Friday, December 12, 2008

Finding the Perfect Gift

I always make a point of going to Wal-Mart on February 14th around five-thirty in the afternoon. That’s about the time that the men in our community have gotten off work and suddenly realize that if they show up at their homes without something red, pink and sweet in their hands to give to their loved ones for Valentines Day; they will probably end up sleeping on the couch.

There’s a look about these men whether they are seventeen or sixty-seven that is so amusing to watch. Half panic half hope that somewhere in the depth of that super-store will be a gift both romantic enough to show that they care, and not reek of last minute desperation.

I bring this up because in many ways Valentines Day and Christmas are alike. Both holidays rely heavily on making the right choice in the gift department, and both are loaded with potential guilt if that goal is not achieved.

My teenage son came home from Christmas shopping the other night and told me that I was the hardest person he had to shop for. He couldn’t find anything he thought I’d like. I stared at him in dumbfound amazement. In my opinion, women are by far the easier sex to buy for, falling right there in line with pre-schoolers and family pets.

It’s men in general and teenagers specifically that are the mortal terror of gift buyers everywhere.

For instance, did you ever notice that the older a man gets, the more expensive his toy wishes. Maybe if I was Jennifer Lopez or Bill Gates I could actually give them those expensive big ticket items.

“Oh Mom, how did you know I wanted a 27 inch HD plasma TV with a high definition surround sound system for my bedroom. You’re the best!”

Although even if I could afford such pricey items, this plan would probably backfire too. I can just imagine it. Christmas morning me and my young adult son head out to the driveway where a brand new shiny silver BMW sits proudly, wrapped in a huge red ribbon. “Merry Christmas Son,” I’d say with pride, watching his face for that look of stunned pleasure.

Instead he’d study the new vehicle for a few minutes before shrugging his shoulders and saying “Yeah it’s nice, but I really wanted a blue one.”

Clothes shopping is not an option either, at least not without them standing over your shoulder and whispering in your ear, “Not THAT color. I wouldn’t be caught dead in those pants. Who do you think you’re dressing? Pee Wee Hermon?” I could actually blindfold myself, and walk through the men’s department picking some piece of clothing at random and have a better chance of pleasing my boys.

A young friend of mine (male of course) told me that his strategy is to ask his parents for one concrete item. Say a book or CD that he wants. Something clear and concise that they can’t mess up. Then he asks for money. Mom and Dad get the pleasure of giving him something they can watch him unwrap and he can spend the cash any way he chooses.

So what is a mother to do? Break down and give gifts of twenties and fifties? Condense the pile of brightly covered packages under the tree to a scattering of long narrow white envelopes? Take a second mortgage out on the house to give them those expensive gaming systems and electronics they want?

While meditating on my options, it suddenly came to me. I’m the mom here and it’s my job is to teach my kids what is really important in life. Things like how they should eat a few vegetables before digging into dessert, and the benefit of the frequent and liberal use of soap and deodorant. I’d managed to convince my kids that playing with matches, though definitely fun, was not a good idea if they intended to keep a wood roof over their heads. And if they put their shoes away, right when they took them off, it’s so much easier to find them the next morning. (Okay, we’re still working on that one.)

With this in mind, I knew that it was my responsibility to instruct my children on the true meaning of Christmas and the importance of recognizing the love and thought behind a gift. And who better to teach such principles than the woman who’d been receiving hand colored mother’s day cards and bouquets of dandelion flowers, presented by little people with sticky dirt covered fists for years.

So this Christmas, we cut back on how many gifts we are buying and how much money we spend. I’m putting my foot down and not allowing myself to let the season evolve into a guilt fest. I even turned on the All Christmas Music All Day Everyday Day Since Halloween Whether You Like It Or Not radio channel and sang along with Perry Como… and it wasn’t even Christmas eve.

Will it work? I don’t know but I have seen some promising signs. Next week I’ll tell you about our eleven year old son and his amazing seven days of Christmas.

1 comment:

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