(Published 21 April, 2012 in CharlestonGrit.com)
WHAT’S THE BEST GIFT TO GIVE YOUR CHILD?
If it’s time to pick out a gift, I feel as if another “necessary” has intruded upon my otherwise active and more interesting agenda. Truly, what is important about a gift? Generally the gift is an imperfect match for the recipient. Gifts may have to be returned or exchanged. Gifts eventually break, are consumed or become lost. The best part of receiving a gift is realizing there exists an attractively packaged item with something mysterious and uncertain within. That brief moment is the peak of the pleasure. The gift itself is almost always a disappointment. When you come right down to it, gifts represent junk.
Someone reading this just thought, “What’s junk?” My response, “It’s anything that does not have enduring value.”
Now as we are supposed to be talking about gifts for children I want to make a point. While a child myself, and growing up, I received gifts from my parents. Those gifts pleased me for a period of time. However they did not last. But something inherent in the process of gift giving did last. I may not have been able to express my emotions into structured thoughts at that time, but something made an impression within me. Now, I am capable of expressing myself, and this is what I want to say, “The real value of the gifts are the realization that my parents were generous people.” That realization is enduring. I am the child of generous parents. I believe my parents made sacrifices – doing without “junk” they might have enjoyed, in order to give “junk” to their child in order to make their child happy (at least briefly.) The junk never lasts, the qualities of the parent as expressed through their choices and behaviors is what leaves the real gift – the enduring awareness of sacrifices made by parents for their children. I understand, now, that this represents love. My parents gave me the best gift of all, they taught me what is love and what it means to love another person.
This topic is more complicated than this little piece here. Just for an example, some parents give children lots of gifts and even allow privileges the children don’t deserve. In this case, the child knows this behavior is not loving, but rather selfish. It’s an attempt to palliate the child, to have the child pacified. This way the parents can go about doing whatever it is that consumes them more than the well-being of their child.
What is the best gift you can give your child? It is not a thing. It is your example, your principals, a sense of morality, a reason for existence, and what it means to love.