The first Christmas after my ex-husband and I separated was rough. We were navigating the very new waters of co-parenting and trying to figure out how we could both be with our boys on Christmas morning. Gift-giving for anyone other than my children was not on my radar, nor were gifts from my kids to me or their dad. But a dear friend had another idea. She asked if she could borrow my kids for an afternoon. Unbeknownst to me, she took them Christmas shopping for me and then took them to her house to wrap their gifts. They were bursting with pride and excitement as they came home with gifts to put under the tree for me.
As a mom, my automatic response to “What do you want for …?” is “Nothing.” I really don’t need anything, and the guilt I feel when money is spent on me that could have been spent on my kids is ridiculous. However, after that Christmas, my view has changed a little. I would even argue that it’s important to let your kids buy gifts for you.
If your family is anything like mine, you spend a lot of time during the holidays looking for ways to give back and making sure your children know it’s not all about the gifts. Adopting families, ringing the Salvation Army bell or sorting food for Harvesters are all excellent ways to help our communities and help us teach our kids important lessons about taking care of others. But since that Christmas, I also make a point of taking my kids shopping for each other and for their dad, as well. I recruit a friend to help me and we take the boys to a store (usually Target) to shop. We split up, each of us taking one of the boys and they love it! They have so much fun shopping for, and then sharing, what they each decided to get their dad. They love trying to keep the secret of what they got each other. That rarely lasts until we are out of the parking lot.
“For it is in giving, that we receive.” I’m pretty sure St. Francis of Assisi wasn’t talking about giving holiday gifts to your parents … but maybe he was. When we woke up that Christmas morning, my kids were honestly more excited for me to open the gifts they had purchased for me than they were for anything under the tree for them. As I opened their gifts, the joy on their faces was second to none. They were so incredibly proud of what the picked for me. They each told me why they picked their gifts, and Mackey even requested that we “pause” gift opening so I could try on my puppy pajamas. To this day, two years later, he still gets so excited when he sees I’m wearing the pj’s he bought for me.
Allowing our kids to buy us gifts teaches them a great deal. It helps reaffirm that life isn’t just about them. It gives them that good feeling you get when you do something nice for someone you love. By our example, we teach them how to be a gracious gift receiver; on some level, it helps them to see that parents are people, too, and that our gift giving isn’t just for kids, either.
As parents, we sacrifice a lot for our kids. Let’s not make the joy of gift giving be one of them.