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Why I Stopped Giving My Kids Gifts

I make a huge deal about holidays. Halloween is hands down my favorite, but when it comes to birthdays, I throw the biggest damn parties for my kids known to man. Christmas? Get outta here. I put Santa to shame.

Or… I used to. I used to make a huge deal out of birthdays and Christmas. I have to say, I felt a pang of guilt this year nogiftwhen I didn’t throw the usual costume party for the boys birthday, and another one when the kids came running downstairs on Christmas morning and only had presents from Santa to open–but it quickly passed. I have good reason.

No, the kids weren’t that bad. I didn’t cancel their party and donate their gifts and fill their stockings with coal. I mean, I can’t say I haven’t been tempted, but that’s not what happened.

It’s been tough watching my kids grow up so quickly. Realizing that before I could even really savor an age (as awful as it may have been many days- hello Holy Fuck Fours), it was over. Realizing that moments were passing by too quickly. Days, weeks, months, years. Holden is in the third grade. A few more years and he’ll be in middle school. Parker isn’t that far behind him. Where did these school years go? The summers felt like eons and yet not nearly long enough at the same time.

Birthdays came and went, Christmas after Christmas passed, and each time, my kids would be given gift after gift that only took away even more time. Stuff is awesome. I love stuff. I have tons of stuff. My kids have tons of stuff. There’s nothing wrong with stuff- but only about 10% of this stuff gives me time with my kids.

The numbers don’t lie. There are only 940 Saturdays between your child’s birth and the time they turn 18.

The first time I read that number, it was staring back at me through my computer screen. Some parenting website somewhere–some image created– and while most internet stuff aimed at parents that isn’t humorous doesn’t get to me, this did.

940 Saturdays until my kids might think they’re too old to hang out with me. 940 Saturdays until they’re busy with their own lives, college, or work. 940 Saturdays of childhood. That’s not just not enough Saturdays, it’s not enough Sundays or weeks, or summers, or school years. It’s not enough–and as much as I love stuff, stuff isn’t making those Saturdays stretch out any longer. Not in the way I want it to. Not in the fulfilling way I need it to. That’s when I made the decision- no more stuff. I don’t want to be a family of stuff. I want to be a family of EXPERIENCE. I don’t want to have a house full of crap that means nothing. I want to have a head full of memories of amazing experiences we shared. I want to be that obnoxious story-telling family. I want to have once in a lifetime adventures that we remember forever. Sorry, Lego- as much fun as my kids have fighting over pieces, and as long as the bruises you give me last on the bottom of my feet, it’s (thankfully) not a lifetime.

Sure, I absolutely remember some Christmas mornings. I remember some toys I was given. I remember being so focused on what I was getting and disappointed in what I didn’t get that it clouded the happiness that should have surrounded the day- the feeling of togetherness and family often didn’t matter all that much. I wasn’t spoiled- I was just focused on the wrong thing, and I don’t want that for my kids.But what I remember more are the adventures I went on with my family. Road trips, days at the beach, the awful times we went camping, being sprayed in the face by a Walrus at Sea World. Just little things here and there that my parents did with me and my brother when they could have just gotten us stuff.

I never want to look back and think- man, I wasted so much time with my kids getting them everything and doing nothing. I want to think- we did EVERYTHING- what else could we possibly need?

There will always be STUFF, but my kids won’t always be kids.

Posted on January 5, 2016 by Holdin' Holden 1 Comment
Holdin' Holden

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  • Thank you for writing this, I never really thought about it from that angle. I think I will bring this up to my husband.