Great, now I have guilt! Not gonna lie, this is how I felt many times while rearing my children as a single mom. I felt all the shame that I thought rightly came to me from God (it was actually the enemy, not God) and I acted upon it by showering my children with material gifts, highly likely to their detriment and to the detriment of my pocketbook.
I recall many shopping trips with my daughter, infamously and inaccurately labeled retail therapy, after an argument I had with my mother or with her father or because one of us had a so-called *bad day*. Looking back, this is how I was teaching my children, and especially my daughter, to deal with conflict. Looking back further, I realize it's how my mom taught me to deal with conflict. Or stress. Or just about anything emotional. Girlfriend, there is nothing therapeutic about this behavior, regardless of what social media influencers might say!
So in an attempt to save you from making the same mistakes I made I am providing you with a shopping list of the five best gifts you can give your children, regardless of their age.
1. Curiosity. The gift of curiosity is one of my favorites. Remember that childlike wonder you once had? It's time to rekindle that flame inside of you so that it spreads like wildfire to your children. What makes the sky blue? Grass green? Where do clouds come from? Rain? Snow? Lightning? Thunder? Who is God? Does God have a mom? A dad? How did Jesus get here? Why is there evil in the world? Why are some people kind and some not so kind? How and why does a person become homeless? Why do people die? How are babies born? When does life begin? If I invest a penny a day and double it, what happens? I promise, your children will challenge you with questions which is why you need to be curious too. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, momma, so lead them in the way you want them to go even if you're all alone on this journey.
2. Integrity. Integrity starts in oneself -- being true to who one is. If you don't have internal integrity, it's impossible to have external integrity. Don't get me wrong, you can play the *fake it 'til you make it* game, yet that only lasts for so long and others will see right through you. So how do you do this? You have to be okay with who and where you are and with who God designed you to be. You have to be committed to growing and improving and changing. You must define your beliefs, values and principles, your moral character, and your honesty. You must define your North Star so that you can and will always find your way back when led astray. This is a gift of the highest honor, please do not take it lightly.
3. Generosity. They say the happiest and wealthiest people in the world aren't those with the biggest bank accounts, but with the biggest and most generous hearts. There was a time when I would tell myself that I didn't have enough to be generous -- that I would start being generous when I made X amount of money or when I was out of debt, or when I landed that *new* job, or when fill-in-the-blank. Here's what I learned...I learned that a stingy poor woman is a stingy rich woman. It's not the amount of money one has, it's the heart. The act. The thought. The gesture. The kind word. These cost little to no money and yet have lasting impact on you, your children, and on the recipients. Did you know one of the best ways to get out of a funk is to find someone to help or serve? Why? Because it takes the focus off of you and puts the focus onto someone else. I can't think a better life example to show your children. And don't be surprised if you become a benefactor of your generosity. It's universal law and the way in which God works when our hearts are right. God loves a cheerful giver.
4. Work Ethic. This is a big one in today's world, in my personal opinion. So many children are not taught to work, to participate in the maintenance and keeping of one's home, without expecting something in return. It is a-okay to give your children household chores. It is a-okay to expect your children to make their bed every day. It is a-okay for your children to pick up after themselves. To take the trash out. To clean the kitchen. To clean the bathroom. Even to do their own laundry. Are they going to love it? No! They will grumble and think you are mean and all-the-things that come with doing work. Don't fall for it. Stand your ground, teach them how to do these tasks, and then set the expectation. They might not like you for this now yet they'll love you for it later. Pinky promise. Of course, you must model these behaviors as well if you expect a lasting effect. Sing while working around the house. Play music. Dance. Make it as fun and joyful as possible. When you all work as though unto the Lord, regardless of what you are doing, you and your children will have joy in your hearts and a keen sense that all of this is for a far greater purpose.
5. Faith. Momma, as difficult as it may be at times, you've gotta have faith and you've gotta model faith. Faith over fear. Common sense over panic. Critical thinking over rhetoric. Calm over chaos. Believing and modeling Biblical principles and promises, and communicating these to your children, will not only grow your faith, it will also grow your children's faith. It is said that when you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains simply by your words. You want your children to have this kind of confidence...confidence that only comes through having a strong, unbreakable faith.
These gifts aren't expensive, yet the cost of not giving these gifts is. These gifts require intention, daily focus, fortitude, faith, and perseverance. You are playing the long-game here, not the instant gratification game. The payoff will be worth it...promise.
Always remember, you were made for such a time as this. There's a reason you are still here so, together, let's make the most of the time we have.
Here's to the long-game.