I love this gift-giving idea from Family Life Today founder Dennis Rainey. He wrote in a newsletter:
What’s your most vivid childhood Christmas memory?
For [my wife] Barbara, it’s the hours spent poring over catalogs, making lists of things she hoped to get. That’s what much of Christmas was about for her.
As we started our family, she was determined to create a better set of traditions for our children—a way to help them focus on Christ instead of what they hoped to get.
So when it was time to open presents, everyone in our family would go to the tree and gather the presents they were giving. One by one, we’d choose which gift we wanted to give next. And it completely transformed how our kids felt about giving and receiving their gifts.
We’re doing this this year in our little Blake family! Everybody is giving a small gift to everybody — and that’s all we’re giving within the family, except for stocking stuffers, which Beau and I will handle. It’s in stark contrast to last year’s approach, wherein Beau and I attempted to buy everything each kid had expressed interest in over the previous year. Impossible, expensive, and ridiculous.
This new direction, of course, means I’ve had to relinquish a little control in the gifting department. You know me — always keeping lists of what people want and need and striving to give the ultimate, perfect gift. But in order for my kids to truly grasp the meaning of giving gifts at Christmastime, they have to understand the process. They have to understand why we make lists of who all we need to remember this season. They have to experience the excitement of choosing whatever item they think is best in the store. They have to feel the pain of parting with “their own” money to benefit someone else.
I want them to feel like giving is their responsibility at Christmastime. Enter Mama’s relinquishment of control. Six-year-old Asher is pretty much old enough to choose what he wants to give to others. This does not mean he gives what I would choose for him to give. I’m trying to be good about it, but I’ll admit, already this year I’ve had to put the kibosh on a couple of his ideas and lead him in new directions. (He wanted to buy his baby sis a really hideous Christmas dress he found at the discount store; thankfully I was able to report to him that she already has a nice Christmas dress.)
And then there’s three-year-old Emi. If she’s turned loose with a shopping list, she inevitably chooses for others what she herself wants to receive. Hope you like Doc McStuffins lip gloss, Daddy. You know, because your lips get dry when you’re working outside.
The baby is the easy one. She has no idea what’s going on, so I remain in control and get to do all her buying for her.
I’m really excited about this new approach to Christmas giving and receiving for us. As a young family, we’ve floundered about for six years now trying to make sense of gift-giving. How many to give? How much to spend? Last year Beau and I attempted to get each kid everything he or she wanted for Christmas. We found it was not only impossible, because their lists are endless, but that before long they were opening presents with a glossed-over stare, barely noticing what they’d just unwrapped before they were looking for the next box. We finally, I’m ashamed to admit, snuck off and hid a few of the unopened presents and saved them to give at birthdays throughout the year.
Insane, right? But this new family tradition (dare I call it tradition yet?) makes a lot of sense to me. I picture us all sitting around the fire, exchanging inexpensive but thoughtful gifts, sipping hot cocoa, laughing and cuddling, singing Christmas carols, and making memories to last a lifetime. It’s very Norman Rockwell-ish…
until one kid pukes into her cocoa cup, we discover the kitchen water is frozen, we receive word that a pen of calves busted out of the feedlot last night, and then another kid pukes.
Okay, okay. Norman Rockwell might be out of our reach for a few more years in this family full of littles. But perhaps sanity is not. Here’s hoping for a sane Christmas 2016. And wishing you one too.
© Tami Blake