Once I saw the big picture, it was hard to stop thinking about – especially during this time of year when parents struggle with wanting to make all their kids’ wishes come true while still teaching them the value of non-materialistic treasures.
The monthly question thrown to adults in my magazine was, “What is the nicest thing your parents ever did for you?” Â The answers were full of kind gestures and positive experiences – of parents’ love and thoughtfulness. Here is my favorite one from Kristen Harris in Louisville, Kentucky:Â “When I was 25, my boyfriend suddenly broke up with me, and I called my father, sobbing. Later that night, there was a knock on my door. It was my dad. He had driven an hour just to give me a hug.” (That sounds like something my dad would have done for me!)
Then they asked kids the same question. They seemed to be more about “things” like buying ice cream or cowboy boots or plane tickets. Here is a funny one of those responses from 5-year old Presleigh: “My mom gives me prizes when I don’t poop in my pants.” (You just gotta’ love kids’ honesty, don’t you?!)
This reinforced what I already knew, but needed to be reminded of. In the short term our kids all just think they want “things.” They want the iPods (like my 7-year old!) or the designer boots or whatever else is hot in the moment. Of course it is fun to buy these things for them and the kids are thrilled to get them, but in the long run, it is our love and time and kindness and positive experiences that our kids will remember and cherish the most. Our gestures and experiences are how we truly show them love, and it is those things that they end up remembering the most.
Think back to your childhood. What is the nicest thing that your parents ever did for you?
As I child, I did not want for much. We had a comfortable lifestyle and it always seemed like I received more for Christmas than I could have even dreamed to put on my wish list. And while I can think of how good it felt to get a Cabbage Patch Doll the first year they came out when they were sold out and nobody could get them, that is not what I think about now when reflecting on this question. I think about my mom rubbing my back when I was trying to sleep and my dad listening to me cry at the table about how hard relationships can be. About how even though my parents were divorced for most of my life, they never said bad things about each other in front of me. About my mom’s laugh and my dad’s joking twinkle in his eyes. Those were the best gifts of my childhood.
And what is one thing my kids will remember? Maybe it will be how their mom lets them color on themselves with markers on school breaks as this image of my three (on the left) and their friend show. Ah yes, the gift of making memories…