Gift Ideas for Kids
Warning: This might sting a little bit.
I've been doing a lot of thinking over the past week or two. There have been days as we've traveled that we wondered if our children were getting much out of this new life.
I think it's good to take a step back every once in a while and consider how things are going in life and whether you're achieving the goals you have for your family and yourself. We don't always meet our goals in the time frame we like, but one BIG thing we wanted to change about the way we think has made some progress. It is something that is hard to notice on the surface, but a simple question has revealed the answer we'd been hoping for.
"What would you like for Christmas?"
It seems like a pretty simple question, doesn't it? I mean, what American born child do YOU know that doesn't have a list a half a page long (or longer) of things he or she would like to see under the Christmas tree on December 25th?
Just two short years ago, that was the case in our house. But this year, those six simple words were met with blank stares from our 4 oldest children. Yes, our youngest little guy was very quick to answer: "I want an Angry Birds pen and a game for the Wii," but I'd say that 2 gifts on a Christmas wish list that would total less than $50 for a 4 yr old is pretty stinkin' rare.
My mom wanted to send the kids a little care package, so I went around to all 4 girls and posed the same simple question, but none of them were very quick to answer. And when they did, they were very simple and inexpensive gifts: a purse, a wallet, a new SD card for a camera, a camera case, an apron and a game for the Nintendo DS.
Now that doesn't sound bad for one child, does it? However, that was the ENTIRE list for FOUR girls, ages 7, 9, 12 and 14. Period. It has REALLY made us stop and think of the intangible gifts we are giving our children through travel.
Two years ago, the list included Littlest Pet Shop toys, Polly Pockets, pricey clothes for their American Girl Dolls, games for the Nintendo Wii, new cameras, other electronics and more.
What a difference 2 years can make.
So it got me thinking about WHY our kids don't have a long expensive wish list anymore. One reason has to be that they're not being bombarded with commercials all day long, promoting the newest "must have" toys. We get 3 US television channels here in Mexico, but we rarely watch anything on it. We don't get a weekly newspaper with sales flyers trying to convince us all that we need product XYZ to make this Christmas the best Christmas ever.
In fact, last Christmas in Costa Rica, the gifts were very sparse…we can only carry so much in our bags and frankly, there just wasn't much to ask for where we lived. That Christmas day, at least two of our girls said it was the BEST Christmas EVER! I think a lot had to do with spending Christmas with my great aunt and her family and experiencing a different kind of Christmas.
But another reason, I think, that they're not asking for a bunch of junk for Christmas is that they're beginning to realize that life isn't all about getting more stuff. Sure, we liked to think that we were teaching them that lesson while we were in the USA, but now we're actually LIVING it.
One of our girls seemed to really struggle with being content with what she had before we moved out of the USA. She'd get one thing and want the next version. She wanted a SECOND American Girl doll. And then more clothes. And the bed. And the wardrobe. And on and on. We talked with her about it, but it didn't seem to sink it. Now she's asked for ONE thing for Christmas.
This doesn't only apply to Christmas. We celebrate seven birthdays a year. That's a lot of cake (YUMMY!) and could be a lot of junk. When we lived in the USA, we'd let all the siblings go to the dollar section at Target or Dollar Tree and pick out something little for every birthday. And then there were the gifts from grandmas. I know all the gifts were given in love, but it got to be too much. (We had the yard sales to prove it was too much!) This year, we gave experiential gifts (horseback riding trips) and mostly consumable gifts like color pencils, notebooks, candies, etc. And we saw lots of handmade treasures like bracelets, paper games, etc.
My guess is that if most people took a peek into our birthday or holiday celebrations, they would think we're dirt poor. While we're not wealthy, we do have enough to give our kids almost everything they ask for. The thing is that they're learning not to ask for stuff that doesn't really matter. You can call me Scrooge, but if our kids can leave home at around 17-19 yrs old and not be drawn to spend, spend, spend (like many young adults do), we've done alright.
Now one thing they HAVE made big Christmas shopping lists for is a shoebox ministry our church runs to give gifts to local children and parents living in poverty. Ever since we brought home the shoeboxes, my girls have been asking when we were going to go shopping for their child's box. They were asking so much, it was driving me crazy!
As I looked over everything we've bought for these children we haven't met (but hope to meet when we help distribute the boxes), I realized that we were giving someone else's children MORE for Christmas than we were giving to our own.
Or are we?
Is it unfair that my kids get less than these other five kids? No way.
I don't share what we're doing to brag in any way…well, maybe I'm bragging on my kids because they're grasping the truth behind the saying, "It's better to give than to receive." It's a nice saying, but deep down, do you really believe it?
It is not too late for you this year. I want to challenge you to give away MORE to someone else than you'll give to your family this year. Make your own Christmas wish list small, if you have one at all, but make one for someone in need BIG!
Children really do learn more by what we DO than what we SAY. If you're frustrated because your children seem to want more and more and more and more…and there doesn't seem to be an end, maybe it's time to take a step back and think about the example you're setting. I know I need to be more content. It can be a daily battle and sometimes I lose.
I'm not against giving gifts. Just consider, for one tiny moment, that true happiness can't be wrapped in paper and have a bow slapped on top. Maybe it's time for us to start living in a way that shows it.