If you would be expecting a post about how to make the most money for whatever you put into your child(ren), then you’re at the wrong spot, what I am trying to touch here is on a different level. I think most parents will agree that having a child (to keep things consistent, I will refer to a single child, but works for pretty much any number of them) will change your life 180 degrees, if for better or worse will strongly depend on you, but what you make of it is what in the end really counts.
To come back to the title of this post, the investment I am referring to is not counted in how many game consoles the child has, how many games (or toys) you buy, it is not about instrument lessons you pay or sports teams, but what you invest in the first place, is your time and attention to the child. Or should. Only too often you see parents that are both working full time and therefore only are able to spend little time with their children (or in a sadder spin on this, parents that do not WANT to spend their time with their children…), but are trying to overcompensate in the wrong direction.
Often the child is either swamped with toys and gifts, where the less time can be spent corresponds to the more money thrown at them, or they are enrolled in (too) many extracurricular activities that will eat away even more of the precious time and in the end tire out both parents and child. Some people seem to think that investing money into the child will make the problems go away, but more often than not all the child wants is attention and to be with the parents, even if it is something as easy (and cheap) as going to the park or reading a book or just watching some TV together, often a child is way simpler than you would think.
A lot of people around here have one or more children enrolled in the Canadian national sport of hockey. Little do they know originally that the majority of their “spare” time is going to be swallowed whole by practices, games, tournaments etc., which often means ice times at 6.30 am in the morning (Calgary is really bad for this, for example) or overnight tournaments on weekends and therefore eating away from other activities that could be done otherwise, such as special outings to the zoo, when they have a special event going on, a festival or a show, because “hockey comes first” and if you do not show up every time, you are in trouble. Which is sad, to be shackled by something that should be a pastime, a hobby, not a job, especially if the kids are not even in their teens yet.
Sometimes just making the effort and spending the time with the child, just the two/three of you, can make a big difference, because the child wants to be with you, the parent(s). Even if they do it with the school, still go out and go apple picking in fall, go see Santa in the mall (no, I’m not trying to rhyme here), do things with your child, you and him/her, savour the time you spend with them to do things that you WANT to do, not that you HAVE to do because the child might get kicked off the team or something along those lines…
Also, if you bury them with toys and games all the time, they will a) begin to expect to get something whenever you go out shopping and b) automatically spend more time with the toys and games and start to lose interest in doing things with you on a personal and emotional level, because they get somewhat estranged from it and that is where things can spiral straight out of control. Very easy examples are taking a walk, going to the park, playing with cars (or dolls), reading a book, drawing, puzzles or even just having fun together tickling each other, laying on the bed, being silly, it does not take much to make them happy.
So before you brush them off or assume that they will just want that gazillionth video game, try to ask them what they would like to do and you might be amazed by how easy the answer might be… Only too soon your child will want to spend time with their friends and not be interested as much anymore in just being with you and you will regret having lost this special bond, also because they will imitate you and if you do not give them attention or show them things, they will start to do the same, both to you and probably further down the road to their own children. (273)