Stuff you should get your kids before they sprout pubic hairs:
A cheap instrument that is easy to noodle:
Harmonica, kalimba, maybe an ocarina. While mastery of a fancy instrument gets you glory and a better shot at a decent college, being able to bend notes on a mouth harp will give anyone about as much joy as she can handle.
Cheap joy's hard to beat.
A $2 magnifying glass changes the world. Microscopes are clunky, require prep, and can freak out any child who's paying attention. A decent loupe gives a child just enough new stuff to stimulate the mind without careening into existentialism.
The Kids' Paper Airplane Book let's your child build 16 paper airplanes. Or get grandpa to show her how it's done. Flight fascinates even the cynical among us.
Get a book on origami. Few of us use our hands for anything more useful than banging on a keyboard. Let your child experience the joy of human evolution--fingers were made for folding.
Plant a basil seed in a Dixie cup. Put a carrot top in a bowl on a windowsill. Scatter wheat berries on a vacant lot.
Maybe, just maybe, your child will grasp that a farmer matters more than a financial analyst (or even a teacher).
An instrument of death:
Every child who eats critters should slaughter at least one before they get too cynical to fully appreciate the sacrifice made by the animal he eats. There is an instant just before the moment of slaughter that hangs frozen forever.
I don't like to kill. I like to eat.The connection matters.
Both kinds. 'Nuff said.
Maybe the best gift you can give is one that takes away. Destroy her television, disable his X-box, toss the iPad into the fireplace.
Share your stories, share your time. Trust what you know to be true. None of us get out of here alive.
The kalimba picture is by Mark Holdaway, Kalimba Magic (www.kalimbamagic.com).