Tag Archives: gifts

Gifts that Last a Lifetime

My daughter is currently in a state of expectancy and excitement. She says she can’t wait for May to come. We all know why – because it’s her birthday. At 5 years old turning 6, she’s someone who knows what she wants. She wants a birthday party, she knows who she wants to invite, and what she wants for presents – hamsters from mum and dad. Every few days, she’ll ask us if it’s the month of May already. We’re currently cracking our heads on what to do for her birthday party but the goal is that it should be fun for her and inexpensive for us.

Like many Singaporean parents, my husband and I also want to give the best to our children. When my children were born, I thought about what I could pass down to them as a “family heirloom.” Maybe my wedding dress, I thought; but then again it could be out of fashion by my daughter’s time.

I currently have three things that I want to pass down to my daughter. The first is a little lamb soft toy. This was given to me by my husband when we were dating. The Latin form of my name means ‘lamb’ and the Greek meaning is ‘pure’. I put the toy in her cot when she was a baby, and a few years ago, gave it to her and explained that she is like my little lamb. The second is a music box that my parents gave to me when I was in my late teens. It’s a wooden music box they bought when they were in Switzerland. I kept my favorite trinkets in there. I hope that it is something she can use in the future that will also remind her of her grandparents. The third thing I plan to give to my daughter and son is a collection of my blog. Ever since they were born, I have been keeping a blog to chronicle the different stages of their growing up, successes they have, falls they make and hopefully learn from, conversations we have. They may not remember the early years of their life when they grow up and so I hope my blog will give them something to remember.

But more than material gifts, how many of us actually think about and consciously pass down gifts that last a lifetime? Have we considered the values, beliefs and faith we want to pass down to our children?

When I was growing up, my parents where strict disciplinarians – especially dad. We were constantly in conflict, particularly the rough teenage years; where like my daughter; I too knew what I wanted and wanted it my way. Little did I know that,

  • When I got reprimanded for being last minute or late, dad was teaching me the value of time and punctuality;
  • When I got a 10pm curfew put in place because I came home very late one night without telling my parents my whereabouts, they were teaching me about consequences and responsibility;
  • When I had to learn how to cook and spend Saturdays doing household chores, they were teaching me how to take care of my family.

We need to intentionally remind ourselves and be purposeful in passing down and giving our children “treasures” that will not decay, be destroyed or be stolen. But rather, “treasures” that will last a lifetime and for generations to come, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

My Father, My Hero!

Just a couple of days ago, we celebrated my father’s 50th birthday. This year, instead of just having our usual family dinner, we added something extra special!

We wanted to include as many people as possible without having to throw a huge party for a rather private person. So for a surprise, my mother and I collected messages from people from various parts of my father’s life – church, family, childhood and work. And to keep it all a secret, all communication and preparation had to be done on my laptop instead of the family computer (My mum got something out of all this preparation too. She learnt how to use a Mac!).

It was fun trying to keep everything a secret, with some of my father’s friends getting somewhat overly excited. It definitely wasn’t easy dealing with people coming up to my mom or me asking how the celebration went or is coming along when my father was standing right there! And some even wished him a “happy birthday” a little too early because they misunderstood my email! But overall, my father enjoyed getting so many wishes over the course of the past few weeks, even though most of the wishes came on the wrong day.

The messages were a way of appreciating him. It was also to honor my father – by showing him that he has indeed been a blessing not just to us, his family but many others as well.

As I looked back on the preparation leading up to D-Day, the influence that my father has had on the people around him is obvious.

In my father’s long…no, short lifetime so far (OK Papa, you’re still very young), he has been a positive influence although he did ruffle some people here and there. Here are some notes that people have written about him,

 “A source of inspiration, support and kindness to all who know him”

A joy to have around”, “Such a joker”

A COURAGEOUS Leader, Teacher and a Good Father”

A very lovable and genuine guy”

Observing his response (huge smiles and positive comments) as he read each message on the PowerPoint slides, I’m glad that we collated these messages for him. Even big and strong fathers can do with encouragement from time to time.

Have you appreciated your loved one lately? If not, all it takes is a word or two to put a smile on that person’s face

Anniversary

“Happy Anniversary, Mum!” Climbing into our bed, our 4-year-old planted a kiss on my cheek with a grin. He then leaned over to my husband and did likewise.

