The gift of time

The holidays are a great time for a baking day with Oma. Photo: monkeybusinessimages

If only we could stop time for a bit. This fall has felt like a whirlwind, where on top of everything else, my daughter was navigating applying to high school, studying for the SSAT, and dealing with an injury. Someone once told me when you are raising your children the days are long but the years are short. This couldn’t be more true especially when you consider that high school is just four short years, and then they are off to college.

Not only have I felt the speed of time this fall but also have come to appreciate the preciousness of the season. The holidays are a wonderful moment to stop and appreciate time: time with family and friends and time to enjoy the season. So this holiday season, consider giving your children something memorable, something they really want and would enjoy —  your time and your attention. Here are a few suggestions to do that:


With three busy children, it can be difficult to get special time with each of them individually. This year, one of their gifts will be time with us that they get to plan. This allows us some quality time, and it is always interesting to see what they decide to plan. It is easy to forget in this world full of digital distractions that sometimes our undivided attention is the greatest gift we can give. These gifts don’t have to be expensive — they can be the gift of a hike or bike ride of their choice. It could be time doing something they enjoy that maybe their siblings don’t. Our son likes to plan bike rides or going to a sporting event while my daughter always loves an afternoon of shopping or getting her nails done. These types of gifts are also great suggestions for grandparents, family, or friends — my children love a baking day with Oma or a sleepover with Grandma and Grandpa. It is the individual, one-on-one time where we can really check in with them and get to know them as their own person without other distractions.


The holidays are a great time to carve out some family time. I have noticed as the kids get older they get busier and also want to spend more time with their friends. This is normal adolescent development, but it can make planning family time more challenging. I recently heard a great idea of a family who planned a surprise adventure and have made it a monthly tradition. This could be anything from theater tickets to ice skating in Union Square or even miniature golf in Ghirardelli Square. There may be some moans and groans, but with some proper planning you will have everyone on board. Our family loves sporting events, so tickets to a basketball game or football game are always crowd pleasers. Planning time away together can also be a great way to reconnect as a family. This year our immediate family is doing something we have never done and we are going away for the holidays. As much as I will miss our extended family and San Francisco traditions around Christmas, I am looking forward to time together exploring and relaxing. 


Making time to help others is also important and can bring family together. Establishing traditions around this such as shopping together for a homeless family you have adopted or a toy drive you are donating to can be fun and helpful. You can also serve a meal together at a shelter or soup kitchen. Another festive idea is to rent a cable car with other families and visit senior housing centers to sing holiday carols and bring cards wishing them a happy holiday. The goal is to find something you all like to do, find a way to make it fun while at the same time spending time together and helping others.

It can be very easy to let December come and go all while allowing the craziness of the season to overtake the true meaning. For me, that is spending time with the people I love and who matter most. So as those calendars start to fill up, don’t forget to schedule some family time and put the devices away. You may find that in the simplest, quietest moments, some of the best memories are made and new traditions evolve. I wish you all a happy holiday and the gifts of time and togetherness.

Liz Farrell is the mother of three young children and the founder of TechTalks, a consulting group to help schools and families have productive and healthful conversations around social media and technology. Email: [email protected]

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