February 21, 2018

Gift Giving

gift givingBy Ann Van De Water

It’s that time of year again.  The time of year when in the process of trying to create a wonderful holiday season for my family, I often blow it.  I overextend myself, spending too much time and energy on activities and things for my family.  Some activities are wonderful and fun.  Some are not, but somehow I feel I need to do all these things, need to check everything off my list or I won’t have done my duty somehow. Do I feel cheery and festive during much of this time?  No, I do not.  Rather, I feel like the Grinch. So I am trying to remind myself of the lessons I’ve learned about the season and about giving.
One year when my girls were young, maybe 4, I really felt that I should make every last Christmas cookie that my Mom had made.  I had my girls help me and they enjoyed it, but I was exhausted. My husband kept telling me to just make one kind of cookie and call it good. He was right. (There, I’ve said it.  I hope I don’t have to say that for another 10 years.)
A couple of years, I decided I would spend as much money on charitable donations as I did on my own children’s Christmas presents.  This was worthwhile.  It forced me to focus on giving to others and to remember that my own children can do with less, a lot less.  I still have several organizations to which I donate during the holidays and now my children are old enough to understand that “it’s not all about us.”  Our church collects money and gift cards for teens in the foster system.  My girls were excited to particpate in this giving tree and to know we are helping  kids who are in difficult situations and probably won’t get very much for the holidays.  We will participate in some other volunteer and donation programs and they are always very happy to help.  This is a lot more fun and beneficial than baking 6 kinds of cookies.
I’ve learned to simplify things for husband and me regarding gift giving. He’ll pick out a couple things he likes and I’ll find a couple little things on my own for him and vice versa.
Years ago when I was a newlywed and so excited to have our first Christmas together, a friend and co-worker of mine who is 20 years older than I, told me she had bought herself a beautiful robe and slippers and wrapped it and put it under the tree as a present to herself from her husband.  At the time, I was appalled. How unromantic! I thought. Where’s the romance? the surprise? 
Now 16 years later, I think, great idea!!  No fuss, no muss.  She gets what she wants and he gets what he wants – to not go shopping and still find the perfect present for his wife.  Our first Christmas together I told my husband I would like a couple of nice sweaters.  He dutifully went to the department store and picked out two sweaters in my favorite colors.  I told him sometimes I take a small and sometimes a medium. The small he bought was really long, like it was made for a giraffe. The medium he bought was cropped and was really tiny, too tiny.  “What is it with women’s clothing sizes?  This is the last time I buy you any clothes.”  And it was.  And yes, what is it with women’s clothing sizes?
So guess what I found the other day that I bought for myself for my husband to give me?  A lovely bathrobe that I really like! I’m going to make him wrap it, though.  I may also ask him to take me out for a fancy dinner, just the two of us. The gift of time together, just the two of us, is something I would really like.  He usually finds something funny or something special to put in my stocking, like my favorite chocolates and he’ll take my girls to pick out some girly things for me, but I really don’t mind picking out a present for myself.  It’s taken me years to learn this. 
My friend’s daughter is only 5 years old, but she’s sharp and learned this concept early.  A while ago, she showed me the Valentine card her “boyfriend” had made her. It had a beautiful heart and flowers crayoned very carefully on the front. The inside said,” To Ava.  I love you. Hudson.”
“Wow! He must really like you to make you such a nice card!” I said. 
“Oh, I made the card,” said Ava.  “I just had him sign his name.”
I think that girl has it all figured out!
Ann is a former high school English teacher and now a stay-at-home mom to 11-year-old twin girls.
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  1. Caroline Taylor says:

    LOL Ann..I love it, and this is funny but all so true!

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