Birthday or Christmas gifts vs. small gifts throughout the year
A 2-week family vacation vs. the rest of the summer
A Saturday AYSO soccer game vs. play around the house the rest of the week
I’ve come to realize that special events don’t make up for what happens to children in everyday life. In other words, what really matters to them is what happens to them day-to-day.
Our children are alive at every moment in time. They’re constantly thinking, probing, and growing. To most of us parents who lead busy lives, it might sometimes seem that our children’s lives are like an edited movie, a series of the times they spend with us that are most memorable to us. However, we need to acknowledge to ourselves that the time they spend away from us may be as important to them, or even more important, than the time they spend with us. Of course, special events are better than nothing. Birthday and Christmas gifts can be wonderful, as can family vacations and Saturday soccer games, but these will never make up for mundane everyday lives.
On the other hand, I think we should focus more on things like the following:
- coming home regularly with gifts, not necessarily expensive ones, that delight our children;
- providing our children with materials and playmates for fun and learning everyday throughout the summer; and
- creating a stimulating infrastructure for everyday life for our kids in and around our houses
Special events are icing on the cake. They’re nice, but not necessary. My wife and I never give our kids birthday or Christmas gifts, but they’re not deprived at all. We give them wonderful things that they cherish all year.
We do go on family trips together, but I’m certain that the wonderful neighborhood environment my wife and I have helped create for them is far more important. We’ve created a front and back yard that have become popular neighborhood hangouts, and we have worked hard to encourage other children and parents in our neighborhood to come outside and play with us. My wife and I hope that these activities may help form neighborhood relations that carry on when we’re not at home, but our kids are.
Great joy and fun and learning happens everyday at our house because of the foundation we’ve built there. I often return home for dinner to see our kids running and screaming with other neighborhood kids. They don’t live from special event to special event. They live day-to-day, and it’s been pretty exhilarating for them from what I can see.
Of course, we’re far from perfect. Just like all kids, my kids have boring, empty days. We’ll keep working at making their everyday lives as vibrant as we can and let the special events take care of themselves.