The countdown to Christmas has begun and from what I witnessed this weekend, the shopping frenzy has started. The malls are bursting with people and the hum of conversation almost drowns out the carols that are being played through the internal sound system. The parking lots have become more like scenes from movies like ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ or perhaps ‘Smash Up Derby’. Finding the perfect spot and securing it, before someone else squeezes in without a nod is quickly becoming the norm. Everyone seems to be in a rush to get the perfect gift for that special someone. Others have lists as long as their arm with names scratched out and check marks in the appropriate columns. Simply put, it’s a crazy situation out there.
Gift buying is such a beautiful thing, especially when it’s well thought out and not just a quick pick off the shelf. For many of us, we have been racking our brains for the perfect gift for our children or perhaps grandchildren. Advertisers are busy sharing their messages about their product through television, flyers and email notifications. They definitely influence us and sometimes help us with our purchasing decisions. Whatever the case may be, there is a message to ‘buy now’ and that without specific products both your child/grandchild and ourselves will be less of a human being if we don’t have or purchase the product of the season.
We recently read or heard about the chaos surrounding Black Friday shopping in the USA. One 61 year old man was trampled to death during a rush to buy. Another woman sprayed a fellow shopper with pepper spray, all in an effort to secure the product she wanted. This is where I question need versus want. Whenever buying, whether it be during the Christmas season or not, I ask myself and my children to determine whether the decision to purchase is based on a need or a want. I ask this just to give us a moment to pause and to consider.
A few Christmas’ ago my youngest (at the time she was 3.5 yrs old) was still at that tender age when the boxes and wrapping paper (post gift opening) were the most exciting part of Christmas morning. My husband and I had wondered what to give her, we considered the season’s popular Princess Barbie but knew that wasn’t really what made her smile. I think we considered it because advertisers were telling us to, yet it didn’t fit her personality, so what was the point of buying a $40.00 Barbie just because we felt obliged to.
As Christmas day approached and the excitement in the house grew with the impending arrival of Santa Claus, my little one found herself drawn to the tree. She simply couldn’t resist the shiny paper, the well-wrapped gifts shouting ‘tear me open’. She joyfully shook every gift and tried her hardest to peek, without tearing the paper. She kept track of the days through her chocolate advent calendar and would check the fireplace (on a regular basis) to make sure Santa’s landing place was acceptable. She was the picture of excitement and a beautiful example of what Christmas can bring to a heart, whether young or old.
Finally, the morning arrived and it was time to find out what was hidden beneath the shiny paper. Our designated Santa handed out each gift with a HO, HO, HO. The excitement in the room could have been bottled and sold for a hefty price. My youngest ripped and tore and unwrapped like a wild child. She squealed with delight when she saw ‘Darla’ the doll she had been hoping and praying for. There were a few barbies to add to her collection, however not the expensive and very popular Princess Barbie, yet even these caused her to jump for joy and giggle with excitement. In that moment, as we watched our three children unwrap their gifts, every line-up we had stood in, every wintery road we had driven on, every hour of wrapping felt so good and was worth it. Thankfully, we hadn’t gone overboard, we didn’t break our budget yet our kids didn’t miss out on any of the excitement of Christmas.
Finally, a few last little gifts were distributed. My little one was handed a flimsy gift that was wrapped in the ‘left over’ pieces of paper because this gift was mostly an after thought. Mustering the same enthusiasm as she had when opening her doll ‘Darla’ she tore open this seemingly lesser gift and much to her surprise and overwhelming pleasure it contained a pack of four Hilroy scribblers that cost a total of $1.49. You see, our little one loved (in her words) to do homework. From the time she could hold a pencil she would write, draw and scribble on any piece of paper she could find. So, in an effort to keep her homework and art together we bought her a set of scribblers.
After the lines, the consideration and the conversations about what to get her, our little girl stood in the middle of the room, surrounded by her new doll, her Barbies, some candies and a few other gifts and exclaimed for all to hear, “This is the bestest present I ever gotted”.
I share this with you to help take the pressure off. We are so conditioned, for a number of reasons, to think that our children need the latest and greatest in every area of life. The pressure can be overwhelming and at times crippling. Through this little story and the words of a 3.5-year-old may I encourage you to be creative and know that your children, like mine, will not suffer, nor will they be forever damaged if they don’t have exactly what they want, when they want it. Sometimes the greatest gifts cost the least.
Use kind words, your arms of love and hearts of compassion and see your family go from strength to strength.