The last few weeks for me have been a source of pondering and life changing decisions! Okay, maybe not life changing per sae, but certainly changing my views about gift giving to our kids at Christmas time and with it, some realisations about myself too!
Does anyone else find this aspect of Christmas hard at all? Because to me it is a real dilemma I face most years. On the one hand I want it to be exciting and merry on Christmas morning with the prezzies, but I also want to maintain an element of modesty and focus too. As I have tried to strike this balance, I have experimented with various “number limits” on gifts, but even so, have found that many a Christmas I have often wondered on more than one occasion –
Are we being tight?
Was that too much of the stuff they wanted?
How can we ensure they are being grateful?
…The list goes on!
As I have pondered on this I came to the realisation that all of this stress and over thinking is actually down to one thing – a lack of self belief in myself. It isn’t really about the gifts – how many or how expensive, but rather an inability to own my choice and do it the way I want to for my family with out being influenced by others! The self awareness I found (in true counsellor style!) has been hard but freeing too. Understanding that I do not trust my instincts enough to buy them things I would like, as opposed to what they have asked for, or not been confident in acknowledging what we already do to focus Christmas on Christ (that we do not need to over think the gift giving portion to bring balance) has been most enlightening and curious to me. I have realised perception is different for each of us and that one families approach is neither necessarily better or worse than yours – it is just different. And, what is right for each of us is done based on our individual values, ideas and circumstances.
When I have analysed our approach to Christmas I realised something I needed to (and should have) a long time ago; that is that I am confident in the things I already do to bring the spirit of christmas to our family each December. So much so that I do not believe really that our gift giving need’s to be tamed in anyway to enhance this (like I used to think). Don’t get me wrong – I completely believe in having a budget (and sticking to it), and I don’t believe in spoiling kids (because happiness does not lie in excess), but I also don’t think anymore like I used to – that kids need less gifts for the purpose of learning that christmas is about Christ and serving others who struggle at this time of year. We participate as much as we can in our churches initiative to “Light the world” (most days of December) and we have various family nights about the nativity and true reason for the season weekly in December. We do family projects to help others (including kids gift campaigns, food banks and the homeless) and we attend carol concerts and church, not to mention the daily scripture verses, songs and chats we share in. I guess when I list it like that, I haven’t really given myself credit for all of this effort that I go to each year to share Christs love at Christmas time and to experience the true meaning of it with my kids. I have instead looked at others reasons and then tried to compensate in controlling what we give to the kids, instead of treating us all in the ways I imagine. Because really, the kids are very aware that Christmas is a time to think of Christ and a time to help others and give to them – they look forward to it and talk about it without prompting.
But what about the other side – the gift giving? How do I become more content in that too with this new perspective?
Well, for the majority of our christmases with kids on the scene, our gift giving to them at Christmas time has been directed by the want, need, wear, read 4 gift formula. For a while I also tried only 3 gifts because that is all Christ received too. In all of this, my driving force was simply that I wanted to teach them the difference between a want and need and I also didn’t want to overload them or have them become materialistic at Christmas time. It was a combination of a desire to focus christmas on the true meaning and also be modest. But, we do that daily in December (and even go carol singing on the actual day), so I think its safe to say that I am already doing that. As a result I have become discontent with this approach. Not to mention that as I am christmas shopping I will often spot things that I know they would absolutely love and yet it isn’t necessarily something they want (because they don’t know about it), nor is it a need or something to wear or something to read. Its just a lovely gift I know they would love. But I walk on by, and then I feel a sense of disappointment that in trying to be modest at Christmas or trying to be more mindful, I have restricted myself and lost the opportunity to treat my kids with lovely little things and surprises. I have also failed to buy them gifts that are useful and thoughtful (that we know would be a good investment), as opposed to a lot of tat they think they want and that expires interest after a few months.
Yes, in recent years I have noticed that I have felt a little disheartened come Christmas day. I feel I have not only missed an opportunity to surprise the kids but taken away the magic of the season for us all by just ticking off what was on “the list”. They of course are curious initially, but they also seem to know exactly what is beneath each wrapped gift and the expectation of what has been listed in “Want, Need, Wear, Read” category seems to create an element of ingratitude as they figure it out and “knew that’s what it would be” – which makes both Nath and I cringe – giving the complete opposite effect to what we had hoped to achieve in this approach to gift giving.
I have also pondered a lot recently on needs (I’ve been doing a lot of pondering!). In past years we have given a leotard to Megan, pyjamas to Alice and a coat to Ethan – all in the name of a need. But in relation to others in the world, is a new coat or a more glitzy leotard than you previously wore, really a need? Or should it just be okay to say “you know what – i’d love this coat (scooter/trainers etc) for christmas as part of the budget you were planning on spending” – we as adults do it, why can’t they at times?!
Perhaps I am overthinking the whole thing, I do tend to do that in life. And it is of course all relative, but all I know is that I am not happy with disguising an upgraded version of something as a need anymore to simple tick a box! Having tried out various gift giving ways, these last few years have been a struggle for me and I have wanted to do something about it. I want to change the way we experience christmas and I want to have a bit of fun with it! I want to surprise them and I want there to be freedom in how I shop for them (not bound to whether they want or need it etc but something lovely that will grow with them and fits their interests too).
And so we have decided to go old school and pretty normal – Surprising them with several things within a set budget!
This small shift makes me so much happier about how I give gifts to my kids at Christmas time. Not only does it take on board the things they have expressed an interest in, but it does not confine giving to only set ideas. It offers freedom in what we might get them, but gifts maintain modesty because the budget is set. For one kid it may look like one large present with a couple of small things. For another it may be 5 medium gifts and a couple of little ones. The number, the cost, the type, the size are irrelevant – they are unique to each child and bought in wisdom with what we deem suitable, appropriate and good value at that time. Some gifts may well be things they could do with newer, some might be that dream toy they have wished for for a while – others may just be that small thing that had their name on it – curious and quirky that caught my eye! Either way they are given out of love and thoughtfulness and given because they will enhance their childhood, relationships and bring joy to life.
Ultimately, buying things we know they would like over what they ask for, and giving things that are longer lasting/all inclusive to play together has relaxed me a lot and ignited the joy for christmas again like I had hoped for. No lists have been written and I am more mindful now about buying things that will last years to come and things that would really suit them and their interests. Coming to this simple (but grand to me) realisation of how I feel regarding Christmas, as well as acknowledging how special christmas already is to us is so wonderful. It has been great to really dig deep and see my motivations and comparing them to what we personally want to experience with our children now (then adjusting that) has all been so liberating. It has certainly been another welcomed step on really understanding myself and being confident in our families choices and the way we want to celebrate christmas together.