Every day, we spoil you with our love. We spoil you with our presence, our playtime and our moments. In return, you spoil us with your beautiful developing personality, your patience, your understanding and your reciprocal love.
Your father doesn’t need to be told, on a particular day, that he is your father. That he is blessed, because you have bought him a card or a toy dog or a new wallet. Your father can see each day through the time you spend together that your relationship is worth far more than any card or shop-bought gift can say. Money cannot be, and never shall be a replacement for precious moments of life.
I don’t need a day to have to tell my Dad how thankful I am for the way he and my Mum raised me. I couldn’t fit it all in one day. Society tells me I need to buy him a card, a gift, something to show him that he means a lot to me. But how about I just tell him? And how about I show him, with my love and with my time? My Dad has given me everything, always. Six months ago he was nearly taken from our lives. But in those moments, I didn’t want to buy him things; I wanted to make him better again. I wanted to be six years old again and be able to make him feel better with a big hug and a badly made cup of tea. Now, he has rebuilt the blocks of his life that fell down and every day I couldn’t be prouder, and I couldn’t love him more. I love him and appreciate him every single day. Not just when I’m told.
Being generous with money is a privilege, one that we are blessed with and thank our lucky stars every day that we can give you everything you need through the hours we work, and buy you the things you want. But money can never take the place of any kind of love. Carefully thought-out and selected gifts are lovely, and the thought of the gift is always worth a thousand times more than the gift itself. But if the message that comes with that gift is one of distance, or replacement, the gift becomes a sad representation of a relationship.
We are lucky to have so many people in our lives that want to buy lovely things for our son. And so to all of the people who insist on spoiling my child with gifts – we are grateful. Grateful for the thought, grateful for the choice, and grateful that my child has everything he could ever want and more. In fact he has far beyond everything he could ever need. In the Western world we do not know how incredibly lucky we are, and we never take our easy existence for granted. But consider the impact of your gift. An hour spent in the park, playing catch or football or hide and seek is worth a million Chinese-produced shop-bought toys that he will play with for approximately five minutes.
Consumerism is not a lasting relationship. It is a quick fix. We live in a world filled with products we do not need. Products that are destroying the earth with their production, and filling up our houses, when there are people across the world fighting for their lives without clean water or food. Imagine if the gift you could actually give to our child was generosity – the power to share with those who have nothing. Filling up his life with masses of mass-produced plastic is pushing him further into a bubble that we constantly fight to get him out of. It is not the real world. Not really.
Things are not worth anything, in the end. I love that he has his own, precious things that he plays with everyday. But unsurprising to me, those things are not the biggest toy he has been bought from the toyshop, or the most expensive thing you could find for his Christmas ‘treat’. His favourites, even at three years old, are the ones that have sentimental value – the tiny squashy London bus from when we visited Tower Bridge and he lay down on the glass floor to look at the buses crossing the bridge below. The scruffy, rusty, old-fashioned cars that belong to his Dad when he was a child, the now-tatty Paddington bear who has been with us on every holiday, the two stones he found in the park one day and called them ‘his treasure’. The photos covering his bedroom wall and in his albums of the amazing adventures we have taken as a family – holidays, days out, time together, memories. Because in our hearts, in the end, we don’t think about the things we have bought in life, we think of the memories we have made and people we have loved.
So spoil my child, if you want to. Give him presents, because you can afford them and because they make him smile. But don’t get stuck believing that these will make him happy. This media-driven society leads us to believe that the only way our children can be happy is if we buy them consumer products – from toys right through to education. Life has become a factory. I don’t want my son to live on that conveyor belt. So go ahead, spoil him every now and then. But then sometimes, just be you. Be the people that he loves, the ones he holds in his heart. Not because of what they have given him in products, but what they have given him in love – in a solid, stable, life-long relationship providing building blocks on which to build his future.
Money matters. Money is a privilege, a hard-earned product and something that isn’t shared out equally in the world. But love? That’s free. And just imagine, for a second, if it was everywhere. Perhaps it is. Perhaps we all just need to go out there and find it.