I'll admit it.
I'm not immune to competitive gifting in this commercialized time of year. I've stalked toy stores, stood in long, snaking lines and scoured the Internet for that perfect gift.
Most people, not just little ones, are happy to receive shiny new things. And the giver gets the pleasure of having provoked that moment of joy.
We remember the special tangible things we get from our parents -- a piece of jewelry, a dollhouse or game. But recently, I started thinking about the gifts from my mother and father that came from the soul, not the store. These gifts were not unwrapped on a single morning, but in bits and pieces every single day.
They are priceless. They last a lifetime. And when we feel most pressured to buy, they are a reminder of how to give.
The best gifts my parents ever gave me:
1. Love. We all made mistakes. I did. They did. We had moments when we hurt one another. But even during the times when we didn't like each other very much, I didn't doubt that they loved me with their whole hearts. I saw it in their faces, and I knew it from how they took care of me. They've told me countless times. I've always believed it.
2. Self-worth. My father would talk about current events and ask my opinion, even as a child. My parents were interested in my thoughts, which meant my voice mattered.
3. Siblings. Playmates, competitors, instigators, foils. Bless my parents for giving me five of them. They taught us that these were the relationships that you have forever.
4. Faith. They made sure we had formal instruction and learned the rituals and practices of our faith, but they also told us stories and made us part of a community. The message was universal: Try to be a better person. Make the world better. My mother showed me by example how to constantly hold a prayer in your heart.
5. High expectations. It can be easy to confuse expectations with pressure. And as a child, there was pressure to do well, but it was tempered with a foundation of love and with the example of two hardworking parents. So I strove for what was expected.
6. A second language. The knowledge and beauty of the world cannot be contained in one language, and I am grateful that my parents spoke to me in Urdu throughout my childhood.
7. Generosity. They didn't talk about what they gave, even to us, but I knew where the money set aside for different charities was kept. And there was always an elderly relative living with us. I saw my parents take care of other people and give, even when we had very little, and internalized what it meant to be of service to others.
8. Laughter. There is so much teasing that happens in a big family that you learn quickly not to take yourself so seriously. When you come from a family of storytellers and jokesters, you learn to laugh easily and often.
9. Sacrifice. They left the country in which they were born and raised. They left their families. I saw their reactions when they received letters and phone calls from back home. I felt their loneliness and pain. At a young age, I confronted the question: If you want something better, what are you willing to give up for it?
10. Chores. They made me do chores. I learned how to properly clean a bathroom. I knew how much effort it took to cook for and maintain a household of eight people. Eventually, I learned the peace of mind that comes with creating order in your surroundings.
11. Boundaries. They said no to so much of the fun stuff everyone else was allowed to do. They said no a lot. They instilled a healthy fear of disappointing or disobeying them. This saved me from a lot of trouble.
12. Community. Family extends to all your kin -- your cousins, your aunts and uncles and those who treated you like family. They prioritized those relationships because it was a way to keep us in touch with where we came from and who we were. It gave us a sense of belonging.
13. Manners. They instilled in us the basics of civility and respect, from how to greet an adult, to visiting someone who was sick or had experienced a loss. I saw the way in which they considered the feelings and needs of others.
14. Courage. As much as they taught us to respect authority, we were also taught to stand up for our beliefs and have pride in who we were. When I saw my mother wear traditional clothing or hijab to cover her hair, it was a quiet act of courage.
15. Independence. My parents were from the generation of anti-helicopters. They never "advocated" for me in the school system. They never called a teacher or coach. They expected me to solve my own problems and figure out how to get stuff done. I did.
When I started jotting down ideas for this column, the list quickly grew too long. I reviewed it with my 9-year-old son, who helped cull the catalog. I couldn't resist asking him: So, do you feel like we are giving you some of these same gifts in your childhood?
"Yeah," he said. He paused and then smirked. "At least half of them."
Sense of humor? Check.