Very few of my childhood memories include the gifts I received. African parents at that time, and especially those in dire economic straits, could barely afford necessities like pens, pencils, books and clothes leave alone parties and gifts.
I got clothes on my birthday or on Christmas and the random toy here or there, but the most vivid gift I ever remember receiving was a home-made doll that had blue hair, which I got from my cousin. To me that was such a beautiful thing to own and to think she would give it to me for keeps! It was a gift of generosity, imagination, and opening up new world for me. That doll opened my eyes to the fact that I could make my own toys to entertain me. So although they were no display-worthy stuff, I did start sewing together patches of cloth to make my own doll family. And what joy those dolls gave the budding introvert who loved to imagine banana trees were people and the grove my own little word.
Gifts are good, and particularly when they resonate deeply with the receiver. What gifts can we give to our children that will truly impact them for a long time like that rugged doll did for me?
- Self confidence: I always admire children who can stand before adults and speak their minds, or articulate issues bravely and clearly. I also admire people with high self-esteem because I realize that these are gifts you nurture at home, by letting your child know that no obstacle is insurmountable, and no one should make them doubt their capabilities. Affirm your children and let them know that they are equipped enough to face any circumstances life throws their way. Let them know they are enough as they are. Celebrate their milestones and let them know you believe in them.
- Time: Time spent together — whether playing, working at a project or on the farm, reading, or just talking – builds lifetime memories for parent and child and what a treasure to bestow your children. It also provides a forum to nurture, mentor and share values, as well as pick on the influences your child is gaining from. That’s when you know who their friends are, and what music they have been listening to. Time builds commonness and togetherness. Time builds traditions that can be passed on. As I grow older I find myself reaching out to the people I spent most of my childhood with. And they say when it comes to parenting the amount of time you spend with your children when they are small is equitable to the amount they will spend with you when you are old. Talk of a gift that pays itself back.
- Challenge, adventure and curiosity: Teach your children that the world is their playfield, full of opportunity and wonder, if only they can get out of their comfort zone to explore and seek new experiences. They will pass the same onwards to their children.
- Discipline. Yes, this starts at home. And they may hate it as they receive it, but will be eternally grateful that you did not let wickedness grow in their hearts.
- Hugs, kisses, your lap and many many “I love yous”. There is a saying that hugs were invented to let people know we love them without having to say anything. These are not things I saw a lot when growing up, but I have learnt the healing power of a hug when a child is upset or how a simple “I love you” can make everything right. Let your children find on your lap a safe little haven to remind them they are children.
- Imagination: I miss the story telling around the fire that accompanied our growing up. I’m embarrassed I cannot tell my son a story in all the gory and beautiful details as my grandmother did. But that rich culture gave me a rich imagination, and I wish to bestow that to my children so they can discover that the world is not limited by what they can physically perceive. The power in their minds to create their world is infinite.
- Share your faith: Your child may not take up the God you taught them when they were little, but they will always know you shared something deep and worthwhile with them. Pray with your children and teach them to pray because you will not always be there for them, or be strong enough for them, but God will. And when God answers prayers, remind them, that they may learn to trust in Him.
- A welcoming home: Your children should love to come home (and bring their friends over) because there they find warmth, food, laughter, jokes, acceptance and a place they can play and just be. You will buy new sofas and carpets and glasses once the children grow up, so let them find in their home a place to learn, make mistakes, learn and grow.
- Friendship: If my children can find me approachable, understanding, a confidant, and hopefully make me the first person they can run to when they are in trouble, at whatever age I will be happy. And I hope from they learn how to make and keep life-long friendships.
- Godly values: People grow up and choose what to believe and live by. But let your child not be one who failed to received any anchoring on the important pillars of life that will enable him/her weather all manner of storms. Teach them kindness and hard work, generosity, honesty and integrity. Teach them compassion. Teach them character.
Bonus tip: Leave your children an inheritance. The Bible says that a godly man leaves an inheritance for his children and their children’s children.