No, it's not because I'm super organized, it's actually because my husband and I started arguing about it last weekend. It was a rainy day so we decided to go walking around the mall, and we found ourselves in the Hallmark store arguing about what to buy our goddaughter.
Our goddaughter will be turning one next month, and so we were discussing what traditions we should start for her birthday and for Christmas. And things got a little tense.
You see, in my family godparents don't really do anything. They show up for the baptism, and that's about it. But in my husband's family your godparents give you extra gifts for major holidays, and some of the more ambitious godparents even send cards for holidays like Halloween. Our goddaughter is on my husband's side and so we have high expectations to live up to, and I want to do a good job. I want to create traditions that are special and meaningful to her and make her feel loved.
So I started brainstorming what we could give her.
We've already decided to put money into a 529 for her each birthday and Christmas, but we'll be giving other gifts as well. Last year for Christmas we gave her a Hallmark ornament that said "Bless this God Child" and I was thinking we would give her one each year. My mom gave me an ornament every year and I loved it, and was very grateful when I went out on my own with over 20 ornaments to decorate my first tree.
But my husband wasn't sure this gesture would be appreciated. He said that in his family, people don't put much thought into gifts, and so a really thoughtful and sentimental item won't be as highly valued. Yeah, I already knew this. I love love love shopping for the perfect gift for people I love. I don't overspend or anything, I stick to my budget, but I think long and hard about each person and what they will love. Unfortunately it's been extremely painful to see my gifts opened with very little enthusiasm.
A couple of years ago I bought my mother in law a beautiful set of earrings that were totally her style and were made out of her birthstone and diamonds. I was so excited to give these to her. I thought she would love them so much, and as she opened the box, and closed it without a word, my heart sank. I think she did like them, it's just that my husband's family isn't very expressive. My family takes turns opening gifts so we can watch each one and the person opening can shriek with excitement and thank the giver profusely, while my husband's family digs in all at once and opens gifts in a flurry. I usually wind up not opening my gifts at all because I want to watch the ones I bought being opened, and offer a comment about the reason (i.e. I thought of you when I saw those earrings, they reminded me of the ones you have with bells, but they're in your birthstone!).
So back to the mall. My husband is telling me that the ornament I want to buy my goddaughter won't be appreciated, and all of the negative feelings I've had on Christmas come flooding back.
My husband and I then started to brainstorm ideas on how to make Christmas gift giving fulfilling fun, and stress free. The obvious option is to just stop trying so hard. Ask family members for specific gifts and buy something from the list, or give everyone gift cards, or simply let my husband do the shopping.
But then I miss out on some of the Christmas magic. I love picking out gifts for people I love, and while the gifts may not be appreciated quite the way I would like, I still want to give in the name of love, expecting nothing in return. But the fact is that finding the perfect gift for each person on our list has been very stressful. The majority of the gift buying has fallen on me, and trying so hard to find the "perfect" item can really wipe me out.
We didn't really come up with a good solution, so when I saw my mom later in the day I asked her opinion, and of course my mom had the best idea. She suggested that I look to purchase very specific experiences or consumable items.
Here are some ideas we came up with:
- Disney dollars for my sister in law's family that is going Disney World in the spring
- Flowers of the month for my mother in law who loves her shrubbery
- Golf gift certificates to play at an out of town course for my father in law who loves the links
- Salon gift certificate for a fancy salon in my sister-in-laws town so she can get her hair and nails done (which she wouldn't normally indulge in)
- Amusement park passes for my brother in law's family who loves to ride roller coasters
- Beer/wine/alcohol of the month for my father in law
- Show tickets for a local dinner theater show for my in-laws
- Cooking classes for my brother and sister in law
I am so excited about this compromise. I will still get to pick very specific gifts for each member of our family but I won't have to spend hours in the mall fighting with crowds to find the perfect item on sale. I won't exert so much energy that the holidays turn me into a ball of stress and leave me with extremely high expectations for how the recipients of my gifts respond. I will just give with love and happiness, and hope that my family members fully enjoy their gift in the spirit it was given.
So with that, my holiday shopping is done! Well, not exactly, but I have a game plan, and all I have to do is execute. So what about you - are you prepared for the holidays?