If you’re like most people, from the moment you find out you’re expecting a baby you’ll start building a scrapbook of memories. For some people, this is an elaborately choreographed process that includes an actual scrapbook complete with type written comments and notes that’s carefully stored away in a special memory box. For others, mementos are gathered along the way in a much less organized fashion, yet carry the same meaning with them. Parents seem to have an intrinsic desire to capture and preserve the special moments and milestones along the journey of a child’s life.
Often, parents select gifts for a child that are, at least in part, intended to be part of the child’s memory book. Christmas gifts, baptism gifts and birthday gifts for a baby are often really just sentimental gifts that become part of the record of baby’s first year. That Christmas tree ornament you had engraved with your child’s name for his or her first Christmas was undoubtedly meant as a way to mark the event much more than an actual gift for baby.
Why do we, as parents, preserve these gifts?
For as far back as we have archeological records, there’s evidence that meaning has been attached to material items. In ancient cultures, the dead were buried with familial treasures and material tokens of love. The gifts were meant to accompany the family member into the next life. In more modern times, we’ve adopted the concept of passing down sentimental or meaningful family heirlooms from generation to generation as a way of recording and remembering our family history. Despite the ability to snap photos or videos with our cell phone, we still hold fast to the tradition of creating a history for our child through tangible gifts and mementos that can be passed down to future generations.
From the moment of birth, sentimental gifts begin to create that history.
When you bought your child’s first baby blanket, chances are you kept it after he or she no longer needed it. Baby’s first pair of shoes, the outfit baby wore home from the hospital and even a lock of hair from baby’s first haircut is also likely part of your memory box. You may also have bought baby a special holiday outfit you just couldn’t part with long after it didn’t fit anymore. These gifts remind us, as parents, of the most significant moments during baby’s first year. They also tell the story to future generations through the items we select to preserve.
Baptism gifts and birthday gifts are another example of sentimental gifts we all give to baby that are meant to become part of your child’s memory box. Your memory box may contain an engraved bible given to your child along with his or her baptism outfit, for example. You may also have scoured the internet to find the perfect “1st Birthday” shirt for your little one to wear on the big day and added that to the memory box. As your child enters his or her toddler years, you may buy a first bracelet or necklace, a first baseball glove or a stuffed animal that holds sentimental value both to you and to your child.
Sentimental gifts don’t stop as your child grows older; they simply don’t find their way into the memory box as often. Once your child reaches his or her teenage years, the gifts may become equally important to your child. A necklace you give your daughter for her 16th birthday may never come off until she passes it down to her children. The ticket stubs from the Super Bowl game you and your son attended may find their way into his scrapbook instead of yours. Eventually, your child has both a memory box you created and his or her own scrapbook of mementos that can be passed down to yet another generation. In this manner, we record our family histories through the gifts we give.