts of the season. I see it. And I definitely appreciate it.
- Julie Gilkay: 920-933-1000, ext. 319, or email@example.com. She is the mother of Benjamin, 11, Grace, 9, and Lucas, 7.