“Thank you, that’s so sweet of you to remember!” My husband and I had mentioned our upcoming anniversary several times over the past week, but hardly expect him to wake us up with such a thoughtful gesture.

“Wait! I’ve got a surprise for you!” He clambered off the bed and we heard him opening the cabinets in the kitchen. Three minutes later, he was climbing back onto our bed, this time with his box of tucked under one arm and a bottle of beef jerky under the other arm.

“This is for you! You like Pez, don’t you? You can play with it later after breakfast, okay?”

It didn’t occur to our son that he didn’t actually buy the “presents” and was in fact giving us what was ours or that we’d bought. Regardless, I was touched that he was willing to share his sweets/toys with me, even if just for a day. It amazed me that he even thought of how that wasn’t an appropriate gift for my husband and selected something else for Dad.

He had done something similar on my husband’s birthday. He went to his DVD rack and selected a dozen of his children’s DVDs and asked for my help to wrap them up to present to Daddy for his birthday.

Today when I picked him up from school, the school administrator informed me that he had made a surprise for me for Mothers’ Day.

“You are the product of our love, Toby!” And boy, are my husband and I grateful and proud of it!!

  

Gift-People

I confess – neither my husband nor I are “gift people”. Gifts aren’t our love language. The last proper present we bought for each other was probably when we were still dating. That was more than 10 years ago. We can’t even remember what it was.

These days, when we spot something that we like but would hesitate to buy if no compelling reason, we ask the other person to purchase it as our present for the next upcoming occasion – be it our birthday, anniversary or Christmas. And, of course, we don’t wait till the occasion arrives to give it. The item is paid for over the counter and then presented immediately. So in June, I’d be paying for a nice pair of expensive dress shoes for my husband, and go, “Here’s your present. Merry Christmas, Honey!”

This year, with our son now 4, it dawned on us that we’d better do a proper job of gift-giving and buy proper Christmas presents – not just for him, but for each other; and on his behalf as well for Mom and for Dad. My son was elated to give Dad a couple of his favourite type of pens (it’s supposed to be a surprise but Dad already knows what it is – shush!) and a bottle of Eau de Toilette (coz he liberally uses Dad’s and it’s depleting – Dad needs more so he can share it with Son!). He took great care wrapping it – or rather, getting Mom to do so – and decorating it, which ended up with me having to roll up lots and lots of tangled ribbon.

Much as we aren’t “gift people”, we understand and appreciate the importance of gifts, which is something we wish to inculcate in our child.

1. Everyone loves gifts
Of course, it helps if the gift is something that you really like or need. Okay, perhaps not the latter. We did an informal survey in our office just the other day at our Staff Christmas Party. It was to poll the best and the worst gifts you could receive from your spouse. My colleague happily ranked a computer mouse as the worst possible gift, only to return home that night to discover that her husband had bought her for Christmas – you guessed it! – a wireless mouse. He was certain it was something she needed as she often borrowed his to work on her computer at home.

2. It’s the thought that counts
There are many thoughts that revolve around gifts, ranging from “What can I get Gary that would make him really happy?” to “What will they think of me if I show up without a gift?” Gifts can be powerful symbolic instruments. If your gift looks cheap, you may give the impression that you don’t like the person very much; if it looks expensive, you may signal that you have lots of disposable income and gifts are trivial to you because you could buy what you want yourself. Either way, it may not serve you well.

A colleague received a special handmade gift from her secret “Santa”, who had taken great pains to print and cut out strips of coloured paper with conversation starter questions to be used with her spouse. It was lovely and full of the personal touch. But have you ever received a thoughtful gift which you just wanted to throw out with the opened wrapper because it was too hideous (and I’m not talking about your toddler’s cute art and craft)?

3. The Giver is as important as the gift
At the end of the day, much as we don’t want to judge and are taught from young to express gratitude for any gift received, a gift is really a reflection of the giver’s personality, attitudes and motivations.

This being Christmas, what the gift of the Christ child tells us about God the Giver just blows my mind. I’ve been telling my son that God so loved me that he gave me an only son. But as a parent, I cannot imagine ever giving my son away – especially when it isn’t a dire financial necessity or in order that he can have a better future. Such is the magnitude of God’s love.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only son.” John 3:16

Share with me your best and worst gift received this Christmas. And don’t worry, you don’t have to indicate who it’s from!