By Heather O.
As the holidays approach, and I realize how woefully behind I am in my holiday shopping (seriously, usually I’m done, with the Christmas cards mailed, by December 1st. Hoo-boy, not this year!), I contemplate what to buy my small child, trying to picture what will give him the most delight on Christmas morning. We are not traveling this year, something we haven’t done since I was pregnant with my son, and I’m looking forward to a small celebration with just our family. I’m trying to figure out how to make it special, and well, you know how all of that goes.
But in contemplating what kind of commercially tacky things to give my family, I wonder about the long term aspect of mothering. What, truly, is the greatest gift we can give our children?
Is it love? Is love enough? Maybe, but I’m not sure. I’ve seen a lot of parenting mistakes made in the name of “love”. I’ve also known people who have felt like they needed more from their parents, even while their parents protested, “Well, they know I love them, right?”
I think of my own mother, and some of the gifts she gave her children. She gave us lots of love, for sure, and continues to do so, showering her love on both her children and grandchildren, and spoiling the latter completely rotten. But one gift she gave us (completely unintentionally, she claims) is self confidence and the knowledge that we were capable of accomplishing whatever we chose. I think she gave it to us unconsciously because she herself was a fairly confident woman, or at least was by the time I started having any memories of her. I’m told it was a process, but hey, she got there.
I think of the tools my son will need to survive in the world, and I wonder which ones I can give him now. He will need independence, resilience, and self-confidence to overcome inevitable set-back and failures. He will need education, knowledge, and common sense, and we all know that none of those guarantees the other. And DH says he will need to know how to play the piano so he can woo the babes.
So while I wrap the toys I know will inevitably get broken, forgotten about, or eaten by the dog, I still wonder what else I can give my son that he can take with him, long after the Christmas lights have faded.