GIFT: something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation
The holidays are coming! The holidays are coming!
Cue list making interspersed with promises to simplify.
Facebook friends are dividing my loyalties. Some friends are posting countdowns of the number of shopping days left until my darling children stroll expectantly into the living room in search of presents and cookie crumbs. Other friends are posting links to simplicity challenges to fight holiday spending and articles about giving experiences instead of gifts.
This dichotomy isn’t new to me. I live it every Christmas.
When we exchange gifts at all, my family exchanges home-made, consumable gifts. A jar of jam. A bag of caramels. My gift to my mom is typically tickets to an event that we will attend together.
Husband’s family is different. They distribute lists of gift ideas in on Excel spreadsheets, sometimes with the catalog, website or item number noted for convenience. Their stockings have GPSs where the underwear and socks belong.
In the beginning, I raged against the consumerism. I touted the merits of jam giving. I lost.
Admittedly, the Le Creuset stock pot and four boxes of Frangos helped ease the pain of defeat.
In my ideal world, I would land somewhere in the middle on gift giving.
I like seeing my kids open gifts, but I want the gifts to be purchased and given in a way that honors our family values. To me, setting a dollar limit, specifying the maximum number of gifts, or mandating all presents be intangible isn’t all that handy in the quest to raise kids that are joyful, content, and grateful. It’s more complicated than just assigning the right dollar value per kid or banishing all things shiny and new.
As a parent of small children, the jar of jam approach to gift giving feels too small. The Excel spreadsheet method feels too big. For me, a just right holiday looks something like this:
Giving one practical gift. Whether it be the next level math workbooks, underwear to replace the pairs outgrown over the last twelve months, or new socks to make up for all the ones with holes – Christmas will contain something the kids need. Presents can meet a need or satisfy a want and I think my kids should learn to be grateful for both types of gifts.
Giving one frivolous gift. My kids will ask for something I don’t like or don’t understand. Pokemon cards come to mind. I will overlook my prejudices and buy it anyway because I once needed a doll with a butt that smelled like baby powder and a neon pink plastic horse with a purple tail. I understand now that it’s not actually the little pony I so desperately wanted but the ability to join my friends in the stables. I will give my kids the gift of participation in a fad. Because some day, those will be the things that mark their generation’s place in time.
Giving one hand-made gift. It might just be a scarf or a washcloth, but I want my kids to receive one thing I made especially for them. I want them to know the joy of having a gift soaked in the love of the giver’s hands.
Including my time and attention with every gift I give. If I give a game, I will play it when asked. If I give a book, I will read it with silly voices. If I give art supplies, I will “ooh” and “ahh” appropriately at the creations made with those supplies. I want my kids to know that the value of most things is in how they are used and with whom they are shared.
Purchasing gifts in our neighborhood. We have two delightful toy stores, a fabulous children’s bookstore, a funky music store, and quite possibly the world’s best game shop in our neighborhood. We also have local artists that make everything from ceramics and jewelry to purses and cutting boards. I value having them in our neighborhood and want them to stay. I will support them with my spending