When I was a kid all I wanted was a Sega Genesis! In my child world it was the best gaming system ever created, and it will be the greatest ever created, at the time. It was very expensive compared to our old NES system, and we had like, 25 games for our NES. My parents thought it would be better to just play what you have. I still thought I needed the Genesis. Over a year pasted once the Genesis came out, and one day my parents suddenly changed their mind, and decided to buy me the greatest gaming system ever! Sonic the Hedgehog was bluer than I remembered at my friends house, and the sound of him collecting the golden rings even sounded better. Best gift ever right? Well, after about six months a newer system came out, and I had only collected about 3 games for the Genesis, and I was over it. We sold it and moved back to the NES and Super NES.
As it turns out that expensive gift wasn’t the best gift I had ever received. I forgot about
it and couldn’t really remember how to play the games anymore, but the gift I was left with was the story to tell my children when they had to have a new Xbox One this year. I told them about my Sega Genesis story, and they insisted they had to have an Xbox One anyways. So, I made them work and save their money, and finally we went down to Gamestop and bought an Xbox One. (Our Xbox 360 is still sitting there looking great.) Now it’s been a few months and the kids only have 2 Xbox One games. They seem to be enjoying it until the next great thing comes along. But, how do we avoid these gifting dilemmas?
Studies have shown that the greatest gift you can give a child is not a nice new gaming system, or toys, or bikes, or Nerf guns, but your TIME. It turns out that kids just want more time with their loved ones, and in that time together they are learning valuable life skills and creating lasting memories. This investment in time brings people the most happiness over the long term.
Kids need the gift of their memories so they can recall them later for survival also. When I had my first child, my wife and I sat and thought about what our parents did good, and did bad, and we created our way of raising our children together. We were given a great gift by our parents, by them being around, and being both good examples and bad examples for us to learn from.
Our parents also allowed us to be kids growing up. We rode our bikes around the neighborhood, fought other kids, built forts, created mud dams in creeks, drank from sprinklers, and had a great time being allowed to explore, and learn to be on our own person. We both wanted those memories for our children, and we thank our parents for letting us roam and learn in unstructured play time.
I learned to hammer by my dad watching me smash my fingers; I learned to roll loose change with my mom and saw how quickly nickels and dimes can grow over time; my parents went to almost every sporting event I was involved with (even swim meets and track meets) and showed an interest in my talents; they taught me about running a business and paying bills by constantly leaving the family and business bills on my kitchen table, and working there in front of us, answering questions we had, truthfully; they took us on vacations, and exposed us to different lifestyles and cultures which allowed us to escape our small town bubble; they turned the radio down in the car and we talked about life and explained the Gulf War to me on the way to another soccer game; we spent a lot of time together, and that gave me a lasting gift that has shaped my life, finances, and will shape my children’s life.
So today I don’t buy my children’s love with toys, trips to Chuck E Cheese, or a Happy Meal. I go to their choir performances, watch their elementary programs, go to sporting events, I have a no electronics policy in my car so we can talk, we hunt and fish, we have family movie night, family ice cream night, we travel the world together and talk about other cultures we encounter, we all got $10 worth of stock each and we learn the market together, we budget as a family, and make them save their money to buy Xbox One’s, and when the time is right we can use it as an analogy to buying their first car (don’t buy new things that go down in value, used is sometime better).
So instead of buying your child the world this year, try spending more time, creating lasting memories, and life lessons with your children. Go shoot some hoops once a week, build a fort in the yard, landscape or garden together, or explore that drainage ditch behind the house together and catch some frogs (they always pee when you picked them up, and kids love that!). You don’t have to be rich to give the gift of TIME, and it is the cheapest, most valuable gift you can give anyone. It’s a lifetime gift that can be passed down from generation to generation costing almost nothing. Think back to what was your greatest gift as a child. I bet it was a memory of time spent well…