Here we are at Christmas, supposedly “the most wonderful time of the year.” Children are wide-eyed in anticipation, excitedly telling their parents what they want Santa to bring them. On the other hand, parents are reeling amid the pandemic with too many unanswered questions to count.
Let’s don’t even talk about finances. Or the pressure to make sure everything is in stock and ordered early enough to arrive on time.
Give Something Different
Can we press the pause button for a minute? I think it might help to take a step back, breathe, and think about a few things. There are lots of voices telling your children what they should ask for this Christmas. While some of those Christmas gifts may be awesome, the truth is, what your child really wants for Christmas and what you actually end up giving your child this Christmas may be two very different lists. And for good reason.
I’ve been down the road of being really proud of myself for getting some of those begged-for items, only to see them sitting in the corner a few weeks into the new year.
After several years, it occurred to me: maybe those things aren’t really the best Christmas gifts I could give my child. That sent me down the trail of thinking about what I could give her that wouldn’t break, sit abandoned in the corner, or be returned to the store. Challenge accepted.
Give Something Meaningful
Here are some of the things we gave her through the years instead.
- Coupon book. We made a coupon book with 20 or so different coupons for things like an ice cream date, getting out of a chore for a day, making your favorite dinner, popcorn and movie night, dessert before dinner, staying up past bedtime, and extra video game time.
- Membership or passes to a children’s museum, aquarium, zoo, rock-climbing, zip-lining, or other attraction to stimulate both the brain and body.
- Vision book. We asked people who knew our daughter well—teachers, friends, coaches, grandparents, neighbors—to write her a short note talking about the qualities they saw in her and giving her words of encouragement. I put all of the messages in a scrapbook and gave it to her. She’s all grown up, but that book is still with her.
- Scavenger hunts and experiences. A wrapped box under the tree with a clue in it that led to the next clue somewhere around the house… which after numerous clues would lead to the gift. One year it was tickets to a concert we attended as a family. Another year, it was a weekend daddy-daughter trip. The goal was to create lasting memories instead of temporary excitement. I think it worked because we still talk about those experiences today.
Back to hitting the pause button. After a few Christmases, it occurred to me that each year around September, I started feeling significant stress about Christmas—shopping, finances, and attitude over gifts I bought that weren’t the right thing. I actually began to dread what was my favorite time of the year. Something had to give. That’s when we decided to do things differently.
Give Something That Lasts
In the end, I think we decided that not giving our daughter all the stuff on her list might have been one of the best Christmas gifts we gave her as her parents. You can’t buy the conversations and laughter around those memories. And they are there forever.
They won’t ever put this on their Christmas list, but what children really want for Christmas is to know they are loved by their parents. Don’t expect a huge thank you for not getting everything on their Christmas list. That won’t happen for a long time—maybe never. But, coming up with creative ways to celebrate your child, creating memories with them, and showing them your unconditional love truly will be the most priceless gift you can give to them. You’ll never regret giving them that, and you don’t have to break the budget, wait for it to arrive in the mail, or get it at the mall.
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