At this time of year, ads for holiday gift giving barrage our TV’s, computers, newspapers, and our eardrums. Often, these reminders about the need to buy gifts or risk a bleak Christmas feel relentless. For most parents, December quickly becomes all about pleasing our children and chasing whatever they want/need/beg for. There’s one British mom who bought 300 gifts for her three children; you cannot even see her Christmas tree behind all the presents in the picture she posted on social media. When you Google anything relating to “gifts” and “parents,” you find two categories: gifts parents should get their kids, and gifts adults should give other parents (sadly, sleep or extra patience aren’t on that list).
But as parents, there’s something even more important than getting our kids the perfect gift(s). Something we all need to do: teach our kids to get us gifts. I’m not joking.
Presents are undeniably huge in the lives of our children, and we may never succeed in extricating the spirit of Christmas from huge, brightly wrapped boxes. But we all know that no gift, on its own, can create the magic of Christmas. Maybe that “magic” is so elusive as to be unobtainable, even if you buy 300 gifts. But what we parents can, and should, give our kids: a lesson in how to make the special people in their life feel special, at the holidays and any time of year.
However, there are several practical challenges. Maybe you are braver than I am, but it feels pretty squirrelly to approach one’s own kids, no matter their age, and casually ask “So, what are you getting me for Christmas?”
If there are two parents at home, each should help the other out. Take the kids shopping for Mom or Dad. Switch the parent and repeat. Easy.
If you are a single parent, ask a close friend, relative, or older sibling, to take the kids shopping…for you.
I’ve occasionally used humor to remind my kids that gift-giving is a two-way street and that I happen to live on that particular street. Sometimes it works. Sometimes, not so much. But definitely worth a try.
It’s just as important to encourage (or require) children to get gifts for other awesome adults in their lives: Uncle Billy, Aunt Perri, their teachers, babysitters, and grandparents. Small gifts are fine. You can make this fun and thoughtful.
However, another parenting challenge arises: Do you make your kids earn, and spend, their own money on gifts for you and other important adults? This can be tricky. I say: it depends. It depends on the age of the child and how many adults they are buying presents for. If they don’t have enough money, they can make presents – which are priceless no matter how they turn out. (When our mother died, we found piles of little trinkets we kids had made for her over the years – clay pots, drawings, strangely shaped pottery figurines. She saved them all. And I now have a very similar collection of things my own kids made me over the years. They’re going in my coffin.) There’s even a website devoted to ideas for kid-friendly homemade gifts.
The bottom line: something under the tree must be from your kids, not just for your kids. Although like much of parenting, this feels more like pulling teeth than making magic, this is the real gift of Christmas.