Sunday, December 20, 2009

Not the Grinch (Or Presents Aren't Important--Are They?)

By now, I’m thinking you’re all pretty well sick of hearing about all my signing experiences. And though I’m excited and relieved about the results, I’m kind of getting sick of talking about it. So, I’m going to take a break from that today.

If you’re absolutely dying to hear all the details, email me. I’ll tell you everything I remember. Be warned that my brain has been on absolute overload this month, but it’s December and, well, all things considered, that’s to be expected.

Anyway, sometime around Halloween, my parents—consisting of my mom and stepdad, and my dad and stepmom—decided that this year would be a good one to refocus our attention on the true spirit of Christmas. The economic downfall has been very hard on some of them, and none of us wanted anyone to feel the burden of buying gifts they couldn’t afford.

The plan, originally, was that none of the adults in the family would exchange gifts, and instead of spending lots of money on things, we’d give each other the gift of quality family time. We—their children—were asked to honor that request by not purchasing gifts for them. And my husband and I have been prepared to honor that.

Unfortunately, it appears we were the only ones. Now, granted, as far as I know, none of my siblings have gone all out and spent lots of money on parent gifts, but everyone bought something. Which, I think, defeats the purpose of the original plan. Not that I don’t have an urge to buy gifts for my parents as well, but I really, truly hoped that for the first time in years, Christmas would stop being so much about the presents we give and receive, and more about relationships. Sadly, even our parents have succumbed. Other than a family get-together last week, there has been little or no relationship building time. And when we go to my mom’s house for Christmas dinner, once again, gifts will be exchanged all around.

Whatever happened to presents not mattering? What happened to family time? I’m not complaining, really. I enjoy giving gifts to people I love, people who matter. And even though I didn’t add extra gifts into my budget, and wasn’t able to plan far in advance for a thoughtful gift, I’ll find something inexpensive, yet nice for both sets of parents. And I’m okay with that.

But I’m saddened exponentially by the loss of a valuable lesson for us all. Christmas isn’t about the presents, what we give, get, pay for, make, buy, order and wrap. It’s about a gift given us over 2000 years ago, the birth of our Savior. Remember that Guy?

Everything else is irrelevant. And the best thing we can do to honor that sacrifice is to give of ourselves (not our wallets) to spend time with those we love, and those who need us, and to remember why this holiday even exists. More family time, fewer presents.

Don’t you think? The worst thing we could possibly do is turn Christmas into just another day, and yet, that’s where it’s headed. What it’s becoming more and more as the years pass. I don’t have all the answers, but it seems to me like trying something new, something different, might help us remember why we celebrate in the first place. Not because I don’t want to give gifts to people. I absolutely do. I guess I’m just at a point where I feel it’s more important to teach our children about the important things in life—the things which have nothing to do with presents.

And so, four days before Christmas, I find myself in a great internal tug-of-war. Do I buy gifts for my parents—as all my siblings have, and as my parents have given into—or do I stand my ground, stick with our original plan and look like the Grinch? Not that it matters if people see me in a poor light, just…well, you all know. It’s not easy being green. And I’ve never liked the idea of living in a cave. How best am I to honor the original request, while still going with the family flow?

What would you do?


L.T. Elliot said...

I don't know what I'd do. I know how I'd feel and I feel like you do. "'Maybe Christmas,' He thought, 'Means a little bit more.'"
And it does.
I have tried to capture the spirit of Christmas this season and I've found it elusive. The craziness of the shopping and gift-giving has overwhelmed me.
I guess all I can say is that I'm with you. I remember the day and I remember the Man. I remember His gift and I plan to open it not just on Christmas day, but all the days of my life.

Merry Christmas, Nichole. You're a wonderful woman.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

As the perpetual grinch in my family, I say go with what feels right. If your parents asked for the gift of time, go ahead and give that. It really will mean more in the long run anyway.

Karlene said...

That is a tough one. Do you have a gift you can make really quick? Maybe that's a good middle ground?

C. K. Bryant said...

Why don't you give of yourself, Nichole? You are such a great writer. Write something for them, maybe even put it in a nice little frame or something like that, and give of your talent. Maybe a memory you have of a good time with them. Show the rest of your siblings what a real gift is really like, and use yours. This is a great post.

I'll be quoting you on my blog today. Check it out later. HUGS

Nichole Giles said...

Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions. I ended up ordering something with words I chose etched in, and which will feature pictures of my kids. I did it for very little money, and will be happy as long as the mailman delivers them on time.

As for all the rest, I think I've decided that I can't be responsible for all the other people in my life. I just have to teach my own family the important things and let everyone else learn as they will.

Now, to find a charitable project to do with the kids this week.


Rachelle said...

Great post Nichole. I'm glad you figured something out. Hopefully next year will be better.
Last year we decided no more exchanging gifts with the siblings for my family and a few years before that Steve's family decided the same thing. I am so happy!! The reason that helped us decide is to use that money/time to give to charity.
We have set aside money and try to buy gifts for those in need that match the same ages as our kids. We involve the kids and it's the best lesson.
We haven't missed the gift exchange with family AT ALL! What a relief.
It is fun to give to family, but a better experience to give to those that really need something.