After writing the gift guides this year, I thought it would be fun to ask – What is on your family’s actual Christmas list? Since my guides tend to be things we already own and love, our actual lists are usually more specific to our family and things I haven’t had a chance to try yet.
Gift guides and gift buying can become such a beast. I have learned that I really like to get my shopping done early so I can tune out the ads, deals, and commercialism of the holidays. Having gift buying checked off my list helps me focus on the quieter traditions with my family – like baking cookies together to deliver to neighbors, going to see Christmas lights around the neighborhood, picking out our tree and seeing the Christmas train at the hardware store, watching Frosty the Snowman. These are gifts too – of time and tradition and love.
Even with an intention towards simplicity I had a major freakout one night trying to pick out Christmas pajamas. It was silly, but I think I was so caught up in the “needs” that I forgot the big picture. It’s not about the stuff at all. And we give gifts as a tangible reminder of God’s great love for us.
I know some people do the “want, need, wear, read” strategy, which is genius. We haven’t gone that route yet, but I could see us doing that in the future. Mostly I try to keep a running list (on an actual notepad in our kitchen and an Amazon list) of things Zach mentions he needs or what I notice the kids could use. Then I reference that in November and try to write out my master shopping list. This year, Zach and I both asked for new coats – mine and his. He also asked for a new running shirt, a wool hat, and of course “cushy running or hiking socks.” The guy loves socks. I have a few little surprises I picked out for him (but I can’t write them here or he’ll see). Black high rise denim was at the top of my list, along with a belt, soccer pants, and the cookbook I can’t get enough of. In my family we exchange names, so it’s fun if you include a few extra things on your list so the person can pick out a surprise. We keep a google doc for everyone to fill out, and inevitably someone (aka, my dad) goes in and hacks the list to put in some gag gifts.
For the kids, I admit, it’s so tempting to want to shower them with gifts, because I love them so much. Each year the holidays double in fun as they notice and understand more of the story of Jesus and the traditions and carols, but also they notice the commercialism and all the stuff. That can be hard if they start asking (demanding?) certain gifts. This week, I was going through Trader Joe’s with the three of them in my cart, and the urge to buy all the limited edition Christmas goodies was strong.
If you’ve felt this way too and want to curb the impulse buys, I think it helps to remember a few things. First kids get overwhelmed by excess. If they unwrap one or two gifts, chances are they will play with that new toy all morning. If they unwrap ten gifts, nine will be in a pile on the floor and they will play with one. Second, the entire morning is a gift. It’s a time to be together, put away distractions, play on the floor, bake snowman pancakes, tell each other how much you cherish them, act out Luke 2 with the nativity set, and generally snuggle together. It’s not just about the presents under the tree. And third, your kids will think whatever your family does is normal (generally speaking). As young parents, we have so much power to create our family’s culture. When I spoke at a MOPS group earlier this year, one mom (who had teenagers, I think) was almost lamenting giving her kids IPADs the year before – Where does she go from there? Her kids now expect something bigger and better this year. She spoke from experience to the younger moms: keep it simple when they’re little. Don’t train them to expect this big material holiday. And I think that’s what stuck with me – even in gift giving, we’re training our kids. And there is no right or wrong way of going about it, but it’s not neutral and it’s not forced on you. You get to decide how you want your holidays to look, and hopefully you can feel great freedom in that. Don’t let stores or gift guides or the way your family did things when you were a kid dictate what you would like to do now as a parent or even just an adult in your home.
This year, Evie (our four year old) is getting a little Calico Critters bear family to add to her dollhouse, a pair of Christmas pajamas, and cute heart socks. Tommy (our three year old) is getting a few Schleich knights and a Timex kids watch. They are both getting their own Preschool activity book. The boys already have Christmas pajamas that Evie and Tommy wore a couple years ago. Theo (our one year old) isn’t really getting anything, and he will probably happily play with the cardboard boxes and wrapping paper all morning long.
So what’s on your list, friend? How do you go about the gift buying process, and how do you feel about the whole thing? What are the traditions you’re most looking forward to? If we were sitting down to coffee, these are the things I’d love to talk about, but we can make do with the comments instead!
PS: If you have felt stressed as a mom at the holidays, this song is spot on.