The day my children each came into this world was a monumental day for them AND me. Those days are WELL remembered by me and the gift that I received that day is one I thank God for over and over. The day that we are born is a special day and that day every year should be celebrated, and it is. Since our children are still young we celebrate by throwing a birthday party and inviting friends and family alike to remind our children that they are loved, special and worth celebrating.
However, when it comes to buying our kids presents or even cards we just don’t. This wasn’t our original response as parents to their special day. In fact, before last year I made sure to always have a gift from my husband and I for each child.
- Even though I spent hours thinking about each child and what they would want and then more hours and money picking out said “perfect” gift…it wasn’t perfect. While my children seemed excited for their gift and expressed their appreciation, they played with it only in the week or if I was lucky two weeks after their party. More often then not, the toy would be quickly discarded as they returned to their favorite pursuits. Watching them not enjoy the gift that took up so much of my time and energies was a huge emotional and financial letdown.
- It created more mess and m0re stuff to clean up. Their perfect gift became a source of contention as I saw it left on the floor in their room or under the bed. It created stress in both our lives as I nagged and reminded them to put it away. Even if I bought more of my kid’s favorite things like Shopkins for my oldest daughter, more stuff does not equal more happiness. Taking care of our possessions, our STUFF, takes time away from other things that my kids value like riding bikes or exploring outside. I’ve never had one of my children thank me for GETTING to clean up their stuff instead of or before going outside, enjoying a movie or reading a book. Not once.
- It was never anything they needed. Needs like clothing or books (I’m a voracious reader and homeschooler…in our house books are in the “need” category) are bought WHEN they are needed. I don’t wait for a holiday to get them a particular “school” book or to get them underwear. And really lets be honest, underwear and socks are NOT truly a gift no matter how much fun the unwrapping may be.
- Stuff never really conveys the feeling we are trying to convey when we give it, which is that they are loved and valued. When my kids play with their toys they aren’t usually reminded about who gave it to them unless I do the reminding. However, that further defeats the purpose. I won’t say that this is always 100% the case. They do tend to remember that grandma and grandpa bought they the pretty dress or the really cool wildlife book. In general, however, the present is just an thing.
What we choose to do instead:
All five of our children happen to have Spring/Summer birthdays (May, July, September). Instead of a gift of stuff we give them the gift of our time. We do this by planning a special weekend away as a family and we plan it for the middle of winter, when summer seems so far away. Two years ago we took them to a nice hotel which had a pool and waterslide. My kids all LOVE water and we made some great memories that weekend in the middle of a frigid February. Last year, as both a birthday and Christmas present we went to the Mall of America to Crayola’s Exploration. It was an amazing time, the kid’s and adults ALL had fun and we came away with some fun art creations. We ate a Bubba Gump Shrimp. The next day we went on rides at Nickelodeon Universe. SO MUCH FUN!!
Thanks to modern technology we have plenty of pictures and pages for our scrapbooks now. These are gifts that will last a lifetime. That is the gift I want to give.
**Additional note: This post is not to discount or belittle gifts given from family and friends. These are always appreciated. My parents and other family have given money or gift cards in the last few years as a result of the same reasons above (that my kids have too much stuff). These gifts are super appreciated and useful. For instance, it is because of money gifts that my kids are able to take swimming lessons. We remind them that their lessons are a gift from grandpa and grandma and they remember this every time we swim. We’ve also been given gift cards for some of our favorite treats: froyo (frozen yogurt) and happy meals. My in-laws contribute yearly to the children’s school savings accounts.