An Uncomplicated Life Blog: How We Manage Holiday Gift Giving

Monday, December 2, 2019

How We Manage Holiday Gift Giving

With Christmas around the corner, my mom groups are talking nonstop about stocking stuffers and how each family manages gift giving. Here's what we've found to be most effective

All my kids are still young enough to believe in Santa. I'm not looking forward to the day where Henry learns there's not such thing, but until then, we'll Santa on! They each have stockings with their names on it hung over our fireplace. Personally, I wasn't aware there was a controversy surrounding Santa and the gifts he brings (or doesn't) until I was scrolling Facebook and saw all these moms get into heated debates about it. Then I thought about gift giving in general, and how my husband and I manage it, and realized yes - there absolutely needs to be a strategy if you've got a large family and many people who want to gift presents to your child(ren). In the season of giving, and as a person who is anti-materialism and consumerism, here's how we manage holiday gift giving. Hopefully, it inspires you to be more mindful about how gifts are given (and received) in your home, too.

There's a popular article circling on social media about the four gift rule: give your kids four gifts for Christmas - something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. Clever with the rhyming! And easy enough to implement. But what about family members that want to gift the kids things? What about Santa?

We have an interesting situation because we have all out of state family. Nobody is showing up for any holiday with gifts; rather, they ship them to us. Which works well, because I can run an interference! While I know they mean well, sometimes the gifts our families send are simply too many. Which seems like it would be a good problem to have, but let me tell you about what happens when your children have too many gifts: Christmas turns into a straight up nightmare. The kids get over stimulated and overwhelmed with all the opening and excitement of new toys. For the first few presents, everything is fun and watching your kids' eyes light up is the BEST. Then they start to get over-stimulated, and with every new present placed in front of them, they fall deeper and deeper into a whiny, overly excited and hyper-stimulated state. Soon, they're fighting over who's presents are who's and aren't listening because they want to go and play with the last toy they opened that really excited them. Things fall apart. Quickly.

If you're a parent of toddler aged kids or older, odds are good you've had this happen, be it Christmas or a birthday. It takes a fun celebration and makes it hell. Yup, hell.

Creepy Elfie watching the kids from the TV. Who came up with this tradition?!

What can be done about it? First, we ask our parents (the kids' grandparents) for contributions to their 529 college funds instead. Still, I know they find it fun to shop and wrap up presents for them, and despite everyone's best intentions, large boxes of presents show up at our door. I take one for each child, and place it under the tree. Not too early, because that's too much temptation for toddlers (and frankly, our 13 month old twins would open them and chew on the paper!) so a few days before Christmas, I set out a few of the gifts. I usually take what we get and cut it in half. The other half the kids get to open on their birthday. That's super easy for Otto since he was born Dec 18. Henry waits until his birthday in May (he never misses the presents he never sees anyway!) And yes, the twins will have to wait all the way until October to open the other half of their gifts. That's a long wait, so I try to put out any age-sensitive gifts first.

Honestly, last year my husband and I didn't do any shopping for the kids. What was sent to us from grandparents was far more than enough.

Now what about Santa? Growing up, Santa always gave me small gifts. Things like magazines, candy, new gloves or socks, and maybe a small accessory for a doll or stuffed animal. I'm talking gifts under $15! I think this is the best way to do it. Nothing expensive for flashy, just fun little treasures to open up on Christmas morning. This way, the "big gifts" are given the night before on Christmas Eve, and Christmas morning is spent opening a few little items from Santa, then playing with the toys from the night before.

I know some people like to have Santa bring the "big" gifts, but that's never been how my family has done it. Why? For starters, it makes your kids wake up even EARLIER on Christmas, since they're excited to see what they're getting. My kids wake up at 6:30am anyway, and I sure as heck don't want them getting up any earlier, especially after a night of having wine during Christmas Eve dinner! Second, why give "credit" of the expensive gifts to a make believe person? No, mommy and daddy or grandma and grandpa got you that! Not every child's family can afford some of the gifts my kids are able to get, and having that come from Santa sets up my kids to be "bragging" or make others feel bad about what Santa brought them. That's too intense for a make believe character for me. Third, what do you do after your kids are too old to believe in Santa? Or when one is but the others aren't? Just transition those gifts from coming from Santa to magically coming from family now? That doesn't make sense to me, and it certainly doesn't make sense to your kids.

I think the theme of our holiday gift giving is attempting to simplify. Some years I'm better at it than others. Some years it's easier than others. But the attempt is always there, to curb meltdowns and over stimulation. In a world of materialism, I want my kids to focus on what the season is all about: love, family and togetherness. Celebrating the birth of our Savior. Not new toys and technology and bikes and games. None of that will mean anything to them in  a few years, but spending time together will create memories that will last a lifetime. Creating holiday traditions will last and perhaps even carry over into when they start their own families. THAT is what's really important; not the gifts. Simplify your holiday gift giving and watch how much more fun the Christmas season is, both for you and your kids.


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