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Mental Health Matters: April 2024

The Greatest Gifts


I am not a grandparent, but I know some pretty good ones. Recently, I was with two old friends who came to visit my fellow non-grandparent husband and me, now known as “Nana” and “My Jim,” who taught me something worth repeating. This information is for all of you who find yourself trying to decide on a gift for a grandchild (or perhaps, ANY child).


As Nana and My Jim emerged from a gift shop carrying just a small bag containing one ladies T-shirt, I said there were more places to look for souvenirs for their five grandchildren. My Jim’s immediate response was “we give them experiences and our time.”


What? No money spent on refrigerator magnets, tacky T-shirts, personalized key-chains, green chile night lights, or Kokopeli ball caps? I asked if the children would be disappointed. No, I learned, they will look forward to their grandparents’ return and a trip to get ice cream… just as they also go fishing with My Jim, bake cookies with Nana, and sift through their personalized dress-up boxes complete with costume jewelry and vintage clothes passed down through the family. There are solo trips to the go-cart track on their birthdays, monthly deposits into their college accounts, zoo memberships, dress-up-dinner-and-a-movie nights, or trips to the aquarium when their class is studying the ocean. Nothing plastic. Nothing they will outgrow. Nothing they will lose interest in within weeks.


According to Rick Warren, the author of “The Purpose Driven Life,”—When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time. It is not enough to just say relationships are important; we must prove it by investing time in them. If there is a relationship worthy of the investment of our time, it is with our grandchildren.


If you are lucky enough to be a grandparent, how long do you think your grandson will wear that Grand Canyon T-shirt? How long do you think they will remember going with you to the Grand Canyon? How long will it take them to go through a box of candy at Christmas…. or learning to make biscochitos from a family recipe? Hearing stories about you learning to make tamales as a child, while you teach them the secrets of a perfect tamale? A hand-writen family cookbook for each child, along with photos of them making the recipes with you? A camping trip, even if it’s only as far as the backyard?


After Nana and My Jim schooled me on this grandparent wisdom, I thought back to my own cherished grandparents who have all been gone 50 years… the year I won a science fair award with the telegraphy set my grandfather helped me build as he related his experiences as a Rock Island Railroad telegrapher during the Depression… my grandmother telling me how a warm egg from the henhouse was best for the dumplings in her chicken and dumpling recipe… watching her snip the tiny threads on her old black Singer sewing machine. (I asked her if she ate all the little strings she put in her lips.) Or my father’s mother, who was a store detective in downtown Fort Worth, Texas, who I am sure was the only grandmother in the world with a small leather-wrapped billy club that fit in her purse. These are the cherished memories. I am sure they bought me lovely gifts, but I don’t remember any of them.


Whether you are a Nana or a My Jim, a Mita or Tito, Grandma or Grandpa, a Grammy or Grampy, next time you want to show those children they are the loves of your life, take them fishing, bake some cookies, show them old family photos and laugh at the clothes, drive them around the Enchanted Circle, teach them how to roll tamales. Leave the T-shirts at the store. Thank you, Nana and My Jim. I hope one day I can put this wisdom into practice so those much-loved children will know our relationship was a lot more important than a fridge magnet.

Author

  • Dawn Provencher

    Mental Health Matters: The northern Taos County communities have lost several young people in recent months. Questa del Rio News is starting a column dedicated to mental health matters. Dawn Provencher is a retired counselor. She has a master’s degree in counseling and a master’s degree in social work. She will be contributing to this column on a monthly basis.

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