Thinking outside the gift box

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Camden and Liam, Christmas 2013

During our family drive home from music lessons, jingle bells blared noisily over an ad for some big sale on the radio. In the backseat my eight-year-old, Camden, sighed heavily. “Mom!” he finally burst out. “It’s all so stupid. Everyone is so greedy! I think we should boycott all the Black Friday sales!”

I was speechless. Wow. Preach it, kid.

For a moment, I wondered whether he had heard me express similar sentiments or if he had come to this conclusion on his own. “What makes you say that, Camden?” I asked.

“It’s just so dumb. Everyone is so busy buying stuff they don’t even want to spend time with their families.”

Ah, Camden … always the deep thinker. I love that kid. And truthfully, a little excitement bubbled up inside me at the thought of him bringing up this conversation–one I’ve been dying to have with my family. He’s a lot more likely to listen if it’s his idea.

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Liam … probably wondering when we get to eat the candy house … Christmas 2013

Where are you, Christmas?

With each passing year, I find myself becoming more and more disenchanted with the Christmas season. Maybe that sounds cliche. Cindy Lou touches on the same emotion in “Where are You, Christmas?” so I know I’m not the only one. I get it. But then the question becomes: What do I do about it?

“You know, Camden … Your dad and I have been talking about this for a while,” I told my little boy. “We have been wondering how to make Christmas meaningful for you boys. We feel like it doesn’t matter what we buy for you; it will just get lost in the avalanche of gifts.”

On a side note, the word “avalanche” is not really an exaggeration. My sweet, sweet … very loved boys are quite showered this time of year. And it is no one’s fault. It’s just the way things have played out. We are a blended family. As a result of the divorce and both their parents remarrying, the kids now have not two, but FOUR families (including parents, step-parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) sending gifts.

Not only that, but their birthdays happen to fall in November and January, so … we officially have THREE MONTHS STRAIGHT of utter spoiling. Plus this year, Camden was baptized last month which brought another round of gifts. It’s pretty awesome. But whoa. At a certain point, It’s kind of overload too. We haven’t quite figured out how to sort things out yet.

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Camden, baby shepherd, getting ready for the Harrison pageant, Christmas 2007.

The lightbulb

“I have an idea!” Camden piped up. “How about we don’t do any presents in our family this Christmas! You know what I want instead of a present? To spend time with our family. That’s what I really want the most for Christmas–just to be together.”

I think my heart skipped a beat.

I know he’s not fibbing. He’s my little home-body. This is the kid that just wants to hang out at the house on Saturdays. He throws a fit if we have to run errands. I used to think he was just being difficult, but I’ve learned. He is perfectly content staying home playing with his little brother. “I never get to do that,” he tells me. “I never get to just be home and play with Liam.”

And he’s right.

Remember when we were kids? We used to have time to play with neighborhood friends, ride bikes, shoot baskets … whatever … His life just isn’t like that. I watch him scrambling to practice piano then catch the bus in the morning, zoom home at 4:15 p.m. with just enough time to unwind before hitting his homework, then dinner, some days he has lessons or scouts, and then the day is pretty much over. And then it all starts over again. What happens to the time?

“Wow, Camden. TIME. Time is a precious gift. Family time sounds like a pretty sweet Christmas gift. I love that idea. How about it? Let’s not buy each other gifts this year. Instead, let’s give each other gifts that don’t cost money.”

Camden practically jumped out of his seatbelt: “YES! AWESOME!” And I burst out laughing.

“Let’s do it!” We all agreed.

Christmas list

So if we aren’t buying each other stuff, then what are we gonna do on Christmas morning?

Here are some ideas that have surfaced:

“This is where sewing really comes in handy,” Camden told me yesterday. Haha. I taught him how to sew by hand earlier this year, and he actually made a stuffed cat for a little girl he has a crush on! So stinking cute. I talked to her mom a few weeks ago, and she was pretty impressed.

Daddy is a carpenter by trade, and I have asked him to make a creche for the front yard. Yay. 🙂 I also have some fun ideas up my sleeve for the kiddos. It sure is handy having a handyman around the house. Hehe

And what about me? What do I really want? Just one gift. A box. And a promise to go with it. Here’s my plan … At noon on Christmas Eve, I will place an empty box on the living room floor and ask my little family to bring me all the electronics: phones, remotes, tablets, computers, game controllers, all of it. I will put mine in too. I will tape up the box, wrap it, and put it under the tree.

All I want for Christmas is an UNPLUGGED FAMILY for 24 hours: from noon on Christmas Eve to noon on Christmas Day. On Christmas Day, we can open the box and have all our gizmos back, but until then …

In case my kids come tell me, “Mom, I’m boooooooored, there’s nothing to doooooooo ….” I’ll have another box full of fun stuff. It will be stuffed with ideas of cool UNPLUGGED things to do. I have already started a collection of 3×5 cards with games, experiments, and crafts, plus I have a book of 365 unplugged family activities.

Things like “taking a nap” or “reading a book” or “sitting by the fire” will also be options … though I’m guessing that I will enjoy those better than my kids.

I am pumped! We’ll see if the rest of the troop will buy into my crazy Mama plan.

What about YOU? If you had to think of a gift for your spouse or children, but weren’t allowed to spend any money, what would you give?

Come on! Think outside the gift box!

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