Friday, January 05, 2007

Gifts for the kids

Recently, a single friend and I were talking about children. He said that he wants to wait until he is older and then have 1 or 2 kids, so he can "give them everything they need." I said that we decided when we first married that we would like a large family. He asked if we were worried that we wouldn't be able to give them everything. This really got me thinking.

It seems that most families ultimately come down to this dilemma. You can have a very small family and have more money to spend on each child. Or you can have more children and have less money to spend of each child. At first glance it seems like the best thing for a child would be for mom and dad to have plenty of monetary resources to spend on him or her.

But in the long-term scheme of things, is this truly best?

What do more toys, clubs, and activities do for a child? A toy will break someday, and constantly getting the "newer, better" model of toys and playthings simply teaches a child to be discontent and covetous. Clubs and activities (sports, lessons, etc) are great, but many moms spend so much time running children from one lesson to another that all true family time is gone. The backseat of the minivan becomes the family meal table and the child's true teachers and mentors are his coaches or her ballet instructors (instead of mom and dad). A family life that is centered around the child's schedule and the child's activities (with mom as the chauffeur and dad as the bankroll) teaches a child that the world revolves around them.

What does a sibling do for a child? It gives him a friend for life (both here and in Heaven). A sibling teaches patience, cooperation, forgiveness, gentleness and kindness. Not getting everything a child wants teaches the child to value what they have and work hard towards goals. Having a larger family teaches a child that they are a valued part of the whole, but not the entire focus. The world does not revolve around him or her. Moms of large families generally are more focused on teaching their children home skills and helping them develop the capacity to keep house and be responsible.

I am grateful for the training I received as the oldest of six children. When faced with the decision between giving my children more "stuff" or giving them a brother or sister, I will choose a sibling every time.