'Tis the season to buy, buy, buy. And to prepare a range of sufficiently enthusiastic responses as you recieve. Ah, the art of sounding appreciative but believable as you open that dreaded gift from Aunt Millie. Lately, I've very much been enjoying the Old Navy ads on the subject. I think I'll get my partner a flannel shirt, too....yum.
There are mountains of social and familial pressure that comes with this consumerist extravaganza, as if love = gift, and especially as if love = pricetag. As someone preparing to celebrate a child's birthday in this season, I am delightedly breaking with tradition. We are going to have a 'presence, not presents' party, with suggestions for organizations who could use donations, since note everybody can shake the gift-giving habit just 'cause their hostess says so. And yes, people feel uncomfortable, even slightly offended by this decision - as if I'm casting aspersions on them, and their celebratory habits. Well, okay. I can see that.
Admittedly, I have two ulterior motives. First, is that I can see just how easily my kid could become the 'hi, what did you bring me' kid, turning a day that should celebrate him and his relationships, his family, his friends, into a day marked by its potential for greed. (shudder) Second, though, is that I'm hoping to be part of a new trend, freeing friends from the gift-giving treadmill for kids' birthday parties. My kid has playdates with three other kids, goes to school with fourteen, and at, say fifteen bucks a pop, that's a lot of money going to let him show up at a party, wrapped box in hand. Ouch. Call me cheap, but while the first reason touches my philosophies of parenting, the second reason is happily trampling on our family budget.
But what it really comes down to is this: there is a lot of junk in this world, and there are fewer people who are near and dear to me. Need to give a gift? Give an experience: offer to pay for a gymnastics class, a swim class, a special trip to somewhere - and preferably, come along with them. Given my choice, I'd rather spend my time with my dear ones than plaster a happy look on my face for the scarf du jour. It is my hope to teach my sons to hold this value, though I do rather feel like I'm swimming upstream on this one. The gift of time, of love, of an experience that opens your eyes to possibilities - now that is a real present, no box needed. And it saves me time on trudging around to make all of those return/exchanges...