Holiday Gifts That Connect

As homeschooling parents, it can be easy to turn each day into a fun and engaging lesson, but harder to just unwind and enjoy these young people for who they are. A new friend told me of a wonderful alternative to the amassing of stuff that tends to come with all the end-of-year holidays and gift giving. In place of physical gifts, my friend Julie plans one on one time with each of her four children. Her husband does the same. These dates occur throughout the year, but are revealed on Christmas morning. We celebrate Christmas in my family too, and we are planning to try out this new tradition ourselves. These days could easily be given for Hannukah, Birthdays, Eid, New Years, anytime.

A thousand thanks to Julie Pollock for her contribution to this newsletter and our world.

A tumbling array of beautifully wrapped boxes under the tree quickly turns into battery-sucking, cluttering debris that needs to find space in our not-so-big home. After several years of Christmases with our growing tribe, we found that our kids really didn’t need anything we didn’t already have—or certainly nothing a little improvisation or imagination couldn’t supply. We didn’t want more stuff just for the sake of stuff or just to make the gift box totals equitable.

Last Christmas we started a new tradition in our family that is the still the most talked about and remembered present from last year. We gifted each child with two specially curated parent/child dates (one date with each parent). While the dates may have varied in price tag, that wasn’t how they were measured. The thing they all had in common was several hours of quality time spent one on one. It really was a joy celebrating our children’s unique interests in a way that was meaningful to them. In the busyness and loudness of our everyday lives, designating time to honor them as individuals has become so important. We enjoy this Christmas gift as much as the kids, and has anyone ever been able to say that about an LOL doll or slime kit?

Let me give a few examples of what our date days looked like. One of my oldest’s love languages is food, so bringing him to a Brazilian steakhouse with unlimited meat on a sword was a meal direct from the gods.  Every date included a meal and an activity, and his activity cost zero dollars—teaching his mom how to play Fortnite and watching her attempt to play. Turns out I play abysmally even in playground mode, but there were plenty of laughs. On the other hand, my youngest was a cheap dinner date, eating a mere hot dog and shoestring fries. His headlining activity was riding the double decker train into Boston to see Mickey at Disney on Ice.

While we haven’t completely eliminated physical presents, because who doesn’t like a little instant gratification, those are now limited in number and price tag. Our gift-giving energy is put into planning one-of-a-kind dates for each of our one-of-a-kind children. We have eight new dates to surprise them with this year, and I can’t wait to create more fun memories with them!