It is the contents of “The Other Letter” that may leave many parents in tears after watching the video.
Yes, just when some parents might be feeling like good parenting can be found under the Christmas tree after a successful series of trips to the toy store, we get a big fat holiday reality check from a Scandinavian furniture store.
When each of the elementary school-age children was asked to write a letter to The Three Kings, the children swiftly proceed to ask for everything from a guitar or a Wii, and in one case, a unicorn.
However, IKEA didn’t stop there.
While the kids and viewers expect the kids’ list to be done, the interviewers then give each child a clean sheet of paper and the instruction: “And now you’re going to write another letter, to your parents.”
I admit, I fully expected the gotcha to be on the kids who I thought might be asked to justify their status on the “Nice List” that would make them deserving of a unicorn.
Instead, the interviewer asks, “What would you ask your parents for this Christmas?”
This creates some satisfying shock and awe among the kids, as many stare blankly at the paper for ideas.
Then the parents were given “The Other Letter.”
Every child asked mom and dad for the one thing hardest to come by and most often missing – time together.
I am writing this story from my home computer, which absorbs at least eight hours of my day with work, as my 11-year-old son stands beside me scowling because I am not having breakfast with him or taking him Christmas shopping so he can buy gifts for his big brothers.
So this hits very close to home.
The parents in the video break down and dissolve into tears like snow on a griddle as they read the requests of their kids.
“I want you to spend more time with me…that we do more experiments at home,” one couple reads as they sit on what is no doubt an IKEA couch.
“I’d like it if you had dinner with us more often,” another mom reads aloud to dad.
The one I can’t get past is the mom who reads,” I want us to spend a whole day together.”
That’s something my youngest son has asked for and what I have been unable to do with my other three sons (two home from college for Christmas break).
Asked if the requests of their children came as a surprise, all the parents admitted they were not surprised.
As parents, we know that what our kids really want from us is us. As the video points out, we may sometimes fill the vacuum left by our absence with toys and things we are able to provide by the work that forces us to be absent.
Most of us don’t have a choice. We have to work, and at-home working parents know that often being absent while present is sometimes the worst kind of absent a parent can be.
This is a reminder not only of what our children want, but also what they and we need.
We need to communicate how we feel to each other. Kids need to know that we can’t always chuck work for play, but when we have the moment or make one, we want to spend it with them.
This mom’s signing off for the day to drink cocoa, play video games, and give the gift of presence to my kids.