This is a post I’ve been writing piecemeal for a while, and I finally decided it would be a good Feel Good Friday post. Because presents are supposed to make us feel good, right? Both giving them and receiving them. But too often they DON’T make us feel good. We feel stressed about choosing them and paying for them, stressed about the circumstances under which we give them or receive them, stressed about making sure we (and our children) express our gratitude promptly and sincerely when receiving a gift, guilty when someone is too lavish with their gifts or when someone gets left out, and on and on.
Do you give handmade gifts? Gifts of donations to charitable organizations? Do you give tickets to events or lessons? Have you ever given a gift of your time or talents? Parents, do you balance gifts for multiple children by number? By dollar amount?
Michael and I have been married for over twenty-four years now, and the boys are nineteen and twelve. If there’s a wrong way to do it, we’ve done it. So how would I do it if I could start over? I’m so glad you asked!
1.) Handmade whenever possible. Before I had children I used to make one cross-stitch Christmas gift a year. I have a sister-in-law who crochets the most beautiful afghans, and one year we got one for Christmas. I adore it and still use it all the time. I probably got it ten years ago. One year my aunt essentially fed us all winter with canned and frozen delicacies.
2.) Use your talents. Do you have a photographer, seamstress, artist, or anyone with any talent at all in the family? Put them to work! Have someone with a lovely speaking voice and a dramatic flair record favorite stories for their younger cousins. Order an enlargement on canvas of a favorite photo.
3.) Give your time. Do you have a green thumb? Offer your services for a weekend in the Spring to plan, plant, and weed. Offer to babysit so parents can have a night out, or even (gasp!) a weekend away. If you know people are remodeling on a budget, offer to come help paint.
4.) Give someone else’s time. Give a Zoo membership as a family present. Give tickets to a show or concert. Give a child gymnastic lessons, karate lessons, or dance lessons. I’ll always remember seeing one of my nieces open a present from her parents (I think it was a birthday present) and there was a wine-colored leotard. She opened it and got a HUGE smile on her face, and her mom asked softly, “Do you know what that’s for?” It was because she had advanced to the next level in her dance classes (each level evidently had its own color), and those classes had been scheduled. PERFECT!
5.) Rein it in! One of the best ideas I’ve ever heard is giving each child three gifts, symbolic of the Three Magi. If you are a grandparent, you get to give two gifts. This effectively reins in parents’ and grandparents’ shopping and children’s greed. Great post, click on it.
6.) Give and receive with joy. Find the gift that feels just right for someone you care about and give it. Don’t stress about whether or not they will understand the sentiment behind it, the hard work that went into it, or the hours you worked to pay for it. Just give it with a glad heart. And be thankful for everyone who sends you a card, tells you “Merry Christmas” or gives you a gift of any kind. They have made an effort on your behalf, and you should appreciate that.