I was enjoying getting lost in the large store, books piled high on every shelf. It seemed it didn’t have an end as I navigated my way through the vast categories of books.

As I sat perusing my fingers through some pages, I felt someone staring at me. I peered over the top of the book, spotting a pair of eyes outlined with royal blue accompanied by an adorable little smile. Dressed in black pants and a striped shirt, I noticed he had drawn a mask over his eyes with a blue sharpie. No doubt he had to trace it a few times to get the full effect.

Waving softly, I mouthed hello and smiled.

His superhero face and mischievous grin warmed my heart. Instantly it took me back to those days when Lydia painted herself with make-up. The bright blue eyeshadow you couldn’t miss, and the hot pink lipstick covering her mouth, chin, and almost up to her nose made you want to laugh. But she felt beautiful.

Wiping my eyes, I smiled in awe. So hard to believe she is gone. Oh those years, what I wouldn’t give to rewind time and go back, just to have one more chance. To share those gut-busting giggles, kiss those sweet freckled cheeks, to build that snowman, to do it all again. 

The days of our lives are fast and furious, passing by ever so quickly. Years fly by in a second, making us look back wondering where the time went.

You see, my daughter Lydia just turned 15 and lives in heaven. She passed away when she was five. In hindsight, there’s so much I would do differently. When she was here, my focus wasn’t where it should have been.

Of course, I would want to shower her with gifts and all her favorite things, especially during Christmas. However, I have learned that that only brings temporary and superficial happiness as well as empty pockets.

Now as my daughter’s 15th birthday came and the holidays draw near, her absence is ever so present. My heart is heavy and tuned in to what matters most.

Take it from a mom who knows, here are seven gift ideas for your children that don’t cost a dime.

1. Give them your time.

Give those precious kiddos the last minutes before bedtime, the first minutes in the morning waking them with hugs and wide-open arms. Take time to push them on the swings, play cards, or attend that special event. Give them your undivided attention when you walk through that door from work, greeting them like they are the best gift ever because they are!

2. Give them your ear.

Listen to them. Put down all the technology we are chained to and really hear what your children are saying. Listen to the stories of their day, the drama with their friends, and the excitement about their activities. Listen to their adorable giggles, what makes them smile, and what hurts them. They will forever be grateful for this.

Read: Dear Daughter, I’ll Never Be Too Busy to Listen to You.

3. Give them unconditional love.

Tell them you love them daily even when they mess up. When they spill a bag of flour all over the kitchen floor or when their grades are not as good as they should be, let them know how much they mean to you. When they overflow the toilet or paint on walls, embrace their uniqueness and make sure they know they are special. And when they get on your last nerve, take a deep breath, and be thankful they are there alive, and always end every conflict with an “I love you.”

4. Teach them about the true meaning of Christmas.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of presents, shopping, and Santa Claus. Let them know Christmas is about love. Let them know they matter, they were created for a reason, and are beloved in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. Show them and teach them faith is everlasting and provides guiding principles for life. 

Read more: Move a Little Closer to Jesus This Christmas and A Beginner’s Guide to Advent

5. Give them the gift of giving back.

Take them to volunteer at a homeless shelter, purchase a gift for a child in need, or other philanthropic acts, being sure to explain the challenges and difficulties so many endure. Let them see life from a different perspective. And as a bonus for all you parents, your children will gain hearts filled with compassion for others, guaranteed.

Check out these ideas: 15 Ways to Give Back at the Holidays

6. Give your children the gift of gratitude.

As they learn to be thankful and grateful for everything they have in life, they will gain maturity and responsibility, opening their eyes to the value of hard work.

7. Give them encouragement. 

Make sure they know how proud you are of them. When they pass a test, get dressed by themselves, clean the house, or make the sports team, tell them how delighted you are. This will empower them with confidence and give them the courage to explore and try new things.

Read more about how to let your kids know you cherish them TODAY!

These seem so simple, yet they are gifts I have neglected to give my children on many occasions. Things and times I have taken for granted, which have haunted me with regret.

I, too, have been guilty of showing my children love with tangible gifts that go unappreciated time and time again, soon to be forgotten. As parents, I know we all have. So before you hit those sales in the stores this year, I challenge you to give your children something they will never forget, making memories that will remain with them forever. Your heart will thank you and so will they.

Originally published on Having Time

Give your children the gift of time and impact their hearts by reading about the true Story of Christmas together. Too tired to read? No sweat. Listen together here, on Audible.

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Daphne Bach Greer

Author of Barely Breathing: Ten Secrets to Surviving Loss of Your Child, Daphne is deeply rooted in faith. She is a wife and mother of five with a daughter in heaven. She is passionate about helping others find the sweeter side of grief, while finding faith, restoring life and igniting hope within. Find her at grievinggumdrops.com.