Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How We've Decided To Handle Christmas Gifts For Our Kids

Trent and I believe in living and giving intentionally.  We don't believe in excess.   And Matthew 25 is tattooed on our hearts.  So when it came to how we wanted to go about Christmas gifts for our kids, we didn't want to just enter blindly into the world of "must buy all the things for my precious babies even though we don't have room or money!" Also, this is our first Christmas as parents, as a family of more than two, so we have a neat chance to create something, start traditions, and embrace an intentional attitude for the Christmas season that we can teach and pass down.

So, we gave it some thought, had some discussions, read about how some other people do it, and sort of mashed a bunch of experiences and intentions into a motto of sorts:

Something you want
Something you need
Something to wear
Something to read
Something to hang on the Christmas tree
And something to give to the least of these

We saw or heard of the first four lines of that pretty often.  I think a lot of people use that as their Christmas giving motto and it's pretty self explanatory.  Something fun, something needed, some clothes and some books.  This spurred a couple conversations between me and Trent about wants vs needs and the perception is seriously skewed sometimes I'm afraid.

Me: I need a new phone.
Trent: No...you want a new phone.
Me: You're right.  Ok, but do I need my car detailed? It's so grody.
Trent: Yeah, maybe you need that...

Dirty cars, stupid Windows phones...when you actually talk about this stuff for real, it's hard to come up with much in the "Need" category that truly, truly belongs there. How often can your idea of a need be followed up with something like "Yeah, but I have a great car, even if its seats are drenched in apple juice and snot" or "Yeah, but I have a working smartphone, even if it's slow and the camera stinks"?  I mean, I went most of last year without a smartphone at all, so...perspective.

We look forward to these conversations with our children as they get older, establishing a healthy sense of need vs want, letting them know that wants are totally fine and there is a place for them, even entirely frivolous wants or splurges sometimes.  But also, we want to alert them to how the consumer world will try to brainwash them into thinking they must have all the coolest gadgets and newest trends and many, many of them, or else they cannot continue with life.  False.

The next line means ornaments.  We'll give the kids an ornament every year that they can unwrap whenever we get our Christmas tree and set it up.  So that'll be a fun little gift to open early on and when they grow up and leave our home, they'll have a nice little collection of ornaments to start their own tree.

The last line is not our own idea, though it produced a big "DUH!" moment when we saw it.  Jen Hatmaker wrote about it at the end of this post.  "Something to give."  What a stellar idea to throw in at Christmas time, into the mix of "I want, I want, I want."  Since our kids are little bitty, they won't understand this yet, so we'll give in their name for a while.  Once they are older, we'll give them a set amount of money then they can choose how and where to give it.   Jen said in her post, "On Christmas Eve, we all sit down with catalogs from Compassion, IJM, and World Vision and the kids buy chickens and soccer balls and seeds and backpacks for other families around the world.  They lose their minds, pooling money and taking 100 years to choose their gifts.  This is my favorite Christmas thing."  This sounds like the best. thing. ever.   What has been forgotten for a moment?  All our own wants.  What is the focus for a moment?  Others' needs.

So, here's to an opportunity to start something, an opportunity to teach, an opportunity to give to our sweet kids and an opportunity to give to others. 


  1. Such a beautiful idea. I might "borrow" it someday. Love you guys

  2. Great ideas, Anna. I keep a spreadsheet of which ornament the kids receive each year so they will know where it was from or who made it and when they were given it. I try to buy them from places we travel as memories of family trips throughout the year. You are a spreadsheet lady, right?

  3. I'm interested in how this is working out for you... I have been SHOCKED at the crazy amount of gifts our 3 mo old FD has received from CPS, the foster agency, and another organization... or do you just mean keeping it to that for the gifts that you personally give? Even so these gifts were all given to me unwrapped to presumably put under the tree from us. It's really been amazing.

    1. We have had the same situation with gifts from CPS. Brother received a ton of stuff, Sister not so much. I guess two different people did their shopping. All unwrapped, for us to give them. Not that they know any difference this year, but I put "To ___ From CPS" on those gifts. They were provided from CPS, so I wanted to give CPS a nod for the generosity. That also leaves those out of our giving as parents and we can stick to what we decided. We don't have control over what others give them, whether it's CPS, grandparents, etc (though if we had a situation of huge excess from a family member we'd probably tell them they can spare the expense and tone it down a bit).

      The thing is...right now with the kids being so little...they have no idea what is going on, so we're just really not stressin' about it. Next year we won't have gifts from CPS and we'll be in more of a groove of this giving idea instead of whipping it up right before actual Christmas. We're still figuring things out.