I recently celebrated another birthday. They seem to come fast now and each one comes with the promise of creating some fun memories during the coming year. This year I decided to do something different for my birthday. I told my wife and 4 children that I didn’t want them to buy me any birthday gifts. Instead, I asked if they would each write 10 memories that they have of me. I told them that these memories don’t have to be long. One paragraph per memory would be fine, although if they felt so inclined they could certainly write more. I gave them this request 2 months in advance so they would have plenty of to think about what memories the would like to include.
On the day of my birthday, my wife and my children gave me their list of 10 memories. My son who lives 2,000 miles away emailed his memories to me. I read many of them out loud so we could all enjoy them together. We all laughed at some of the memories that were remembered. Everyone agreed that this was a great birthday idea. Not only were my children relieved of the financial burden of buying a gift, they were able to enjoy a collection of memories that each of them took part in. They loved hearing what their siblings remembered about Dad and enjoyed reliving some of the fond memories of our earlier years, both individually and as a family.
I will take all of these memories that I received and will add them to my personal page of my FamilySearch Family Tree. These memories will be preserved for future generations to enjoy and will reveal some glimpses into my personal life to my relationship with my wife and children. For me, these 50 memories were the best birthday gift I have ever received. I think my wife and children enjoyed giving this gift more than any other, as well.
Reading through these memories brought home to me the importance of doing some simple but very important things with my children. They include:
- Read to your kids. Read to your children often. And here’s a hint; when you read to them, use different voices for the characters. Make the characters come alive. They will remember how much fun it is to have Dad read to them.
- Become friends with your kids’ friends. Don’t try to be one of them because you are a parent figure and it’s important maintain that role. But get to know their friends so that they like coming to your home and spending time with you. You may be surprised what you will learn about your own children when their friends feel comfortable enough around you that they can talk to you and share information about what your kids are doing.
- If your boys are involved in Scouts, get involved with them. I hate to admit it, but I dreaded the idea of being in the scouting program. But since 3 of my 4 children were boys, I knew I would get dragged into it. Sure enough, I ended up being a scout master for 8 years and loved it. I was the scout master for all 3 of my sons. It was the best thing that could have happened to me and my boys were grateful for it as well. We created a lot of great memories during those years.
- Spend one on one time with your kids. Yes, it takes time to do this and it doesn’t always turn out as you expect it will but I promise you that your kids will remember that time as “special time” and it will mean the world to them. By giving them one on one time with just you and them, it shows them that they mean something special to you.
- Show your kids how to serve by getting them involved. Make opportunities for you and your kids to do something nice for someone else. Show them by example how to serve others, how meaningful it is for both the recipient and the giver, and experience that great feeling as they do something for others. It gives them a sense of empowerment and sets the example for future service activities of their own.
- Share stories of your life with your kids. Whether or not you believe it, your kids really do want to know who you are; they just don’t always ask. They want to know what happened to you when you were their age. They love to know that you did many of the same things, made some of the same mistakes they’ve made, and shared some of the same interests.
- Create traditions that involve your kids. All families need their own traditions. Makes sure these traditions involve each child. If you do, your family traditions will mean a lot to them.
- Go places together. Yes, vacations take time and money, but the investment usually pays big dividends. They don’t have to be big complex affairs. Maybe just camping nearby or doing an over nighter someplace in a neighboring town in a hotel with a swimming pool. Go someplace different and do it together as a family. And yes, take lots of pictures. Pictures help preserve the memories.