Only 113 days until Christmas, the front page of my newspaper promises in 48-point or so black type, with a photo of a big box with a bow prominent on the page.
Usually, I’d just shrug my shoulders at such “news.” I’ve typically been the joke of the family for having the audacity to have my shopping wrapped up around this time of year.
Not so much now. Our financial situation means that any shopping has been minimal at best and any shopping we will do will be spaced out even more than usual.
Add in the challenge of shopping not only for Christmas but my youngest’s birthday less than a week before, and it’s a fiscal nightmare.
Sure, I’ve tried to be proactive, dropping big hints lately that our toddler will need clothes for next summer, when the seasonal sales are wrapping up. And I always reassure my sister that shoes for the kids really aren’t boring, that both of mine could theoretically match Almeda Marcos in the love of a colorful pair of shoes. Or I recommend books they’ve loved at the library or activities they enjoy. (If anyone wants to spring for soccer for next spring at the parks and rec, I'm all for it!) But I can’t shake the feeling that we’ll be swimming in a sea of plastic come Christmas day.
The practical parents in us decided early on that the kids would get three presents from us at Christmas – it was good enough for Jesus, and frankly, we're not the only ones the gifts would be coming from. And so far, we’ve been able to brainstorm ideas for the oldest fairly easily. Her wishes for this year? Among them are dress-up clothes (easy enough to come up with at a resale shop) and, more interestingly, for her kitchen: “a greasy spoon for my pretend greasy eggs.” Frankly, not sure how to address that one. And we hit the back-to-school sales hard for new art supplies for her as well.
But the baby – can I still call him that as he approaches 2? – is a challenge. Sure, he loves to comment on every truck and bus he sees. But how many of those can you possibly buy, especially when you have a half-dozen cars you’re already tripping on that were his sister’s? Or when he loves to play with her kitchen, stroller, balls and toys as much as she does? Or when you practically step on a new Lego "creation" everywhere you turn?
Maybe I’m weird or old-fashioned, but I think gifts should be as much as about fun as they are about being useful. And not useful in the “let’s buy socks and underwear” sense as in buying things people will truly appreciate and use.
So I’ll throw it out to you. Any suggestions for the practical mom who needs to start planning for those special dates now? How do you treat your children without spoiling them too much?