We love to give gifts to our kids. There’s something quite unique about seeing the happiness in your own child’s eyes when they receive something they have wanted, or when they receive something that they didn’t even know they did. It’s a wonderful feeling for me, as a dad, to have the ability to give things to my kids – one of the many blessings that comes along with being a parent.
At the same time, that privilege of giving gifts comes with a great responsibility. Not all gifts are good, and not all should be given at a certain time. And this is where it gets complicated. My wife and I have often asked ourselves questions about gifts for our children. Because we live in an affluent area, we know that our kids, just like us, are surrounded daily by the best of most things. The best jackets, the best technology, the best lunch boxes, and the best packaged food that go in those lunch boxes. We, like any parents, want to give our children good gifts, but we have wondered at various times exactly what those gifts are.
How do you know when you start aiding the materialism that is inside all of us?
How do you rightly use gifts to show your love to your children?
When do you say “no” and when do you say “yes”?
These are regular questions for us, and we’ve no doubt answered them with more wisdom at some times than others. But when you expand your thinking beyond the physical tangible gifts that come in brown paper packages tied up with string, you come to realize that there are some gifts that it’s always the right time to give. And though these gifts might not make a kid’s face light up like a new Playstation, they are nonetheless much more valuable than something that sparkles and shines. Here are four examples that come to mind as gifts that never go out of season, and are always appropriate for us to give to our children:
1. The gift of time.
This is a gift. It’s a precious gift in fact, because time is one of the most seemingly scarce resources that we have. This is the kind of gift that takes discipline to give, and one that must be given over and over again. The longer I am a parent, the more I realize that there is absolutely no replacement for time spent with children. Time spent with all of them, and time spent one on one with them. Time around the dinner table and time on vacations. This is maybe the most simple investment we can make as a parent, and yet in the long run, there might be nothing else that better communicates how much we value our children than the amount of focused, uninterrupted, and dedicated time we spend with them.
2. The gift of questions.
Life in the home can so easily slip into a kind of routine that consists of not much more than deliveries and tasks. The delivery to school, the delivery home, the delivery to another activity, and then the tasks of homework, bed-making, eating dinner, and so on. Because you live in such close proximity with each other, you can start making assumptions about what’s happening on a given day. Specific and thoughtful questions are one of the ways to interrupt that. I don’t mean a daily interrogation, but questions that show that you truly know and understand what’s going on in the lives of your children. Yes, I’m positive there will be days when these questions seem like an invasion of privacy. In reality, though, these specific questions are a gift to our children because they help our children feel deeply known, understood, and valued because we care enough to not exist continually on that cycle of delivery and task.
3. The gift of prayer.
The gift of prayer is one of those gifts that our children receive often without even knowing they have. For the past 12 years – ever since we had children – there has been a stack of index cards leaning against our kitchen window. Each card has a word on it. The words range from things like “integrity” to “friends”, and each day my wife prays one of these words for our children. Then the next day, she flips the card and continues through. But to my knowledge, not once has a child in the Kelley house said how meaningful and appreciative this gift of prayer is to them. It’s ironic that such a powerful gift – that of going before the King of the Universe and making request on their behalf – might go unnoticed, but that’s one of the reasons why this gift is so difficult to give. There are few accolades for the mother on her knees. There are no congratulations or thank you’s for the dad with the tears in his eyes. This is why this gift – the gift of prayer – is one that requires perseverance on our part.
4. The gift of Scripture.
What a gift is the Word of God. It’s a gift to us, and a gift that we can, by God’s grace, pass onto our children. How do we do this? We do it by reading the Bible with them. And we do it by reading the Bible ourselves. Oh, how I pray to be a father that one day can look at my own adult children and see that they are men and women of God’s Word. That they are people who know it, love it, and live it well. True enough, we would do well as parents to pick and choose the right moments to quote the Bible to our children, but it is a gift when in a given situation we can call the minds of our children to the words of Jesus about anxiety and worry, or to the words of the prophets about caring for the poor and mistreated. It’s a gift when we are presented with real life situations in the lives of our children and again and again take them to God’s Word to find true wisdom for that situation. Of course, the giving of this gift requires that we ourselves possess it. And that we ourselves can handle it.
So, parents, giving gifts can be complicated. But not always. And not with the most important ones. For these gifts, we can and should give liberally.