I can only remember a couple of things that my Dad ever gave me. He wasn’t one for many gifts at Christmas time or buying things for me any other time of year, actually. My Mom and Dad divorced when I was two, so I really only got to spend time with my Dad during the summer. My Mom was always there to provide me with everything that I needed, and I’m extremely thankful for that, but my Dad gave me a different type of gift that I wouldn’t understand until I was an adult.
Summers with my Dad were always an adventure. He moved around a lot, so almost every summer was spent in a different part of the country. Many times, he would drive to Missouri to pick me up, so we always had several hours in the car together on road trips. I met new people and saw new places every summer. I have so many memories of the adventures (and misadventures) we shared together. Those memories are the gifts that he gave me, and those gifts were plentiful.
I’ve come to realize later in life that material possessions are not what makes a child truly happy. That new gadget or toy might make them happy for a day or a week, but will they remember it ten years later? Will they tell the story to their kids about the time they got an iPod for Christmas, or will they tell their kids about the amazing road trip to the Grand Canyon they got to go on with their parents?
Buy experiences, not things. I truly believe that you’ll build more lasting memories by spending time with your kids on adventures. Don’t think that you have to plan a month in Africa to be on an “adventure”. Adventures can come in a weekend trip to a state park, or a day hike on a new trail. And allow those misadventures to happen too. If there’s a threat of rain on the day of your hike, go anyway. Those times when things went wrong are some of my strongest memories, and best stories. Just be flexible in your planning and try not to over-plan. Don’t be afraid to go to a new place, knowing nothing about it. Leave some exploring to be had.
So, my Dad didn’t give me many things when I was a kid, but he did give me something much more valuable. Something that my kids will never actually see or hold in their hands, but that I can pass on to them and will hopefully enrich their lives immensely.