We're pretty lucky in our family. I can cross off three out of four of our birthdays in May alone! Then Christmas and the fourth birthday are taken care of in December. This makes for a lot less time worrying about buying and giving presents and a lot more time thinking about how much stuff we have.
In fact, all of that thinking about not buying presents gave me a thought: I really can't imagine having more things in my house. More toys, clothes, sippy cups... we've got so much already. I'm constantly packing and donating toys my boys no longer play with, it seems. Now, I don't want to diminish or sound ungrateful for the amazing generosity of our friends and family, we're beyond thankful for all they've given us... but it's just... so much. So much more than they need.
The mountain of toys in our post-Christmas apocalypse
My boys really do not need for another thing.
I know my favorite thing about presents... it's giving them. I spend extra time and care thinking about giving gifts to my own family, to our friends and to their families. I try to be thoughtful about my own gift-giving and I know how difficult it can be to find that perfect gift sometimes. Occasionally, before a birthday party or event, I get overwhelmed and buy something just to bring it... and maybe that's not the right approach.
What if nobody gave my boys presents anymore? What if we only gave GIFTS.
The gifts of experience, adventure and more importantly, familiarity that they truly need. Instead of the things (toys, games, clothes) that they didn't even really know about or want? The only thing I truly think my boys need to have is more time with their family...
So, starting now, this year, before the holiday season begins, I'm beginning a new tradition. Although we'll always be grateful for the presents we and our boys receive, I'd ask that our friends and family offer these experiences and time spent with our boys instead of money spent on them.
I'm not going to tell you what to do, or what to buy... but here are some suggestions:
Instead of buying my boys a toy lion, why not take one (or both) of them to the zoo to see a real one? To spend some time with a family member or friend would mean so much more to them than another toy.
Not a lot of time to give? What about contributing towards one of the (shockingly expensive) activities the boys will be participating in? Piano/drum/guitar lessons. Swimming lessons. Summer soccer season. Dance lessons.
Don't have a lot of money? (Hey, neither do we! No big!) -- How about just spending some quality time with the boys? Set a day and take them to the park. Take one of them on a bike ride. Take one to the movies. Take them to a local play center. Instead of investing in their toy collections, invest in your relationship with them.
These little guys don't need more stuff... they just want to hang out!
We have a really good friend who, back in May, couldn't make it to Cash's third birthday. She said she wanted to drop off a present at another time and I said, "He really doesn't need anything, but we'd love a visit! Actually, instead of a present, why not just take him and do something with him just the two of you?" In the end she, her boyfriend, and their friend and her daughter ended up going to the zoo with Cash and he LOVED it. He asks about this friend a lot now, and wants to spend time with her again because he enjoyed it so much.
This is what I would like for my boys to grow up with. Not mountains of toys (which are growing bigger by the minute, I swear!) but experiences and close relationships with the people in their lives who matter most.
Here's the thing: I always think about the what ifs: what if something happened to me? What if something happened to their dad? They've built strong bonds with some family members, but others are only seen on occasion and only for short periods of time. They're unfamiliar and being young, the boys often don't remember them on special occasions and it breaks my heart. Building relationships now with these family members and friends will only benefit them in the long run if something were to ever happen to us.
These are the things I think about, people. Deep, I know.
But seriously, if you're in our circle of friends or family, please don't buy my kids presents but instead give them the gift of your time and love. It doesn't have to cost anything, but it's really the ONLY thing they need.
Watch Christella discuss this post on HuffPost Live: