Sunday, December 20, 2015

Toys R Us or Time? Which gift will they remember?

We don't buy our kids a ton of gifts. For starters, we have four kids, a puppy, a cat, and one income. You do the math. There's also the fact that we want holidays to be about more than gifts. And we are doing our best to not raise entitled jerks. One of our kids went through this lovely phase where kid would open a gift, tear open next gift, get to last gift, and ask, "Are there more?" What a joy. (sarcasm!) We had some conversations and some consequences to nip that greedy behavior in the bud. Hopefully we won't relive it with Asher, but I won't be surprised if he does because kids don't come with instruction books, but they do need instruction.

We all know that time with our kids, attention, phone down, head up love is the gift our kids want, need, and will remember. Those are the gifts that will build relationships and grow love, not the new designer jeans or the mounds and mounds of gifts surrounding and dwarfing the tree. We all know it, but studies show that, despite our knowledge, we spend a boatload of money on gifts. This year the websites show we'll spend between $830-$1,270 on gifts and an average of $270 per kid. That doesn't count special dinners, new outfits, decorations, groceries for cookies, and all of the other things we think we must do every year.

On Saturday, I was wrapping up gifts for our kids. For the record, our kids want for nothing. They are clothed and fed and sheltered and loved. (I will readily admit that they often have really short pants because they just grow so fast, but they are clothed!) Yet I found myself buying into the hype. The beautiful packages, aglitter and bedazzled, and every last item on the long wish list checked off to ensure big smiles and lasting memories on Christmas morning. I found myself disappointed in the gifts were are giving, in the quantity. I imagined my kids disappointed.
(Not our house!)
I was lying to myself, believing the commercials and the consumerist hype. I was imagining that every kid would have more gifts than mine and they would be disappointed. I was being an idiot. That happens more often than I'd like to admit.

The truth is that the reason that our family celebrates Christmas is to honor Jesus and the beauty, peace, and love that his most unlikely of births brought and will bring to our world. We play games and sing carols and spend as much time with family as we can. We go to church and read from the bible, as well as lots of other Christmas books. We slow down, make fewer plans, and hibernate for a bit.

Most years our kids get three gifts from Jim and me. We joke that if three gifts were good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for our kids. Each kid also gets one gift from the other three siblings and one gift from Santa, for a total of five. Last month we got a new cat, nobly named Chandler Bobcat, and he required some rather expensive purchases, so we told the kids that Chandler was one of their gifts. They were over the moon about it, and it makes sense financially, yet there I sat, wrapping two gifts, feeling crummy.
Our sweet and snuggly Chandler boy
I posted about it on facebook, thinking that maybe others might be feeling the same way. I also shared this.
Because this is the truth. Most gifts will be forgotten, a new deposit in the land fill at some point in the distant, or even not-so-distant, future.

I also shared that we are giving each kid a calendar and an envelope full of special moments to share with just one parent. With four kids and two grown-ups, and one-grown up when Jim is traveling and traveling some more, one-on-one time is a hot commodity and a true gift for everyone involved.

A few people asked for more details, so here it is. We will give each child a wall calendar that matches their room or interests them. Audrey is getting a beach calendar to match her new beach mural and the boys are getting a baseball stadium calendar and a MN Twins calendar because they share a room and love baseball.

Isaac's calendar to write down our special dates
Along with the calendar, each kid will get an envelope full of special activities or fun surprises. Some examples are Pick a breakfast, picnic, ski day with dad, movie date, trip to the used book store, game of catch in the front yard, back rub before bed, hike, special braid, and bike ride. The best part is that it's one kid and one parent. I might be more excited about this than they'll be. Every time I have the chance to spend time with just one kid, I remember again just how much I sincerely like my kids, in addition to loving them like a crazy woman. Sometimes loving them is the easy part, so those reminders are much appreciated.
Isaac's list of fun parent/Isaac activities
There are many ways to celebrate and many reasons to celebrate Christmas. There are many ways to show love. Sometimes I think my ways aren't quite enough.
But then I think about what mattered to me growing up and what continues to matter now. I cherish the car rides looking at Christmas lights, the lefse making, the movies watched, the hours upon hours spent playing cards and board games, the living room dance parties, and the laughter.

Grandma said we looked like a field of flowers-Thanksgiving

Lefse making. The end product was our first failure at lefse, but we sure had fun.


hand, foot, and knee card game

ginger bread contest

books to remember why we celebrate
backwards plank sledding

silly matching pj pictures

Pure silly

Asher posed every single way we told him to. 


Searching for a Christmas tree

Cookies at nana's and babu's house

holiday parade of lights in Denver

Asher combined both of our nativity scenes for a big party for baby Jesus

Our small, up on lifts, Christmas tree, appropriately named Prince Malachi Cruise

Another beautiful snowy day, just perfect for sledding

A gingerbread house birthday party at a friend's house

cookie time

unwrapping kisses

Those are the things I want my kids to remember, too. Not the latest gadget or the most stylish jacket. The time. The laughter. The love.

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

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