Giving Our Children What They Need

By: T.W. Winslow

With every marriage license issued, there should also be given two sets of seat belts - for one thing's certain, it's going to be a bumpy ride. No matter how much in love we are or how hard we work at our relationships, there will be those times when things go wrong - it's just a fact of life.

There are many ways in which to effectively deal with times of difficulty in our lives and relationships, but one particularly helpful means of weathering the storm, so to speak, is by focusing on the big picture.

As parents we all share one thing in common - we want to give our children every advantage possible. We all want better for our children than what we had. This is a wonderful ideal, but one which can cause significant turmoil and guilt for the parent, and perhaps unnecessarily so. We might do well to think back to our own childhoods and reflect upon what we consider to have been meaningful to us as children.

As parents we owe our children the basic necessities of life - food, shelter, clothing, education, and of course love. You'll not find in that list of necessities such items as expensive video games, the newest CD by the hip band of the time, designer jeans, pagers or automobiles.

Recently my seven year old daughter wanted a Twister game to play at a slumber party she was having for her birthday. Everyone knows this game - a piece of thin plastic with large colored dots, and a cardboard color wheel with a plastic arrow which spins around when flipped with the finger. I would guess the maker of this game has a total of about $1.19 invested - including the box. So you can imagine my surprise when I learned the retail price was $20. Twenty dollars? Two things happened - my daughter borrowed a Twister game from a friend and had a wonderful party, and second; we still don't have a Twister game in our closet.

Parents need to remember it's okay to say NO, and we shouldn't beat ourselves up over it. Sure, I could well afford the $20 for the Twister game. But buying an over-priced game that would be played once then banished to the closet, already over-stuffed with must have items from the past, just didn't seem reasonable or necessary. This is pretty minor when you consider what will be on our children's Christmas lists this year - video games at forty dollars a pop, CD's, stereos, toys of all varieties (all taking at least a king's ransom in batteries to operate), and the list goes on and on.

What did you have on your Christmas list as a kid? A bat and ball? A few Matchbox cars? A new dress? I would venture to guess there was nothing on our lists that would have cost much more than a few dollars. With the technology of today, the cost of giving our children the things they want has increased dramatically, and we as parents would do well to remember that fact.

When I think back to my own childhood, I can only remember a couple of the presents I received. I remember my first three-speed bike complete with sissy-bar and a way cool banana seat (believe me, it was cool at the time), and a there are a few other items, but for the most part, I don't recall the vast majority of material possessions I had or was given as a child.

Perhaps breaking our backs and bank accounts trying to provide better for our children than what we had when we were kids isn't the answer. What our children need most, and what they'll remember when they are grown, isn't found on the shelf of any store. It comes from within - giving of ourselves, our time, our attention and love.

What I remember from my childhood isn't the THINGS, but rather the TIMES. I remember the trips we took as a family, the times I spent alone with my Dad - hunting or just washing the car. I remember the countless times Mom came to my rescue and the occasional secret we shared. I remember the first money I earned on my own and exactly what I spent it on. I remember who came to watch my games and who didn't. I remember listening to my Dad tell stories of his youth. I remember Mom patching me up when I got hurt. I remember when I felt loved, I remember who saved the day, and I remember feeling safe. But I don't remember what ever happened to my three speed bike, nor do I care.

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