Most Valuable Gift to Child Could Be Presence


Dear Dr. Fournier:

A thought to pass on:

“People travel to wonder at the heights of mountains,

“At the huge waves of the sea,

“At the vast compass of the oceans,

“At the circular motion of the stars,

“And they pass themselves by without understanding.” – St. Augustine

How slowly history moves, while life speeds away. – San German, Puerto Rico


During the holiday season, it’s so easy to get caught up in what we do – buying presents, chauffeuring the kids to special activities, or cooking a big family dinner – that we sometimes forget to reflect on who we are.

In the words of St. Augustine, we surely “pass ourselves by without understanding” as we grow more and more preoccupied with our “TO DO” lists and attention to the realities of life. On an average day, we send the kids off to school, spend eight hours (or more) working at home or at the office, preparing dinner, and then spending at least part of the evening monitoring homework. We deliver the kids to soccer, music lessons, and basketball games and – if you have teenagers – to the mall. We make sure there is money for the bills, gas in the car, and clothes in the closet.

But we cannot simply define our lives by what we do. We must remember to pass on to our children a sense of who we are. In addition to the above two thoughts and for a more modern reflection on the same topic, I may add the 1974 folk rock song written and performed by Harry Chapin, Cat’s In The Cradle. It is a cautionary tale to take time now to celebrate the moment while we are able.

Giving the gift of who we are is more important than any presents that can be wrapped and placed under a Christmas tree.


Before the children go back to school and before you return to the daily grind, set aside some “I AM” time each day. Prepare by asking yourself a basic question: “What are the most important things about me I should pass on to my children?”

Then take the time you would spend doing your own “homework” each day and think of other ways to connect with your child. For Example:

  • Look back over the family photo album and talk about your family’s history and tradition.
  • Visit a place that was most meaningful- or painful- to you as you were growing up.
  • Have hot chocolate with your child and discuss the “crossroads” in your past, or the moments you remember feeling most loved.
  • As you take down holiday decorations, talk about the wishes you had as a child and see how those compare with those of your own children.

Don’t let 2011 speed away without taking the time to pass on a sense of “Who I am,” which in turn, will help your child develop self-recognition and self-worth because you did not let yourself or your child “pass by” without understanding.


Dr. Yvonne Fournier has been a pharmacist, public health administrator, demographer and entrepreneur. She has followed her own roadmap in becoming arguably one of the most prolific of educators and child advocates in America today.