Let's collect more experiences, not stuff

by Rayna van Aalst May 06, 2018

Let's collect more experiences, not stuff

It’s just a week till Mother’s Day, at least here in the Netherlands.

Every year on the second Sunday of May I receive a gift from my daughter which she has made at school or the daycare. In the past two years she’s also grown enough to be able to memorize the short poem accompanying the gift.

I simply adore these mornings. The three of us are lying in bed, she proudly presents her creation and recites the poem. Then she starts telling about the adventures around making the gift and somewhere in the middle of her story I just can’t resist her and I start tickling her. Then my husband says sternly “Ladies, behave” and he joins the tickle-fight.

Before I know it, it’s been two hours of laughter and jokes in bed full of crumbs from the breakfast the two people I love the most had made for me.

Earlier this week was my daughter’s birthday.

She turned 6. I’ve come to realize that we grown ups do only something to say that we have celebrated our birthdays but children at this age really know how to celebrate.

We celebrate my daughter’s birthday on the day itself. Then we have a party with the family and another one with her friends. Then she celebrates her birthday at school and also at the daycare. And last but not least there are the treats at the dance school.

The parties may not be always in the same order, but they easily stretch over a period of at least two weeks.

Now that's what I call celebrating.

When I take her to bed, on any day, I always ask her about the best part of her day. So when on her birthday when I asked her the same thing, while tucking her in bed, I expected to hear something about the gifts she had received or that we went to her favorite pancakes place.

But her answer surprised me.

The best part of her 6th birthday was waking up to her dad and me singing happy birthday for her.

Just last week was my mom’s birthday.

We have always had a very difficult relationship and we often have periods when we don’t communicate. I do however always make sure to congratulate her on her birthday. When we’re on good terms I buy her a gift. But when we haven’t talked to each other for years and the pain is too strong, I send her a message only.

I hadn’t talked to my mom in over a year and the way our last conversation ended was more than painful. When I woke up on her birthday, I knew that I was going to send her a message and I was terrified of it.

As the day progressed I decided to call her instead. That was even more terrifying.

But I did it anyway.

I told her that I loved her and that I was grateful for everything she had ever done for me.

She didn’t say it but deep in me I know that my call and especially my words was the best gift she has ever received, not only on this birthday but in her life.

If you’re wondering where I’m going with these stories

it’s definitely not that you should not talk to your parents and then call them for their birthday to make the call special.

I'm also not trying to show you how brave I am or that I have all the answers.

What all these stories have in common is “experience”.

I don’t know about yours but my inbox and mailbox are full of offers with ideas for Mother’s day gifts. Everyone writes gift guides to help you choose the best present for your mom.

Same happens with Father's Day. And Christmas. And your birthday.

But do you really need help choosing a gift for someone close to you? Do you really need someone to tell you what lights up that special person in your life?

I do believe that if we pay attention when that other person talks, you would know what they really want – maybe it’s a physical gift, maybe they just want to be able to sleep till 9 o’clock without getting up to take care of the baby. I know that was the best Mother’s day gift I got the first year I was a mom.

So if your mom is a skincare aficionada and you know she wants a product, by all means go ahead and make her happy. But it’s also fine, if you just take her to the movies, or the theater, or to a dinner. Or maybe take an afternoon off and spend it with her watching her the flowers and the birds in her town. And listen to her.

You don't need me to tell you what would make your mom happy.

Maya Angelou has said “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”

I’d like to add that people forget the gifts but they will remember how you made them feel.

Let’s collect more memories together and less “stuff”.

Rayna van Aalst
Rayna van Aalst


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