Parents are always trying to teach meaningfulness. (I think that’s a word). Especially around the holidays. We want our kids to really get the spirit of the season. We try to emphasize the “giving and appreciation” side vs. the “getting” and “all-about-the-stuff” side. I once heard a sermon that stuck with me and inspired me during the holidays. It was one of those “time to make your annual tithe” church sermons. It could have been the regular, annual “we need money for a new roof, parking lot, etc. etc” kind of speech but it was a lot more.
The basic gist of the sermon was meant to inspire us to not just tithe with a monetary donation. As a community we had a lot to give. The church needed people in a lot of ways, and all year long. Everyone has something to contribute to their community. Even the poorest of the poor have gifts they can share to make our world a better place. Kids (who have no money of their own) also have ways to contribute. When searching for a way to give we shouldn’t just emphasize the stuff we can purchase. Over time the commercialization of the holidays has made shopping our go-to option. But consider the three T’s: Time, Talent and Treasure.
Any busy parent will tell you they are short on time. Anyone who’s children have grown up already will also tell you what a precious commodity it is. So when you give someone the gift of yourself over time, for any purpose, it’s a precious gift. Make fun of those cute little “coupon” books that people might give out, but really, who wouldn’t want someone to shovel their sidewalk, pull their weeds, vacuum their house or babysit?! I don’t know about you, but sign me up! Teaching your kids to DO something for someone they love as a conscious gift of themselves will help them appreciate how much that can mean to people all year long.
Talent is a big one. A home made or home baked gift can be the sincerest form of appreciation for the receiver. My favorite presents to receive are always the yummy homemade treats people send at Christmas. I have friends with wonderfully gifted musicians (kids) in their homes. Holiday sing-a-longs with live accompaniment is a cherished memory for me.
My favorite holiday tradition is making gifts for my family. Years ago (after the above-mentioned sermon), I decided to implement a rule at our house that everyone had to make at least one gift for everyone else. I felt it would require, thought, time, effort, and our own individual talents. This tradition is still going strong in our family even though our kids are now in their 20’s. It lets each of us shine. This is where I apologize to them and my friends for years of sub-par crafting that was given with lots of holiday spirit and the best intentions. I hope this tradition never dies for us. I start conspiring in September. I give lots of thought and time to the development of something I can make that I hope they can use, enjoy, and maybe even love. My family is amazing at this tradition. My creative daughter uses her artistic gifts. She paints portraits and utilizes her photography talent to create keepsake mugs, artwork and calendars. This year she learned how to make bath bombs and soaps and hand crafted all of them for her friends and coworkers. My son and husband are phenomenal builders, and I have really cool stuff to prove it. They’ve built me garden planters, cool boxes and tables, and whatever I ask for. This year my husband is helping our son to build an elevated train platform to run his recently inherited train around our house, over our heads. It’s so fun to see what everyone comes up with. There are too many cool crafting ideas on the internet to not do this with your kids. We come up with really inspired projects every year.
I think “Treasure” is last by design. Buying a gift can be thoughtful and wonderful if done well. Teach kids to think about the person they are buying for. It’s amazing how much they can be paying attention. It’s a good idea to teach HOW to be thoughtful. Don’t ask what to get for someone when you are in a time crunch to get the gift. Have the conversation earlier. Teach them to think about it. Teach them to pay attention to details about the person they will be gifting. Notice what colors they like and habits they have. Then teach them how to find something meaningful. Because in the end, it really is the thought that counts.
Hopefully these skills will pay off for you too someday. I’m grateful that they have at my house. A little side story: One year that had been especially abundant at our house I went a little overboard. ( I really LOVE Christmas). I looked at the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve and thought, “It’s too much. We’re spoiling them. They’ll lose their perspective and appreciation.” I stressed all night and felt like a terrible parent. We woke up the next morning and both my children ran to the tree, but not for their own presents. They grabbed the ones for us. They wanted us to open them first. They weren’t blinded by their own gifts, they were totally stoked to give us ours. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and thought, “ok, maybe I haven’t totally messed them up”!
This year’s gifts. Lots of building and painting! (And ordering online!)
The elevated train tracks over our living room. Merry Christmas to my son.