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.