As I was growing up, my parents wanted me to give them a list of things I wanted for Christmas. I put the usual toys and treats on it, but there was something even more important I always forgot: intangibles.
Intangibles are things that you can’t hold in your hands — you can’t play with them, put them on, or eat them. What they are are promises and agreements, things I really wanted but never thought to ask for them in this way.
If I had it to do over, I would put one very important thing on the top of my list each year. Here they are:
Things I wished I’d put on the top of my Christmas list each year
At age 2: When it comes time for me to have fun by myself, let me choose the kind of fun.
At age 3: Don’t make me obey my sibilings, even if they are older.
At age 4: Don’t make me eat more than I want to. Let me put food on my own plate. If you put food on my plate, don’t make me finish it. It’s OK to make me eat good food as well as dessert.
At age 5: Never make me take music lessons.
At age 6: Never sign me up for after-school sports or lessons unless I say OK first.
At age 7: Always let me have some free (uncommitted) time in my schedule, at least one hour per day and six hours each weekend; with no appointments, plans, scheduled activities, chores, homework, or other obligations. Never treat this time as being available for stuff that comes up as the last minute.
At age 8: Describe the chores I need to do in terms of results, not methods. Don’t micromanage me. Don’t make everything a “right now” task.
At age 9: Never ask me how I’m doing in school then use that information to place demands or restrictions on me. Don’t treat everything I say about school as a problem for you to solve.
At age 10: If my siblings, especially those that are younger than me, do something wrong; don’t act as if it’s my fault. Don’t put me “in charge” that way.
At age 11: Don’t demand I do my homework, chores, or other jobs first before having fun. Let me do it in any order, as long as everything that needs to get done gets done when it has to be.
At age 12: If an opportunity comes along for me to earn some money, never just accept it on my behalf. Always discuss it with me first.
At age 13: Don’t choose a career for me.
At age 14: If I receive any gifts of money, don’t automatically insist I save it for college.
At age 15: Let me make my own decisions when reasonable.
At age 16: Don’t select a college for me.
At age 17: Treat any money I earn in part-time or summer work as my own, to be spent (on whatever) or saved (for whatever) as I choose. If not, then I’ll just have to ask you for money every time I need something.
At age 18: Accept whatever I choose for a college major.
At age 19: Don’t try to micromanage my social life. Don’t evaluate every date in terms of potential marriage material.
At age 20: If I get poor grades in some subjects, realize it’s probably because I’m spending the bulk of my study time on what I think is more important. Don’t panic.
At age 21: I know you want grandchildren, but don’t pressure me. I need to do what I feel is right for me in this area.