They say our kids won’t remember what presents they got. That instead they’ll remember the smells of Christmas morning—freshly perked coffee (because Mom and Dad were sooooo darn tired), and maybe blueberry pancakes and fresh apple pie. That they’ll remember family traditions (stockings first!) and going to church and then Grandma’s house to play with cousins later that day. 

And that the only thing that matters is the love they feel on Christmas morning, not whether they get 12 presents or two.

As an exhausted parent trying to do all the things and make all the magic, I sure hope they’re right. I hope they remember the Advent calendars and Christmas music and matching PJs as much as they remember the slime kit or Pokemon cards found under the tree.

Thankfully, as we rush around in our zombie-like holiday delirium, commercials like this one from Publix are here to remind us that 20 years from now, our kids will remember (more than anything else) the magic of the holidays we are all working so hard to create.

Watch the video below (but grab the tissues!): 

In this tear-jerking Christmas ad, a little girl wakes up far too early on Christmas morning and spends those first few moments baking with Grandma. She asks periodically if it’s time yet to open presents, but is told repeatedly “Not quite yet.” They painstakingly measure the ingredients, roll the dough, and bake a bread that we can assume is a family recipe.

Fast forward a couple of decades; that little girl is an adult now, with a young child of her own who creeps down the stairs early on Christmas morning.

And he’s greeted by his mom, who probably never went to bed and is just as tired as Grandma was all those years ago. But nonetheless, she takes his tiny hand into the kitchen and says, “I have an idea.” And you know right away what she has in mind.

Because if there’s one thing most of have as a holiday reminder, it’s a family recipe. Ours is Apple Betty (a sweeter, more sugary alternative to apple pie). For my husband, it’s Swedish pancakes. 

Even though neither of us ever saw a shortage of presents under our tree growing up, we don’t really remember what we received when we were six or nine or 13.

But we do remember those family traditions.

I think of my mom cooking batch after batch after batch of cookies in our tiny kitchen. She had trays everywhere—on top of the fridge, on every surface, every shelf in the house. Trays for neighbors. Trays for teachers. Trays for aunts and uncles and friends. I think even the mailman got a tray of cookies.

I think of my grandmother’s pierogies—hand-rolled and stuffed the night before—that brought her Eastern European heritage into my childhood.

And I think of Apple Betty. There was always Apple Betty on Christmas.

Commercials like this are so important for parents like us, especially at that one-week mark when we are frantically searching Target or Amazon for those last few items on our kids’ Santa list. When we are stuffing that last corner of closet space with LOL dolls and LEGO sets, hidden behind a pile of coats. And when we are checking our lists to make sure we bought teacher gifts and stocking stuffers and visited Santa and bought “nice” Christmas outfits that fit and that our kids will be willing to wear.

When we are so painfully tired but still have a laundry list of to-do list items to ensure our kids get the Christmas we want them to have, the Christmas we want them to remember.

Commercials like this are just the reminder we need that even if we don’t get to check off every item on that list, we did the one thing that matters most:

We made the magic.

Whether it’s decorating a gingerbread house or letting your youngest put the star on the tree, you made the magic.

If you caroled this year or your child played the part of a shepherd in the church play, you made the magic.

If you made a homemade ornament for Grandpa or remembered to move your elf even half of the time, you made the magic.

If you continued whatever family tradition yours has established over the years—whether it’s Eastern European pierogies or Swedish pancakes or trays upon trays of cookies—you made the magic.

And if on Christmas morning, you hear the soft footsteps of tiny feet creeping down the stairs, wondering if Santa came, and you scoop your little baby up and enjoy freshly-baked muffins or even the leftover cookies Santa didn’t eat, savoring those last few minutes before the rest of your family wakes up, you can rest assured that you did it. 

You made the magic. And that’s what your child will remember.

Karen Johnson

Karen Johnson is a freelance writer who is known on social media as The 21st Century SAHM. She is an assistant editor at Sammiches and Psych Meds, staff writer and social media manager for Scary Mommy, and is the author of I Brushed My Hair Today, A Mom Journal for Mostly Together Moms. Follow Karen on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/21stcenturysahm/, Twitter https://twitter.com/21stcenturysahm , and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/the21stcenturysahm/