Presence Not Presents

Photo credit: Guille Pozzi

It’s that time of year again … a time most people look forward to. Wrapping up the year at work, wrapping up school and nursery school.

And then more wrapping commences, of the pretty paper variety! The wrapping of gifts for loved ones, for our friends and family.

Presents! Of varying shapes, sizes and price tags! But there is an unseen cost to these gifts. With parents spending long hours at work, that cost, all too often, is time.

The majority of schools and nursery schools become like second homes to children, they’re amongst an extended family in the dedicated staff team. Early Childhood teachers and assistants value their relationship with your children, and it’s important to them that your child makes wonderful festive season memories with their friends at nursery /school with their creative activities and arts and crafts, having much fun (and making much mess!) in the process.

Nursery schools and schools go to a lot of effort to ensure December is a fun and creative time for your child.

But at this time of year, it is more important for a child to have your presence during the festive season than more presents. They want you!

What do you think your children will remember when they are older? Will they remember a certain gift you gave them or will they remember something fun and meaningful you did together?

It might have been you visiting a care home together to spend time with those who have no family present.

It might have been you visiting the oncology children’s ward at the local hospital, spending time with children who are too sick to go home, who might or might not have family who regularly visit them.

Your visit, whether you read a story with them, sing some songs with them or give them a little heartfelt gift … that is what your child will remember, and it’s this kind of precious memory that impacts a child for the rest of their lives.

Growing up, on Christmas Day my mum and three siblings would open our gifts in the morning, go to our church Christmas service, and then head to Hillbrow Hospital in the City of Johannesburg.

There weren’t many patients there as they generally go home to be with their families if they are well enough to do so, but there were a few adults and children in the huge, echoing white wards who were too poorly to make the trip home.

We spent our time singing songs with the adults and children, holding their hands and just being with them. As an adult these memories are imprinted in my mind, and on my soul.

So what will it be this year? A time for presents or a time of your presence?

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Jennifer McQuillan
Jennifer McQuillan founded an award winning preschool nursery company, Jenniflowers Childcare Ltd in London, England, where she lived for 15 years. Now based in South Africa again, she is a preschool nursery provider, consultant and trainer. She volunteers and trains in informal locations, townships and suburbs, and has a particular leaning towards children with special educational needs and disabilities. She and her hubby are parents to twin toddler boys and two bonkers bassets.
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