Having children changes how we view the world; we all know this to be true. During the holidays, that cliche holds even more truth. My oldest kiddo is 8, so child-centered holidays are my happy norm now, but several years ago, I was hit with a major case of the holiday blues. I was more than blue, though; I was disgusted.
Gift-giving is something that I really enjoy; on the other hand, I truly dislike meaningless gift-giving.
The “stuff” of Christmas really started to bother me. Why was I feeling the need to put my family through financial stress to fulfill this cultural idea of having Pisa-like leaning towers of shiny boxes under the tree? What’s more, what were my kids even getting out of that? Stuff? They have enough stuff, and let’s be honest: most of those shiny boxes don’t contain items that are necessary for day-to-day life. (Note: I’m not even mentioning the gifts that come from extended family. I can’t even).
On December 26th, several years ago, my husband and I agreed that gift-giving next year would be different. It needed to be.
We were both feeling overwhelmed by the consumerism of the holidays. Luckily for us, I stumbled upon a gift-giving strategy that ultimately changed the way that we approach gift-giving in our house during the holidays. I came across this: the plan to give our children something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. I love how it rhymes!
4 gifts, plus a stocking? I can wrap my head around that. 4 gifts means that all of that time, money, thought, and energy that went into those leaning gift towers gets concentrated exponentially. 4 gifts means that those gifts get a lot of use; nothing gets lost or forgotten in the chaos of Christmas. We’re giving more thoughtful gifts to our children, and in turn, showing them that the holidays are not about the stuff, but instead about mindfulness, generosity, and joy! Here’s how this gifting strategy works in our house:
Something they want:
This is the easy one because there are a lot of choices. It is also a tricky one because there are a lot of choices. My kids are full of “wants”. My husband and I will talk about what the kids have done the past year, and what long-term interests have developed, and go from there.
Something they need:
This is a bit trickier, and really depends on how loosely you define “need”. Really, if my kids truly need something, I usually don’t wait until Christmas to get it. Sometimes, the timing works out well (we’ve done winter boots, snow pants, and pajamas in past years). Last year, we got the kids art portfolios, so that they could save the artwork that they create on a daily basis, and not shove it on my desk (win-win). Underwear is always a safe bet.
Something to wear:
This category is sort of obvious, but you can get really creative with it. Maybe you have a little one who needs a warm car seat cover. Maybe you have a tween who really, really, really wants some super-cool sneakers. You could even extend this to lotions, perfumes, or jewelry, if you’re feeling fancy.
Something to read:
This is easy for me. There is never a point where I will say, “Oh yeah, my kids definitely don’t need more books.” Feel free to get creative! Maybe you have a young author on your hands, and you’re able to publish one of their books? How about a cookbook full of your child’s favorite foods? What about a boxed set of your kiddo’s favorite series?
I like to knit, so I typically include a “something hand-made” in the mix, too (though it throws off the rhyme).
This year, my husband and I are following this guide to buy each other gifts, as well, for the first time (I’m looking forward to that, for sure!). I’d love to say that Christmas morning is no longer a whirlwind of ribbon, torn paper, and ripped boxes. It’s still a whirlwind, but the month leading up to that morning does not leave me a tightly wound ball of stress, which seems like an improvement. I don’t feel overwhelmed by the stuff anymore, and my kids have calmed the whirlwind, at least slightly. I’ll take it.