I love Christmas, and all that comes with it. The music, the decorations, the baked goods, the cards with family photos… I even love cheesy Christmas update letters! I love my lifetime collection of ornaments, and our family's adorable handknit stockings.
And the gifts.
The gifts are an incredibly important part of Christmas to me, and the worst words you can say to me around the holidays are: “We aren't going to do presents this year… except for the kids.”
As soon as someone utters those words, my heart sinks and Christmas essentially turns from a joyous celebration into another dreary family commitment that is going to involve eating too much and sitting around being bored. Here's the thing: I love giving gifts more than I love getting them. I buy presents for people I love ALL the time, and it makes me incredibly happy to do so. (I'm sure some would say that Gifts are my Love Language, right? I have the book but have never read it!)
A jar of interesting salsa for Jamie, a delicious smelling loose tea for my mom, it brings me joy to give these things to my friends and family. They're in my heart and my mind all the time, and it makes me happy to be able to demonstrate that to them.
Max is the same way, I can already tell. When I took him to the pumpkin patch, he was very concerned about getting enough pumpkins for everyone; I had to draw the line at Papa, Nana, Daddy, and Michelle (his daycare provider) but he really was disappointed that he had to leave behind the special ones he'd chosen for his cousins and aunties and uncles.
It's just like when I used to ask my parents “There's a Mother's Day and Father's Day… when is Kid's Day?” and they'd respond, “EVERY day is Kid's Day!” and I'd roll my eyes (I was a real prodigy on that, I was) and wander away. Now that I'm a mom, I totally get what my parents were saying… Max is in pretty good shape as far as wanting and needing things. (I love that in total, he asked Santa for 3 things, with a combined value of less than $20! LOL) He often gets to eat what he chooses, he gets new toys on a semi-regular basis, has a wardrobe to rival any retail store (thanks, hand-me-downs!) and his biggest worry in the world is when a public toilet is too high up for him to pee standing and I make him sit.
I need Max to learn the joy that comes from giving. I need him to take his saved up change from his piggy bank and spill it across the coffee table and count it out, and to ask me if $5.92 is enough to buy something for Daddy for Christmas. I want him to proudly choose trinkets at the elementary school boutique, pay for them with his money, and then wrap and deliver them to people he loves.
Saying that “We're only doing gifts for the kids” takes that joy away. Away from him, away from me, away from the holiday. For now, Max's gift buying money comes from me, but in a few years, he will absolutely be buying his own gifts to give. I think it's an important lesson, and if he doesn't want to or can't spend his money of gifts, I will help him come up with gifts to make.
That's the thing; Christmas presents aren't about the gifts, they're about the giving. Of taking some time out of your own life, to think about someone else; a batch of favorite cookies, a picture painted just for you, a letter detailing the reasons you love someone, and why they're special to you. These are all gifts that cost next to nothing, and are worth the absolute most.