Christmas shopping. ‘Tis the Season…
I am going to make a confession. A few years back someone sent me one of those emails where you answer a bunch of questions to get to know your friends better. I sat there and answered every question. I arrived at the question that wanted to know which I enjoyed more – giving presents or receiving presents. This was a no brainer for me. Giving them of course.
I have always loved giving presents. I love to shop for other people. I think of things all year long that someone might like to have. I see something and immediately file it away in my brain. For years we would take family trips and I would “Christmas shop” while we were there. On Christmas I would be so excited to give gifts from our escapades.
I very rarely ask someone what they might like to have. Lately, I started to wonder if this made me selfish. It’s not that I don’t care what they want – I just already have ideas. I have always put a great deal of effort and thought into gifts. I try to find things that relate to their hobbies or things that I know they wouldn't splurge and buy for themselves. If I don’t ask what they want and give only what I want to give them, have I made their gift all about me? I just thought that that is what made a gift, well…a gift.
In the past it was easy to shop for my children for gifts. But as they have grown, their tastes are a bit technological and for lack of a better way of putting it – expensive. Gifts have erupted into quite a flamboyant thing now. The days of Playskool gave way to very costly Lego projects which became steep robotics kits. Kids Now CDs erupted into iPods, Itunes cards, IPod players, ear buds and thanks to Apple a new generation released every year to be nagged about. Little Nerf toys evolved into lacrosse sticks, college footballs, and fancy basketball shoes. Board games like Candy Land have been exchanged for Nintendo, Playstation and Xbox – let’s not forget how many Roman numerals can now follow the names of the game consoles timed perfectly before each Christmas season.
I dread the yearly phone calls and emails from friends and family members wanting to know what they should get the kids. Everything is expensive and confusing. $60 for a video game – which Call of Duty is that again? Ipod cases for which generation? So you try to go with clothes. $50 for a hooded sweatshirt. What size does he wear? 16-18 is that a boy’s extra large? What would it be in a men’s size? I try to give reasonably priced ideas. You know tone it down a bit from their typical teenage world of want.
Now don’t get me wrong. I always ask my kids what their Christmas WISH List is – but I don’t necessarily stick to it. I know my kids pretty well and I usually have some good ideas sloshing around in my brain so that I’m not stuck with their list of accessories for their airsoft or paintball guns. But this year my mother wanted written Christmas lists from all of us, due on Thanksgiving Day.
I had a dialogue with my kids as they prepared these lists. We talked about prices. We talked about necessity. We talked about making sure that you didn’t tell everyone in the family to buy the same 3 things. We all turned our lists into my mother – my husband and myself included. So for the past couple of weeks these lists have been shuffling around. Emails back and forth between relatives sharing who got what off of each list.
So this morning I was up early looking at everyone’s lists. Adults and kids alike. Searching online to see what it was that everyone was eagerly awaiting to receive. I found myself getting pretty grumpy. Shopping from a list stinks. There I said it. I don’t like it. I don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to find these specific things. I started to realize that I am not looking forward to the Christmas gift exchange this year because I am not excited about the things that I will be giving. Not to mention the fact that these were very short lists. It wasn’t like there were dozens of ideas to choose from. We’re talking 5 maybe 7 suggestions at best. Doesn’t this mean that when they open their gifts they will know what they are and have anticipated them? What fun is that? According to me, none at all! So when I prepared my list – it had 30 items. That’s right my list was TWO pages long. But not because I am so greedy that my list ran on forever – but because I purposefully planned that I could still be surprised on Christmas. I didn’t want to KNOW what was going to be in that gift wrapped box. I might be all grown up - but I'd still like some suspense and fun!
While writing this piece I thought about the meaning of gift. I mean literally, the definition. The first definition refers to “a notable capacity, talent or endowment”. That was the number one definition. Then I proceeded to the second definition – “something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation.” Then I glanced at the third and final definition – “the act, right or power of giving.”
I immediately made a connection. The first use of the word “gift” involves something we don’t get to “choose” or “request”. What talent were you given that you requested? As far as I know, the talents I have received, came without asking for them – they were chosen for me and completely innate aren’t they? Then I thought about the second one – “voluntarily transferred”. I let those words sit a minute. When I purchase a gift, I am voluntarily doing so. I am not asking them to TELL me what to buy. I am voluntarily searching for the item that I feel will best transfer my feelings for them. Then I stopped at the third definition again. It is my “right” to give a gift to share and experience the power of giving.
Then I remembered a conversation that I had with my 12 year old son. Now this is my son of very few words. He doesn’t have much to say most of the time and very rarely interjects any sort of opinion. Most times whatever the other person wants is fine and he is most content and happy when he doesn’t have to make a decision because he truly doesn’t have a strong feeling one way or the other. Just a very complacent child. When the whole “list” thing came into play – he told me he didn’t want to make a list. He said he wanted to be surprised. He explained, “The best presents are always the things that I didn’t think of myself. The things that someone wanted me to have.” That’s one smart kid right there.
Note to self: A gift is something that I will choose to voluntarily give to show the transfer of my love for someone and allows me the right to feel the power of giving. When I receive a gift I will be thankful that someone chose to voluntarily transfer their love to me allowing us both to experience the power of giving.
Now I am ready to Christmas shop. How about you?