Great Grandma K doesn’t have much to spare, she’s lived a simple life, raised five children, stayed married for decades, and prayed—a lot. She still prays, even though her kids are grown. When David and I opened our wedding gifts seven years ago, her $20 donation to our new together life meant more than anything else we received.
Last Christmas I sent an email to the gift-giving family members in our tribe and politely begged them to refrain from buying more toys for our kiddos. Here’s what I’ve learned about toys: kids don’t like them as much as people love giving them. Which is sweet and great and I get it, it’s Christmas/Birthday/Half-Birthday, that’s just what we do—buy things to help make the day more exciting.
The toy sometimes fills a hole in the giver’s heart, and creates a need the recipient didn’t even know they had, or needed to have. What if we decided to bless instead of dazzle?
Plus, I have zero room for more toys. Please tell me I’m not the only one to secretly snatch all the little knick knacks that accumulate in the corners, under beds and sofas, and in closets and toss them in a donation bag. Or in the recycle bin.
Instead of toys I asked for experiences. My aunt bought us a zoo membership. Nana bought them lots of coloring supplies, a special date to go see a play, and family games. My dad sent them IKEA gift cards so they could go and pick out anything they wanted. Rae veered toward trains, a rug, and new bedding, while Lucy insisted on a new wardrobe to house her clothing. Atticus went straight for a kitten puppet.
They each got the experience of picking out bedroom furniture, or getting dressed up for Beauty and the Beast, or playing the matching game for the 20th g-damn night in a row.
I will send out a reminder this year. Coloring books, puzzles, games we can enjoy as a family, gift cards to pick out clothing they like, zoo/museum memberships, special days, books–but please no toys. Hopefully by the time they’re eighteen we won’t have a single trinket left.
Grandma K sent an empty red balloon to one of the kids for their birthday last year. Think about that, a red balloon in a simple card plastered with animal and angel stickers. No packaging to fill up garbage cans, no assembly required, no batteries or beeping sounds; the balloon was an experience.
It was the best gift they’ve ever gotten, and I am stealing the idea. Hardcore.
The floating orb lasted for a few days before I scissored it to death, and they still talk about that one time a red balloon came in the mail from “Nana’s mama.” Great Grandma K didn’t care whether she received credit for the balloon, she just sent what she could. Which, when birthed from Love, will always be enough.