How to Create Great Memories for Your Kids

Fathers come in different sizes, shapes, education, race, ethnicity, class, social background, and religion. Good fathers in all societies have two very crucial factors that they all share: being physically there all the time for his children, wife, and mother which often means being married; and providing food, a home or shelter, and physical security for the family. As we celebrate Father’s Day one could ask if most good fathers provide these basics: “What differentiates those fathers who merely provide the basics and those fathers who provide great memories for their children?”

What does not create great memories is spoiling the child by giving them every toy and indulgence they so much as whine for. If you are a father from a middle class, affluent background, and are permissive with your child,  it might be very difficult to create great memories if you can provide virtually every material comfort and activity a child wants at any time. Fathers who create great memories for their children seem to have a good sense or intuition of what it takes, what to do, and when. Take for example one of many great memories that I have about my dad.

My dad was a primary school village teacher in the Eastern Province of Zambia in Southern Africa. We were a family of nine; 3 brothers and 6 sisters.  He had a small pay check which was supplemented with my stay-at-home mom growing some of our food in a field next to our house. We were not wealthy by any means but we were slightly better off than an average village family. My father could never afford to buy any expensive toys, clothes or presents, feed us, and pay our school fees all at the same time. But he and my mother were good at budgeting, saving, planning including lay always at the Indian shop at Mgubudu Stores for each of the needs of the nine kids and my mother.

Christmas in our family was never about everyone getting presents. The day before Christmas, my dad rode his bicycle to the nearby Mgubudu Stores and bought some few special foods as a treat for the entire family; rice, a loaf of bread, jam, onion, tomato, curry powder, jungle oats oatmeal, and the chikasu special spice. My mother cooked the special family rooster that had been raised all year. We all anticipated and enjoyed what was the Christmas Day feast after church.

This one Christmas Day just after our family feast, my dad called me. He handed me a box. When I opened it I saw a pair of very shiny black shoes. I was 8 years old and my dad had just bought me my very first pair of shoes. In my wildest dreams I never thought I could own a pair of shoes. I was so happy with a wide grin ear to ear. I put the shoes to my nose and I could smell the new shoes smell. I tried to put on the shoes on the wrong feet. My mom laughed and offered to show me which shoe was to be correctly match on the right and left foot. My father said he could not afford socks. My mom teased me that I now had to make sure I scrubbed my feet really well otherwise the sharp calluses on my feet would put holes in my new shoes. The entire family laughed. I awkwardly walked outside in my new shoes enjoying every magical moment of that Christmas Day. I have never forgotten that day and the magic that my dad created in my life as a young child.

Creating great memories does not necessarily have to involve things or events that are great fun or pleasant. Some memories can be when there is tragedy or serious illness in the family and the father might be there to give support or offer help. For many years as a child I suffered from debilitating bilharzia or schistosomiasis  caused by the tropical parasite that eats your bladder. At one time my dad had to take me to the clinic that was seven miles away. I had to take 12 shots in my little rear end every other day for a month. My dad had me sit on the back of his bike carrier and ride 14 miles round trip every other day after work at 4:00pm. As we zipped down slopes on the narrow dirt road and dad continued to crank the bike as fast as he could, the wind whipped in my ears and his jacket flapped in my face like he was a flying bird. At that moment I thought my dad was such a strong man.

What are ten possible once in a lifetime  things a father could do with his  8 to 13 year old child to create some of these special vivid memories that may last forever?

  1. A trip to Alaska for Salmon and Trout fishing would be memorable if for many years dad and his child love fishing in the lower 48 in their local creeks and nearby small lakes.
  2. Rent a space where you and your child can spend probably a whole weekend fixing a car. It is best if you and your child had already developed a common interest in fixing small things on the lawn mower and car now and then in your drive way.
  3. You and your child can attend a large annual Video Game Convention taking place in a distant large city or location. Dad and child must already share a mutual healthy interest in the video games genre.
  4. Travel to a distant destination may be a large city or even foreign country to visit relatives or a rural country farm if you and your child are from the city. The travel could combine the adventure of driving, riding the train, and may be flying. I have never forgotten the time I was 13 when my dad and I travelled from the village by bus and train to the city for the first time in my life to visit some of my uncles.
  5. Arrange for you and your child’s sports team to participate in an annual large Regional or National Amateur Athletic Union or AAU competition over a couple of days. Your child’s AAU favorite sport could be soccer, basketball, volleyball, swimming, baseball, Football, Gymnastics and many others.
  6. Travel to New York City to see two plays on Broadway. You and your child may share an interest in live theater. You will enjoy both the sights and sounds of New York and enjoy seeing some memorable live artistic performances during the same trip. If you can pull it off, arrange for both of you to meet the actors back stage after the show.
  7. As a total surprise arrange for your daughter to invite her 3 best friends and take them to a live concert by their most popular teen heart throb. Drop them safely at the venue entrance making sure there is good security. You tell her to meet you outside when the concert was over in 2 hours. You wait in your car in the parking lot listening to your iPod and other entertainment. Once the concert is over dad is right there to pick her up with her friends.
  8. Arrange for you and your child’s Church Congregation choir to attend a large annual National Church Choir Singing Jamboree involving choirs from all parts of the country and perhaps even the world. You and your child may share for many years an interest in your church congregation spiritual activities with the choir, Sunday school, and other church programs.
  9. Arrange to take your child to work with you on the day you plan on being very busy so that the child will have plenty to see and experience with you. The job could be as a janitor, waitress, Chef, fire fighter, nurse, medical doctor, repairman, teacher, coach, bus or truck driver, pilot, flight attendant, live performer, legislator,  or sales person.
  10.  Whatever hobby has most appealed to your child for a number of years that you may also enjoy, arrange for you and your child to participate or attend the Annual Regional, National or International festival of that hobby.

The point about these and dozens of other activities is to create an enchantment of the soul in your child’s life. Raising a child is a tremendous responsibility but also a special gift which all fathers must use to raise wonderful human beings.