Christmas trees have appeared in the big box stores in my area. Wreaths, garland, and red velvet ribbon can be easily located. I’ve yet to hear carols piped into the mall, but my bet is that it won’t be long.
This year we will be blessed with five little grandboys gathered in our home for the holidays. A sixth is waiting in the wings, scheduled to arrive after the New Year. The boys range in age from 3 months to 7 years old. It’s going to be noisy. And messy. And all kinds of wonderful.
As “Papa” and I consider the gift lists, I feel certain I will be asked to do what I dread every year: take a trip to the toy store. It’s not a new issue for me; I didn’t like them when I was raising my own sons. The huge emporiums of battery-begging, plasticized wonders, with price tags that would make Saint Nick consider early retirement are not my idea of a good time. And the thought of that stuff finding a home at my house makes me a little woozy. I cringe at the spectacle the season has become, and wonder what God must think about it all.
Holidays are gift-giving opportunities, and I do enjoy seeing the faces of my boys, both tall and tiny, as they open something special, selected just for them. How do we keep our balance, with a focus on honoring Christ and enjoying gift giving and the blessing it brings?
Several years ago, before the grandboys began arriving, my hubby and I proposed a new Christmas plan to our sons and daughters-in-law. Our suggestion? A shared experience in place of gifts. There were a few raised eyebrows and requests for clarification, but eventually, thumbs up all around.
The first year we rented a mountain cabin where the snow and the crackling fire kept us inside playing games, watching movies and talking. Remember talking? It’s been downgraded thanks to the (anti)social media mania. The kids ventured out to ski and we all indulged in a quick snowball fight. We exchanged letters on Christmas morning, each writing a note to the others acknowledging the gifts and gratitude of doing life together. One of the best, ever.
Disney World was beautiful at the holidays, and one year we opted to delay the timing for some fun in the sun of California. As the years advanced, the first couple of kiddles joined us as travelers. I wouldn’t trade those trips and the time together for anything.
But this year with three babies 18 months and under, coupled with a very pregnant mama-to-be, travel is not an option. So we will enjoy time together with games and conversation and lots of meals in. I keep imagining the horror on the faces of restaurant owners (and fellow diners) at the request for three high chairs – at one table.
Logistics aside, the little ones will be wondering which packages under the tree might hold something special. So the toy store seems unavoidable. Or does it?
My niece, Amanda, posted a list entitled “18 Non-Toy Gifts for Children” on her Facebook page. The blog link revealed a list for toddlers as well. The blogger describes the life her family pursues as follows: My name is Rachel. I’m a minimalist, blogger, lover of Jesus, wife to Brian, mom to 6 and real food connoisseur. We live in a 1132 sq. ft. house, in Montana and strive for a simple life. I like her. And I respect her choice to live without all the stuff the marketeers work to convince us we must have.
The list is creative, with unusual suggestions like crafting dates, events, and memberships for the older kids. Books, games, and puzzles appear as steady eddie choices that never go out of style. The site, nourishingminimalism.com features healthy food, decluttering suggestions and living a simpler life where your things don’t own you.
So perhaps this year you might swim against the tide in the selection of gifts for your little ones. It’s never too late to make new choices. For the mid-centurians in the group, we’ve lived long enough to amass more than our share of stuff. There are two ways to be rich: make more or want less. Perhaps we can help influence the little ones to choose wealth by wanting less stuff and living more life. As grandparents, we have a responsibility to the next generations so Jesus, not things, becomes the focus.
And if it minimizes the time in the toy store experience, I’m all in!