When did buying holiday gifts become a burden? Something that I feel obligated to do instead of wanting to? Schlepping through the stores, trying to find something — the perfect something — for that special someone (someones) in your life. It needs to be something they need, something they want and preferably, something that is on sale (and if it’s shiny, even better).
I’m being a bit harsh I think. But less than two weeks to go to Christmas and I think I’m shopped out.
I didn’t used to feel this way. I don’t remember how old I was when I started exchanging gifts with my friends, but I remember loving it. I was young — maybe 10 or 11 — and with the help of my mom, I would go to the local flea market and pick out something I thought they would like. Then, one day after school, we would all meet at someone’s home and exchange. It was so much fun — getting and receiving gifts with my friends. It made me feel so grown up.
As I got older, the gifts evolved and the number of presents I needed to buy increased. But still, I relished it all.
And then I had kids. And my thoughts on gift giving — and present shopping — diverged in two wildly different directions.
I LOVE shopping for gifts for kids. Love, love, love. It’s one of my absolute favorite things to do. Especially for little kids. Put me in a toy store and I’m thrilled. The lights! The noise! The pieces! The whole experience is so loud and chaotic and tactile — from browsing the shelves to offering up whatever it is I have ultimately decided on to the recipient. And when a kid opens a gift — a really good gift — well, the reaction is always worth it. Always.
And I think that’s why my feelings on buying gifts for grownups have diminished so much. I mean how exciting is it to buy a sweater? And how exciting is it to unwrap one?
That’s why as my friends got older and started having kids too, I was more than happy to stop shopping at the mall for them and start heading to Toys “R” Us for their little ones. But as the years when on, there were some complications. I had more kids than some of my friends and less than others. And some had no kids at all. So what do you do? Do you worry about keeping it even? Spell out in advance how much you should spend? Let me tell you, dealing with gift giving logistics can definitely suck the holiday spirit for sure.
That’s why I love the arrangement that I have with a group of friends from college (Suzanne included). We haven’t done it every year, but we have in the past and it has been really successful (and fun). Depending on who comes to our holiday get-together, there are four couples with anywhere between four and ten kids. To buy a gift for each child would be a lot (financially and planning-wise), so instead we do a round robin. This year, each child will buy a gift (or at least his mom or dad will) for the child who is directly below him age-wise. We had to do a little rearranging to make sure siblings weren’t paired up, but once we made a switch or two, it worked out beautifully. This year our big exchange will be this weekend at my house (which reminds me that I had better start cleaning!).
Everyone wins this way I think. The kids all get a gift, which is always fun, but they also get to help pick out a special present for their friend.
And we all get to spend an enjoyable evening together.
Despite our differences (see: this site) Suzanne and I are quite good friends who actually agree on many, many things (for example, our thoughts on whether or not it is a good idea to scale a building in an attempt to show certain boys how brave and strong we are, are eerily similar). And while there are myriad parenting topics that we disagree on, the truth of the matter is that we also tread on common ground quite a bit. So in the interest of celebrating our mutuality, we are both very happy (well, I’m happy, she’s enthused) to present Where We Meet Week, a series of posts where we see eye to eye. Like how she feels about the topic I just blogged on (and I’m glad we are on the same page because that’s how we handle gift exchanges with our families).
But just because our views are united, we still recognize that that there are many, many, many ways to parent — and dole out holiday gifts. So as always, feel free to tell us how wrong we are. We love that!
And don’t worry, next week we’ll go back to being contrary.
P.S. By the way, we are both “pro” scaling buildings. But to get that story, you’ll have to read our posts during Where We Meet Week: College Edition.