Christmas is less than three weeks away. In past years, I would have completed my shopping by now. Indeed, in past years my shopping has always been done by about the middle of October. This year presents new challenges and I don’t know what to do about them. My kids are too old for gifts, but not too old for Christmas.
I prefer not to receive presents at Christmas. For years, my wife told me that I was selfish not to want gifts at Christmas or my birthday because I was generous with everyone in the family and they wanted to return the generosity. I never really saw the wisdom in that. If I am happy giving and everyone else is happy receiving, it seems like a win-win scenario to me.
This year I am beginning to see my wife’s point. I love buying gifts for my kids, but neither has expressed any real desire for anything and I cannot find anything that I think they will actually enjoy.
Unfortunately, both readily admit that they will be upset if they do not have presents under the tree on Christmas morning. (The quandary is even greater for my elder son who has a birthday a week later, and who also wants to open gifts on his birthday).
Please understand that neither son is mercenary. They are not looking for stuff, as much as they are looking for the experience that they have enjoyed for so many years. For them, there is still a magic in the receiving part of Christmas, but they both acknowledge that they really do not want or need anything in particular. Moreover, neither wants to receive cash because it is too impersonal.
What is a Dad to do? I am pleased that my kids are beginning to look at things from the perspective of what they want and need as opposed to their more youthful yearning for things that were far from practical or even desirable. Yesterday, one son was chatting with a friend about Christmas lists and I overheard him tell his friend that the friend was being foolish in asking for football shoulder pads because (i) the friend did not play tackle football, (ii) if he did play tackle football, the pads would come with his uniform, (iii) his Mom would never let him play tackle football, and (iv) since none of the other neighborhood boys had pads, he could not even use them in pick up games.
Everything that my son told his friend was true and I should be happy that he could be so candid and practical in giving his friend advice. At the same time, I know that I now have a greater challenge this year because my son (both sons, really) want to have the experience of a child at Christmas even though they are thinking like adults.
That is a feeling that I wanted when I was a teen, but have never really had since I was about eleven or twelve years old. In order to wow me with a gift, a person needs to know me so well that they can find something remarkable that I cannot find for myself. It is not the cost that matters, but the thought that goes into the gift. That is a very high bar and few people have ever reached it. So few, in fact, that I have asked that no one give me any gifts. I do not ask that out of spite or disregard for my family, but because I am truly happier enjoying watching others open gifts than opening them myself.
This year, however, my kids have set the bar high and I am not sure how I will reach it. They still want the experience of opening gifts. More importantly, I want them to have gifts to open, but I do not want to buy gifts that they will not want or need merely to give them presents under the tree. I encourage them to think about one special thing that would make them happy on Christmas Day but, as one son told me, “I’m happy with everything I have. I could tell you I wanted more stuff, but I would not be telling the truth.” At the same time, he does want the feeling of being a kid one more year at Christmas.
How would you give to older children who seem content with what they already have, the sense of wonder that a younger child gets when he or she first approaches the presents under the tree? I have not many days to sort this one out…