Thirty years ago I experienced one of the greatest moments of joy in my life as I stood on the front porch with two year-old Zach as John pulled into the driveway with a swing-set on the back of his truck. When Zach realized what was happening, he put his little hands to his face and with those big brown eyes shining, he asked, “Is that fo me? Just fo me?” (Yes he had a little trouble with his r’s, but that made it all the sweeter).It wasn’t Christmas or his birthday. We just wanted our little guy to have a swing-set to play on and it was the time of year they were marking them down to make way for fall/winter merchandise. Neither were we in the habit of buying him gifts ‘just because'. We couldn’t. That swing-set took a big bite out of our little budget, but it was something we really wanted to do. It made our hearts happy to be able to make Zach happy.
One of the joys of being a parent is to be able to give our children (at least some of) the things they want. It gives a whole new meaning to ‘it’s better to give than to receive’, doesn’t it? But for all the pleasure and happiness these things may bring, there’s one present our children want more than anything in the world that can’t be ordered from Amazon or stuffed in a gift bag. It’s the present of presence…your presence.That swing-set survived a move more than half-way across the state and brought countless hours of joy to Zach, Elizabeth, Olivia and Emma. And there have been other gifts given to each of them that have elicited shrieks of excitement and a barrage of ‘thank-you, thank-you, oh, thank-you’. But when my kids talk about their childhood, they don’t talk about the things John and I gave them. They talk about the time we spent with them…
- Games of hide-n-seek followed by catching lightening bugs to go to sleep by
- Fishing trips, camping trips and deer hunting
- Herding wayward goats (I hate goats) off the highway
- Making never-forgotten memories working together at church camp
- Sledding behind the four-wheeler
- Losing our voices cheering at soccer games and cross-country meets
- Building fence, weeding the garden and taking care of baby lambs
- Watching and waiting for our beloved milk-cow to have her calf
- Church Christmas programs, youth group and mission trips
- The county fair
- Putting up hay
- Butchering chickens, gathering eggs, learning to make butter
Remember…it’s the most valuable gift you can give and it’s all they really want.