The Best Gift to Give Your Kids This Christmas
At the risk of turning away two thirds of the six people who are going to run across this article, I will let it be known up front that I am writing here to a rather specific audience. The title narrows it down some already – I’m writing to you who have kids. But more specifically I’m writing to you fathers and mothers who are not only fathers and mothers but husbands and wives. What I say may offend you and you will no doubt object, “You – married a mere matter of months and having no claim to fatherhood yourself – you are now going to give advice to us in regard to our children?? When did you become an expert?” First, nowhere have I claimed to be an expert. Second, I will say only this: a doctor needn’t suffer a stroke to provide help to one who has; nor does the man having so suffered become (as though by default) a valuable resource to others like him. If anything of what I have written offends you, please do not ask what right I have to say these things before you have first asked yourself the more important question – is it true?
If you are just an average parent—which, I’ve got to go with the law of averages here and assume you are—you love your children more than anything. You love them more than you thought you ever could. You desire that they be happy and healthy, lacking nothing, and your mind is occupied a great deal with thoughts to this end. I won’t say you feel this way all the time; after all, you’re human and so are they. On occasion they will annoy you, anger you, frustrate you, disappoint you … and at such times you probably don’t feel your heart just bursting with love for them. But by and large, day in and day out, you could confess honestly that you dearly love them.
It’s a pretty hard thing to nail down by definition what love is, but at least one thing’s for sure: love is giving. And as we approach this “season of giving” you are probably thinking about what good things you can give to your children as tangible expressions of your love for them. This is where I want to offer my advice to you. I want your children to receive from the best gift you could give them.
I know you think you know exactly where this is going. You were so bright to have caught on by the opening line that whatever follows, it’s not going to contain my list of top 10 gifts that you can buy on Amazon or Ebay … gifts that I’ve probably never considered buying for myself (or anybody else for that matter) but I assume will market well and perhaps even earn me a few more cents every month. And knowing I would not go that route you figured I was going to talk about giving the priceless gift of spending more time with your children, affirming them with praise and a healthy dose of “I love you’s,” empathizing with their little world of concerns and interests and teaching them how to fish or paint Christmas ornaments or throw a football. But that’s where you were wrong, you see. Because right now I’m going to say very little more about your relationship with your child, and focus almost entirely on a more important relationship – the one between you and your wife or husband.
Let’s say I want to raise a dog (please be patient, this will go somewhere I promise). So, I make a search for the best looking pup I can afford, and boy do I find a keeper. He’s strong, active, smart … everything I was hoping for. So I buy him and bring him home. I make sure he’s got water, food, a comfortable place to sleep, lots of toys that’ll keep him distracted when we’re not around and on the rare occasion that I’m not swamped with work (or TV) I’ll even take him to play with me in the park. I figure I’m doing pretty well here. But for some reason the dog starts losing his vitality. He’s starting to look sick, reacting really slow, has apparently lost all interest in everything, etc. For the life of me I can’t figure out what’s going on so I ask a buddy to come over and check things out and tell me what he thinks. He walks in, I take him to the pup and right away he asks me, “So, do you always leave the dog right here in the garage? Gets pretty cold in here at night I bet.” “Oh, for sure, but don’t worry, we usually leave the car running for about 2 hours just before we go to bed and that really helps warm the place up before he sleeps."
As you can see, no amount and no quality of food, water or toys is going to make up for the nightly routine of carbon monoxide poisoning I’m giving that dog. He will not survive. Or, if he does, he will be left deeply wounded by it. May I suggest that this is exactly what some of you are doing to your children? You’re giving them everything you think they could want and need but creating an atmosphere for them at home that acts like poison. By the quality of the relationship between you and your spouse is the atmosphere in which your children live created. What are they breathing in? Is home a place where your kids see love and harmony between mom and dad? Do they see affection? Do they see consideration given one to the other? Do they see patience? Do they see forgiveness? Do they see gentleness? Do they see selflessness? Or do you fill the house with toys and hope those will distract them from the poison that fills every room. Do you make them breathe in the carbon monoxide of your constant arguing, of mom’s sharp criticism and dad’s sarcastic retort? Do they sense your bitterness and unforgiveness, your grudges held against each other that you just won’t drop? Do they see mom and dad are both selfish and neither one is concerned about serving the other? And then do you wonder why they’re angry? Do you wonder why you can’t reach them? Do you wonder why they’re cold? Poison does that, you know.
Listen, the greatest gift you can give your children, mom, is to be a good wife. And the greatest gift you can give your children, dad, is to be a good husband to your wife. I’m sorry, but if you’re not a good wife, you are not a good mother; and if you’re not a good husband you are not a good father. You’re not, it’s just that simple. How in the world do you expect to have a comfortable home—one filled with joy and peace—if the foundational relationship of that home speaks nothing of joy and peace? You think all the Christmas lights and hot chocolate and presents under the tree are going to make your home a happy one? You may be kidding yourself but your kids aren’t fooled. You know what they’d rather have than all the newest video games you bought them? They’d rather have a mom and dad who loved each other, and loved each other in a way that they could see it. Husband, you love your wife more than anyone in this world (more than your children), and you will have given your children the greatest gift you could give them. And wife, the same is true for you. Get that right, and though you may not have much at all under the tree, what you’ll have is something your kids at least won’t grow bored of in two weeks. Happy holidays. :)
How NOT to Foul Up Parenting
- How NOT to Foul Up Parenting Series - SermonAudio.com
Good resource on parenting! It's a really long series that takes time getting through, but is filled with a lot of great stuff for parents ... and future parents!