My plan for using material gifts to give my son things that will last forever.
With the holidays quickly approaching, I, like many parents, find myself overwhelmed with family and friends asking what my child wants for Christmas. And while these inquires are steeped in good intent, I couldn’t help but ponder how a season of giving, has turned into a season of gifting. How many of us have accepted or asked our children to write lists for us to reference during our Christmas shopping? How many of us are guilty of writing such a list for ourselves? I know I am. And while it seemed at first a logical way to guarantee we’d all get what we want, the concept has just further commercialized a once simple and humble occasion; as well as heightened the sense of entitlement our generation is often criticized for.
This year I find myself humbled to a simpler existence. The pain of a divorce, the challenges of single parenthood, and the meager quarters of our quaint apartment, have shed some light on what it is I want to be teaching my son. Fueled with the reality that we just don’t have the space for any more “stuff,” and realizing that somewhere along the road the act of giving presents during Christmas has become more selfish and less selfless, I greatly disappointed many of my family members with the short list of suggestions I bestowed upon them. Allegations that I was depriving my child, and taking away their pleasure in watching him open their presents quickly ensued. And this is where the distinction between gifting and giving was made for me.
We should be giving our children warm memories. Time spent with family. Traditions. And above all, good values. We should aspire to instill in them a positive outlook on life. One that finds joy in all circumstances. We should desire for them to know the true meaning of Christmas and to remember that it evolves around Christ and not Santa Claus. Of course I’ll be giving gifts to my son, and of course I will enjoy watching him open them; and I wouldn’t dream of taking that joy of giving away from others. I’m just not sure how gifting became so extravagant and necessary for Christmas, and personal, fulfillment.
I’m reminded of a childhood book series I adored. Laura Ingalls Wilder from Little House on the Prairie was overjoyed when she received things like homemade corn husk dolls, and spare buttons to make necklaces with her sister. But even more, she was thrilled to go sledding with her friends, and cook with her mom, and participate in sing nights. I’m not saying we should forgo spending money on factory toys or make this Christmas purely a homemade one; but I am suggesting a certain appeal surrounding our pioneer ancestors. Gifting was certainly a part of Christmas then too, but it was a small tradition nestled among the larger ones of quality time and rejoicing in the ultimate gift of Jesus; ones that seem secondary today.
And will our children really be deprived at all when they don’t wake up to thirty-seven gifts under the tree? Of course not. Because even if they didn’t have presents, or a tree, or even a Christmas meal, hopefully we are raising them to be joyous to have each other, a roof over their heads, people who surround them in love, and a God who provides for us continuously. Any gifts aside would be delightful and appreciated, but not necessary to the spirit of Christmas or the memories we’ll make with them.
I suggest that even if we could afford to put thirty-seven gifts under the tree, or had family willing to make that happen, that we shouldn’t allow that kind of indulgence. Especially when the money could be better spent making memories by helping our children donate it, or buying presents for orphans, or the many countless ways we could give back. I suggest that we teach our children to be humbled and grateful by the few presents under the tree and focus more on quality than quantity. I would suggest we return to the mindset that giving is creative, thoughtful, and beyond the monetary confines we’ve placed on it today.
This desire to scale down commercialism and bring back the intimacy of the season is what fueled the ideas behind our list this year. I decided the greatest gift others could give us was intimate, educational, purposeful quality time. A few simple toys did make the list such as a battery operated drill for my toddler’s newfound love of “fixing” everything. Board games such as Chutes and Ladders and the electronic fishing game were great ideas in my opinion for spending time together and entertaining a young mind. Money towards a Sea World seasonal pass was top of the list since we love “bye bye time” so much and our budget rarely allows us to go out. And yes, clothes were up there too! These gifts aren’t something my child will discard in a corner just a few months after Christmas. They’ll keep giving. They’ll give us hours of amusement, investigation, beautiful memories, and a foundation of old fashioned values. Deprivation? I hardly think so.
Amber Kirschman is a preschool teacher residing in Texas, trying to raise herself and her son in a simple and purposeful lifestyle. When she’s not writing, she enjoys crafting, singing, and watching movies.