When I was growing up my whole treasure trove of toys comprised of a few hand -me -down dolls, missing a few limbs; a rusted bicycle which was a remnant of the lost childhood of some older cousin and a whole lot of books. I would often dream about the fairy tale like toy collections of my friends and if I could have one wish come true I would have asked for the replica of the fancy dolls my friends, aunties and uncles brought from their foreign trips. Since I was not lucky enough to have any such strategically placed relations, my father tried to make my wish come true by buying me a doll from the local market. Today I do not, for the life of me, remember anything about that much cherished doll. What I do remember however, is the little wooden doll house he built and the fun we had designing and decorating it with cardboard cut-out furniture and painting it with left over wall-paints.
When I look back the fondest memories of my childhood have very little to do with that much coveted and cherished doll What I recall best is the time I spent watching him build that wooden house out of old odds and ends and getting that paper furniture together. I have vivid memories of Papa and me, our hands covered in white enamel paint, sitting in our balcony and painting our old garden chairs. I hated science till Papa fashioned a magnifying glass for me from an old lens and helped me discover intricate patterns in leaves, fabric, hair etc. My happiest memories are of me and my father reading and sharing interesting bits of information from numerous periodicals and him , recounting tales from his own childhood And in all this , that much coveted imported doll figures nowhere in my memories.
Much later in life when I had my own children I tried to give them all that I had dreamed about when I was that young. The latest toys, gadgets, stationary anything… the best that we could afford and I was satisfied that they would have a ‘complete’ childhood
One day while looking at old family photographs I was amazed to see how my kids recalled each tiny detail of the trips we had taken together. Our first trip abroad when they were 7 &10, yet they remembered names of places, the hotels ,the things that had gone wrong, how much trouble we had with language, how much fun we had grocery shopping and cooking in our studio apartments in the various cities we stayed in, trying to decipher maps and dragging our suitcases where escalators were out of order…… everything we did together. Everything was etched in their minds with amazing clarity and warmth. On an impulse I asked them about some of their most prized possessions of their childhood…..an expensive model of a Cadillac my son had bought on a trip to Canada, a Disney trinket my daughter had bought and kept carefully wrapped up … were vague recollections now but the good times we had had were vivid memories years later .
I felt so contented that just like me ,my children had a whole treasury of happy , wholesome family memories of our “together ‘times, and that somehow makes me convinced that we have been successful, to some extent ,as parents.
As parents we are so preoccupied with providing the latest gadgets, toys, playthings to our kids, to fulfill their endless demands thinking that we are providing them a happy, complete childhood. Instead, try to focus on how much of your time and yourself you can give to them. What they are likely to remember and cherish most when they are older is not their playthings but who they played with. Children recall pleasant times spent with loved ones with more warmth and accuracy than any fancy toys you might buy them. What we buy for their momentary distraction, or to make up for the lack of time that we spend with them remains just that—- momentary. What children remember and cherish for a lifetime is what they do with you not what you buy for them. So spend more time —it doesn’t’ matter whether we do anything productive or just fool around with them —the dividend would be much higher than by buying them mindless toys just to keep them occupied when we are too busy to be with them