When I was little, Christmas was my favorite. (Who am I kidding? Christmas is still my favorite!) I watched Nickelodeon like a hawk, just waiting for the commercials to come on. (Side note: how amazing was their marketing that a seven-year-old looked forward to commercials!? Well played, marketing team...) Anyways. I digress.
Those commercials highlighted all of the things that I absolutely had to have as a child. Things like: SLIME! A TAMAGOTCHI! A SKIP-IT! CREEPY CRAWLERS! A TALKBOY! FREAKING BEANIE BABIES!
I had to have them. When the Toys R Us holiday toy catalog hit our mailbox, my siblings and I would collectively circle every single toy on those 90+ pages of shiny goodness. This was our year! Santa’s sleigh would be overflowing with gifts for ME!
Why do normally kind children have a tendency to turn into greedy, slime-loving monsters this time of year?
As a parent, the concept of holiday gift giving has been something that has weighed heavy on me.
-How can I balance the fun, toy-filled side of Christmas with the meaningful origin of the holiday? -- Teaching them that the holiday isn’t about presents?
-How will I manage my children’s expectations of this time each year?
-How in the HECK am I going to budget for 4 kids!?
A few years ago, a more seasoned mom (cough cough, Stephanie) introduced me to their solution to all of these questions -- a gift-giving principle that I quickly adopted as my own:
Something You Want
Something You Need
Something to Wear
Something to Read/Learn
That’s it! Four meaningful, intentional gifts that cover all of the bases.
I decided to try it out last Christmas.
Because I was only buying four gifts (give or take) for each child, I could focus more on quality rather than quantity. I set a budget for each kiddo. I took inventory of their closets, their wishlists, their interests and their personalities. I spent time truly considering what they would actually benefit from, rather than throwing money at Amazon, hoping that a pile of bright and shiny things would do the trick. (And really -- shouldn’t we all be more intentional with these kinds of things?)
I wrapped up the gifts on Christmas Eve and was truly giddy. I knew that they would be excited. But then, as I lie awake at night the night before Christmas, I wondered if I wasn’t depriving my kids. What if they turned into Dudley Dursley on Christmas day, demanding why they only have 36 gifts when last year they had 37?
And then I remembered… 1.) Ew, no. 2.) They’re small. They have no recollection. And 3.) They probably don’t care.
The next morning was every reassurance I ever needed. They weren’t overwhelmed by mountains of wrapping paper and trinkets that they didn’t care about. Instead, they were able to spend time with each gift and be genuinely excited about it.
Because I love the Target Dollar Spot as much as the next basic mom, I let their stockings be an excuse to give them the chapstick of mine that they’re always trying to eat, and a few more pairs of socks that magically disappear each week. I also snuck in some candy because I’M A COOL MOM!
And guess what? We didn’t fill our house with more crap that we didn’t need. We didn’t spend $2000 trying to invoke a smile. We didn’t have a single complaint about not getting that gigantic lego tower I was never going to buy them. We had a (mostly) calm, family-centered Christmas.
So, if you’re hoping for a more intentional holiday shopping experience this year, let this be a starting point. Remember that this season is about more than Bratz Dollz and EZ Bake Ovens. And, if you must, remind your children that Santa is out of coal. He now eats little boys and girls who don’t behave…