As parents, we make it our life’s mission to give our children the best that our purses and imaginations can conjure.
Nothing less than the best will do for our children, we tell ourselves. So fierce is our love for our children that it seems to consume us, making every other priority of our lives shrink in comparison.
We make spoken and unspoken promises to ourselves, regarding the sort of care we will give our offspring. We will give them the best to help them soar, to realise their potential and to enable them to hold their own in a world that, unfortunately, will not view them with the high regard that we do.
We get so fixated on our desire to give them the best that money can buy, we often overlook the need to give them the things that money cannot.
We get so carried away in our desire to give them the things that we didn’t have when we were growing up, we forget to give them the things that we did have growing up.
I’m not a great one for buying toys for my children. Having grown up in a SITK (Single Income Three Kids) family where the budget was often stretched thin, I have learned to regard thrift as a virtue. Reduce, reuse and recycle are not just some catchy mantras for me. They are credos by which I live my life. Credos that I seek to inculcate in my children.
Most of the gifting I do happens in honour of my kids’ birthdays. Of course, I do buy them things on impulse, things that I think they might like. Mostly clothes or books, or even small clips, crayons and drawing and colouring books and odds and ends that might inspire them with a sense of novelty.
But whenever the thought of gifting them something arises, both the Husband and I like to think big. Beyond a Made-in-China toy that might not live to see the morrow. Or an expensive gadget or remote controlled toy, for that matter.
A very famous quote, attributed to more than one person, goes: “There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children. One of these is roots, and the other, wings.”
This quote has had a profound influence on me. It has become the philosophy that colours my choice of gifts for my children. I believe that every big gift that we buy for our kids should make a substantial investment in their lives, and should give strength either to their wings or their roots.
Here are the five gifts that I would like to give my two children, known on my blog as La Niña and El Niño.
1) The most immediate gift I would like to give them is the gift of my TIME and PRESENCE. As children, my brothers and I were fortunate enough to have parents who were fully invested in our lives. They were interested in the small and big events of our lives, and were always willing to listen and talk to us about the profundities and inanities that occupied our minds. Their deep involvement in our lives and their unconditional love and acceptance have touched me deeply.
Children live in the here and now. They are too young to remember the past, or care about the future. They long to have their parents play a more active, vital and participative role in their lives. One that goes beyond buying them the basic necessaries and hoping they will amuse themselves with some trinkets and gadgets while the grownups go chasing after the items on their own to-do lists.
The way I play a more active role in my kids’ lives is by paying attention to them, by answering them every time they call me, by making time for them, switching off the TV and the computer and setting aside the mobile phone, each time they clamour for their Mamma to play with them.
2) The ability to LEARN and KEEP LEARNING would be my second gift for them. I wish my children to always want to learn, to know more, to drink in, with wide, greedy gulps, of the vast reservoir of knowledge that humankind has accumulated so far. But I would also wish them to realise that not all the learning happens in a classroom or a school. The most ordinary, unspectacular people can enhance our learning, if we learn to keep our eyes and ears open and our mouths shut.
As WB Yeats said, Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire. As a parent, I feel bound to teach them to consider themselves students of life and living as long as they are alive.
I would also like to equip them with the means to learn some skills of their own choice. Whether they choose to learn sewing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, baking, designing, swimming, cooking, painting, building or some form of martial arts etc, no learning is wasted. Every new skill can do wonders to an individual’s sense of self-discovery and ability.
3) The next treasure in my basket of gifts would be my BOOKS. My father introduced me to the world of books and instilled in me a love for reading. It was a love that opened my world view, and broadened my horizons. It gave me hours of sheer unbridled joy, and helped me to forget all my cares. It helped me learn from minds wiser than my own, and taught me to love the magic of words. It is a treasure that I have always sought to share with my children.
My books are some of my most valuable possessions. Many of these books I received from Dad. Over time, I have added to my collection. Always the kind of books I would want to read and re-read. The kind that expanded my mind and my heart and enriched my soul. I hope to share my small library with my children.
4) The other gift that I would like to leave my children is one whose worth will be evident to them when I am no longer with them. I would like to make a WILL, so that, having sorted out all my assets, I am able to leave my tangible and intangible possessions to the two little people whose welfare is and always will be my greatest concern.
5) The greatest gift that I would like to leave my children is a twin one. It consists of the MORAL VALUES that I learned from my parents and the FAITH in a loving God that they instilled in me.
The values can serve as a compass for a good life, helping them navigate the pitfalls that threaten impressionable youngsters. The faith can be the light that helps see them through the toughest times.
Living a life with faith is no guarantee for an easy life. It will not give them the assurance of having all the answers.
What it will offer them is the assurance that things will work out alright, and that the doubts that rage in their minds will be stilled in time, if only they are willing to let go and let God.
I hope to be able to share with them my deep conviction that everything will work for good, if they allow themselves to move on meanwhile. To do the chores and the jobs that need to be done, while waiting for the answers to reveal themselves. And they always do.
These are the gifts that I would like to leave them.
Everything else is only pretty wrapping paper.