This is what Christmas with my family looks like.
See all those presents? They’re all full of stuff.
Year after year I’ve watched as my nieces and nephews tear into one gift, toss it aside and tear into the next one, not really paying attention to what they received – much less, who gave it to them.
And the more I work in homes that have been overrun by stuff, the less I want to contribute to the stuff epidemic. So I decided that for Christmas (and all other gift-giving occasions), I would give less stuff and more experiences.
My sisters and their husbands received tickets to Jerry Seinfeld’s tour, along with babysitting for the night. I gave my nephew and two nieces – now ages 9, 8 and 6, respectively – vouchers that were good for a day of fun with me. They each got to choose where we would dine at lunchtime, our activity for the day – bowling, skating, miniature golf or a movie – and a spot for dessert.
So why am I blogging about this nearly six months later?
For one, it took several months for everyone to cash in their gifts. But it’s what happened after they did that made me want to write about it. About a week after we spent the day together, my nieces gave me these:
I had never received Thank You cards for the clothes, books and toys that I’ve bought them over the years. So that made it clear that I was on to something.
My youngest niece and I were the first to set out on our day o’ fun. First stop: McDonald’s (no surprise there). Then on to Golf N’ Stuff, our local spot for miniature golf.
After two rounds of golf, we played some skee ball. Then, my niece tried her luck at the claw game. And what luck – she got two stuffed toys in one grab! She couldn’t have been happier!
Next up: Baskin Robbins, a chocolate-induced coma and a nap on the ride home (for her, not me).
The next day was somewhat similar: Lunch with my other niece at a local pizza parlor, followed by miniature golf (minus the skee ball and the good luck with the claw) and frozen yogurt for dessert.
Two down, one to go!
One more trip to McDonald’s, a couple of hours of bowling at Buena Lanes, then back to the frozen yogurt shop.
Even though I didn’t get a card from my nephew, he still let me know that he enjoyed our time together.
Him: “Next year, when we go bowling, can we-”
Me: “Wait. Who said anything about doing this again next year?”
Him: “Well, it was a good present.”
Three days of eating junk food and hanging out with three kids was pretty tiresome. But it WAS a good present – for them and for me.
I could have made the kiddos come to a consensus and taken them all out on the same day. That would have been: A) easier on my schedule, and B) cheaper. But it was the one-on-one time that I was going for because I only have a few more years before they hit the age where they’re too embarrassed to be seen with me.
As for my sisters and their hubbies, they also enjoyed their night out. In fact, both couples said it was “the perfect gift.” They’ve never said that about any of the stuff I’ve given them over the years.
So if this doesn’t convince you that experiences are way better than adding more crap to someone’s life, read this: