One of the top ten things requested on children’s Christmas lists in the UK is a “Dad.”
On the surface, the 2012 survey results published in The Telegraph are sad for sure. But, there’s more to it than that. Take a look at what most kids covet enough to publicize in a list to a total stranger named Santa and you’ll see that most kids just want a stable nuclear family: a mom, a dad and a sibling or two. And a pet. Sure, that pet might be a chicken, reindeer or a horse, but it’s another living creature nevertheless.
In short, most children want nothing more for Christmas than a personal, emotional connection with another living being. They want relationship: to understand and be understood, to love and be loved. Yet, Google “what most kids want for Christmas” and you get an endless list of the season’s “hot toys.” Nearly a quarter of American children live in single-mother families and over a third of those families live in poverty. I highly doubt the “hot toys” are at the top of those children’s wish lists, if they even bother to make one at all.
British children aren’t alone in their need for fathers. While children in single-parent, mother-led households are still in the minority, “by age 12, 40 percent of children will spend some time in a cohabiting household, most often with their biological mother and her live-in boyfriend.” The need for a dad is more than a mere Christmas wish. A recent review of 54 studies of children in post-divorce joint and sole-custody families revealed that “independent of parental conflict and family income, children in shared physical custody families—with the exception of situations where children need protection from an abusive or negligent parent—have better outcomes across a variety of measures of well-being than do children in sole physical custody.”
In other words, kids have two parents for a reason and they need to bond with them both in order to have the best chance at a successful life. In asking for a dad, these kids aren’t just being sweet. They’re being incredibly intuitive.
And what if you are one of two parents in a stable, nuclear family? Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to actually spend some time with your kids over the holidays. When I asked one little girl at our synagogue what she’d be doing over winter break she gave me a big smile and replied, “I get to spend time with Mommy!”
If the request for a dad and/or a “mum” wasn’t enough of a hint, another item most kids requested: A house. What better representation of family, safety, and long-term security than a home? I guess Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street had it right. What a kid really wants more than anything in the world are two parents who love them and who, preferably, live together under one roof (tire swing optional). If only it wouldn’t take the miraculous appearance of a fantastic being in order to nudge grown men and women in the right direction.