Guest Post by Natalie Lewis
(You can read more from Natalie's heart at www.lewisvillelife.wordpress.com)
Last year, on our daughter’s 1st Christmas, my husband and I started to implement the “4 gift rule”. Well, actually we added another category that we thought was a part of it and so ours is really a “5 gift rule.” Last year implementing this rule was not hard at all, considering we could have wrapped an already-owned toy and she would not have known any different. This year, however, has proven to be a little more challenging. Reese is still not yet old enough to have Christmas expectations, so the challenge was solely in the hearts and minds of her parents. I have to admit, it was tough walking around Toys R Us on Black Friday with my husband and not giving into the “oh just one more thing…” mentality. I already had to fight off feelings of guilt and discontentment.
But, as of now we are heading into this Christmas with 5 gifts to give our daughter.
Before I move on I do want to make something clear: this blog is not at all written with the intention to make anyone feel guilty. I’m not trying to draw anyone’s line for them or even say where I think it should be drawn. Because I don’t know. While my husband and I seek to be intentional, we are naturally very spontaneous and “wing it” sort of people. So this new “tradition” is held with really open hands. We liked the idea behind it and we wanted to give it a try. So, we’ll keep re-evaluating and re-adjusting as needed. Or maybe at some point we will scrap it all together. But for now, here are the unspoken and spoken messages we want to be sent to our kids through each specific gift-
Something you want: We care about your enjoyment and we want to invest in things that make you excited.
Something you need: We want to be aware of and provide for your needs. Some years this might be a physical need while others it may be more spiritual, emotional, or relational.
Something to read: Your brain is an invaluable gift that is worth being fed and stretched and invested in. “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr Suess
Something to wear: We want you to know when you get dressed in the morning that you are protected and provided for, as much as it is up to us. We want you to have shoes to run in and a jacket to keep you warm. We also want you to be able to express yourself- who you are and what you like- through what you wear.
Something to share: Others matter. Gifts aren’t just for or about indulgence and they aren’t just about us. Shared possessions can lead to shared enjoyment and experiences, and that is often better than the gift itself.
Even more importantly though- whatever we end up doing in the years to come- here are the underlying questions we want to ask ourselves each Christmas as we decide how to navigate things like traditions and gifts and family values-
Overall, we want to ask ourselves what a specific gift (or the way we “do gifts”) is teaching our kids about the rest of life. Do these gifts and the way we are going about them promote what we are trying to teach them every other day of the year? Is Christmas an isolated event in our life or does it flow with what we care about every other season of the year?
Something I read in a blog a while back that really struck me was the idea of setting your enjoyment bar. She talked about the need to often times set our bar lower in order to enjoy more frequently and more deeply. If our enjoyments are only found in the highest of highs, then we are always waiting around for the next big trip or gift. And then we go to the next level by trying to always top them. Instead, we need to learn to enjoy what we often dismiss as simple or mundane. Enjoyment can be guided and learned.
We want to teach our kids, and our own hearts, that gratefulness springs from a heart of contentment and ungratefulness springs from one of comparison. Instead of looking around at what others have we want to practice looking at what we have. We want to verbally practice saying “thank you.” Our heart will get there if our mouth starts there.
It is so easy for the Holiday season in particular to bring a sense of entitlement. We can subtly believe that we deserve gifts because “that’s just the way it is on Christmas.” Instead, we want to remind and recognize that all gifts are, well… gifts! If we are “owed” something, it ceases to be a gift. You do not “deserve” a gift more than the kid down the street whose parents were not able to afford any this year.
Gifts are about more than just you
With every gift there is both a giver and a receiver. We want to instill eyes that see the giver behind every gift. To see an actual person who is using something of their own- likely time and money- in order to give you something. Gifts are also given to do more than just hoard and keep. The more we get the more we are able to give.
Farah's Thoughts: My husband and I have followed this gift-giving format for about 7 years now and have enjoyed it so much! A friend first shared it with us, so I wanted to share it as well. However, when I read Natalie's blog about her own experience, she said so much of what I would say. She even included not trying to convince anyone, holding it with open hands, altering it for their own family, and the "share" gift. We call those "together" gifts in our family & they leave us room to buy things our children can use to build sibling or friend relationships. About 5 years ago, we added a "tool" category. The first year, we bought tool boxes and the grandparents joined in. Each bought their favorite tool adding a note with ways they use it in life. Our daughter's box is more of a heavy duty sewing kit that can hold a hammer and level etc. in the top lid section. David and I now add one tool to each child's toolbox annually and when they move out, they should be set to hang some pictures, sew on lost buttons, and complete minor repairs. Now that they are older, we try to find ways we can use our tools to serve others together as a family at some point during the year.