Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Christmas List

Going Green Mama dreads the day when video games are on the lists...

As a kid every August, I and my brother would love the day the Sears Christmas catalog arrived. We'd pour over the phone-book size directory of things to buy; write a lengthy list and at some point get admonished by my mom that they'd only spend $100 that year.

Those catalogs may be long gone, but the thrill of presents is still here for another generation.

But the funny thing is, if you ask my kids what they want, their list is strangely short. Until they stumble on the Target catalog in the newspaper ad piles (quickly siphoned off to the recycle bin) or (whoops) pass by the toy aisle after buying some replacement sheets. Then the dreams quickly widen with a string of "I wants" -- but are strangely forgotten by the time I get home.

I guess I'm lucky. Not once has these exposures lead to a longer Christmas wish list. I suppose that time will come, but right now I can consider myself lucky.

I'm in the strange position as a parent, as a consumer and as someone trying to lead a lighter life. I'm struggling to find ideas for my kids for Christmas for other people who ask what they want. And it feels strange, even contradictory to principle, to ask. After all, getting is not the point of Christmas.

I'd love to share with far-off family members who love to buy toys that what they really ask for is karate class or playing basketball. That they play with art supplies and balls more than Barbie. But I know the idea of experiences seems a bit difficult to wrap - though easy to ship - and there's that delay of gratification. But there's nothing wrong with that.

My daughter, who was bummed because fellow Scouts in her class went to Disney on Ice, will find her uniform under her tree - with the Disney on Ice princess show patch sewed on. Another Scout mom, who has three princess-loving daughters, initially passed on the idea, until she realized the girls could attend for the cost of a princess toy under the tree. They'll get tickets instead. My coworker, who was stumped on what to get her daughter, is doing the same.

This coworker wants instead of things to buy experiences this year for her family. While many families don't think twice about swapping gifts for a trip to Disney World, you can do this on a much smaller scale too.

Sometimes, the best gifts aren't things. They're memories. My children love their family. But what they want most of all, beyond the bows and baubles, is the gift of time. Playtime with their grandparents, their aunts, their uncles. And you can't just wrap up that with a bow.

How are you handling gift giving this year? Are you bypassing things for special memories?

This is The Green Phone Booth's submission for the December Green Moms Carnival hosted by Citizen Green on December 10th.  Pop over and read how green moms cope with the holiday season.


Laura said...

This year, I asked my family to help us work on the basement school/play room. So while the hubs and I are going to be painting and sewing beanbag chairs, they are shopping for crayons, paints, role play items and books. Their lists are short because I asked that they not overwhelm my home with "stuff" in the name of festivity.

sustainamom said...

I suggested experience gifts to the grandparents and they worried that the kiddo wouldn't understand why the cousins are getting more toys than him. I hope it will be easier when he's old enough to make a list himself.

Alison said...

I always gave 'doing things' to my neices and nephews. Took my nephew fishing on the lake, bought him and my neice a year pass to the local waterslide - well that one was a mistake...I was the only one who would take them and as I stumbled up the 90 steps for the 100th time I muttered - you lot OWE me bigtime ;)
I've given money for riding lessons. A handwritten voucher for snowgear for the following season (our christmas is summer) and so on. One year they got a backpacking trip on the coast with me. They still like dvd's tho....

Rosa said...

Christmas is the one battle I've given up on. It's just too important to all the grandparents (all of whom were tremendous cheapskates/experience people when they were raising us, btw.)

I do use the Christmas list as a deferred-gratification tool all year - my son has a June birthday, so for half the year we write stuff on the birthday list if he thinks he wants it, and for half the year he writes stuff on his Christmas list. But nothing stops the inflow of stuff from far-away grandparents and relatives, not for him and not for us. We do a just-before-gift-holiday purge of the house and call it a draw.

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

My parents like to sponsor a family membership for each of their children every year. I think it's nice b/c you can remind your kids each time they use the membership that it was a gift from their grandparents. But my parents also like to give a present that can be unwrapped for Christmas.

I think it's lovely your kids don't have a long list of wants at Christmas.

Wendy said...

We visited a local "historical reinactment" museum in our area, where my daugthers learned to use a drop spindle. My ten year old has asked for a drop spindle and wool carders so that she can spin her own yarn ;). It's a gift I believe I can oblige ;).

The other gift I always give is something homemade. Usually it's pajama pants, and it's become almost en expectation. The side benefit has been that my daughters see the value of hand-made gifts, and they're more likely to make something to give than to ask to buy a gift. It's pretty cool ;).


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