We Are Both Right

Keeping the Holiday Spirit With Gift Exchanges for Kids

 © We Are Both Right

© We Are Both Right

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.

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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.

Holiday Gift Exchanges — It’s All About the Kids

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Considering I’ll be at Amanda’s house this weekend for a holiday party, we figured it was time for us to agree on something (since we’re six weeks into this project of being on opposite sides of almost every issue).

So we’re meeting in the middle on the subject of a holiday gift exchange. It’s also the perfect excuse to kick off our very first Where We Meet Week, which will be a recurring feature on this blog as we cover some of the issues where we don’t disagree.

Ahh, there’s nothing like the holidays to bring people together.

Do you hear our husbands breathing sighs of relief? They were convinced we would sabotage our friendship with our (usually) dueling blogs, but we’re happily proving them wrong. Not to say we won’t still stage an eggnog fight just for laughs.

It was Amanda’s idea actually. (The gift exchange, I mean. Not the eggnog.) Since we are all feeling especially squeezed with our holiday gift buying budgets this year, we agreed (along with the other friends who will be in attendance) to coordinate a round robin gift exchange — for the kids only.

It’s something we’ve done in years past, and the kids love it. Usually, we (Amanda) puts their names in age order and decide if we’re buying up or down in age. That way, each child (mom) buys one present for another child. So if you have two kids, you’re bringing two presents and coming home with two presents. If you have three, you end up with three, and so on. Adjustments are made if you land before or after a sibling in age order, so that gifts aren’t exchanged within the same family. (It can get confusing, but I guess that’s why it’s a good thing that we all went to college).

This round robin gift exchange for our children is the highlight of the party — not counting the light saber fencing matches and them eating their weight in candy canes, of course. It makes me wish we had thought of this sooner.

Before kids (and even husbands), my friends and I used to exchange Christmas gifts every year. Then came the houses (along with new appliances, siding, landscaping and all that paint), and we started to become a little more budget conscious in our gift buying — making gifts of toilet seats (new, not used) socially acceptable.

When the first round of babies arrived, we switched gears completely and started buying only for the little ones (toys tend to be a lot less expensive than a cute handbag, and even toilet seats in some cases). But once the kid count exceeded the adults, our holiday gift exchanges between friends essentially disappeared.

So now the round robin idea lets the kids have all the fun, for a third of the cost. As for the adults — well, we’re happy to share a good meal and conversation while the kids do their thing. Call me old, but I’m to the point where being able to toast to a new year and having friendships that stand the test of time is enough of a gift for me. (And that’s probably something else we would agree on, right Amanda?)

How does your circle of friends approach holiday gift giving?