Have you ever been in the supermarket checkout line and experienced a cashier talking to a fellow cashier while ringing up your groceries? Annoying, isn’t it? On the flip side, I’m sure you’ve noticed that gem of a cashier who really looked at you eye-to-eye, and smiled as she asked, “Did you find everything okay?” And you knew she meant it. That one, small interaction, even while doing a seemingly mundane task, can absolutely transform your day. What is the difference between the two cashiers? Simply put: One is present, and one is not.
So, what is it that you think your elder mom or dad really wants for the holidays? On the surface level, we can guess and go in circles at the mall to express our love for them with a card, a sweater, a tie — a token of our affection. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But, on a deeper level, our parents are longing for something far simpler, and much richer. They simply want us to be present to them.
And what does this mean? Our parents simply want to be seen, heard and accepted, just as they are. They don’t want just a token of our affection, they want our affection. Imagine that – they just want us! You don’t see holiday commercials for that now, do you? “Wanted for the holidays: You!” It is true, even if it is unspoken.
My mother had dementia, which required a lot of patience and love. Oftentimes, I was so busy making sure that her physical needs were met — that she had food in the fridge and that her recycling was out on the right day — that I didn’t sit still long enough to actually be present to her.
One of the best days I had with her was when I just sat down and watched her eat. I didn’t say anything. I just listened and was totally present to her. It was magical.
And you can do it, too. Turn off your smart phone, sit down, and just be totally present to your parent. You don’t have to say a word. Just let them be who they are without judging them. Watch. Listen. If you want to, hold their hand. They will feel your presence, just like you sense the “gem cashier” when you go through the checkout line.
Not sure what to give your mom or dad this holiday season? Give them the phenomenal gift of your own presence. Bow not required.