It starts right after Thanksgiving and sometimes even before: the gift wish list. I start getting them from others and others begin requesting them from us.
What do you want? What do the girls want?
It's an impossible question for me to answer.
I want world peace. I want my kitchen cabinets refinished. I want my half bath downstairs finished. I want a new bathtub. A new patio. A major purge of the girls' closets. My kids to grow up happy and healthy. Someone to install my new outlets for me so I don't have to do it (and yes thankyouverymuch I know how). I want a personal chef who is completely organic and will make us go vegan three times a week. I want my new flooring in. I want to make sure every child has a place to live that is safe and access to health care. I think you get the gist.
I don't think you can find these things at a mall or put them easily in a box.
So I struggle for things to tell people and I struggle against my intense dislike of wish lists. I realize I am alone in this dislike, at least among the people I know.
I know this because they get so frustrated with me and what they feel are my ridiculous answers, such as, "You know what I enjoy, what the kids enjoy...we'll appreciate whatever you get. We don't need gifts so it's a pleasure just to get one, and I love seeing what people think I'll like, finding out new things."
I'm sure I sound frustrating and full of crap.
And yet, I am sincere. I don't feel that wish lists are in what I think of as the spirit of the season.
I used to do wish lists. I did them joyfully as a child, imagining getting everything on my list exactly as I had it in my mind. That, by the way, never happened. I got confused: why did you ask what I wanted if you didn't plan to get it? I fought disappointment intermingled with gratitude and excitement. I didn't want two sides of a coin for gift receiving. I just wanted to have the happy and grateful side.
So I shut down my expectations and quit listing wishes.
Out of context, that might sound sad. But in context, it opened me up to enjoying gift giving and receiving a lot more. I ignored others' wish lists and quit driving myself crazy trying to match exactly items from the list. I refused to provide wish lists. And I enjoyed shopping more, giving more, and receiving more. It came from the heart...not a list.
For example, I'd not heard of nor read The Thirteenth Tale last Christmas when my sister-in-law got it for me. I don't think I would have thought to pick it up but on my behalf she took the time to read through several books and select one she thought was "up my alley." I loved that gift.
I would never have thought to get a metal sculpture of a dog that holds a "welcome" sign for my front yard. But my aunt did and it remains one of my favorite things to this day. She "got" that I am quirky and like decoration like that. She got that from caring about me, not from a list.
It never occurred to me to want a set of collapsible measuring cups and collanders, but my stepmother (an ace shopper) knew how much she liked hers and got some for me. I love them!
What a surprise. What a joy.
I like stepping out of my life a little and getting pieces of people I love...pieces of them that they think relate to pieces of me.
I think that's the spirit of the season.
In case you are wondering, I don't ask my kids to write lists. I don't want birthdays and Christmas to be about the presents, anyway. Being together and having a good time is the gift.
My kids understand they get presents, and they look forward to it. They do think about things they'd like. I say, "I'll keep that in mind," every time the kids spot something and cry, "I want!"
Patience, on her own (probably prompted by a relative) wrote up a wish list for gifts. I couldn't discourage the writing exercise. But I reminded her that these were ideas, only. I shared the list with family, who were thrilled. On our end, I downplayed it, that list of gift wishes. Instead I focused on how cool it was that she figured out how to write all of that. In the excitement of clearly moving up a reader level, I think she might have forgotten what was on the list. It hasn't come back up again.
Maybe we have gotten the point across or maybe the time hasn't hit yet and we'll have something to deal with down the road, but so far, my kids don't make a big deal about gifts and lists and expectations and disappointment. So far they are thrilled to get anything, still. So far, they aren't worried about what someone else expects when we shop for a gift. So far, they think hard about who that person is and what would make a good gift. They are excellent gift choosers, my girls, thoughtful and on target.
I love that, all of it---the giving and receiving attitudes. I hope it's that way forever.
What's your policy about wish lists and gifts? How does your family handle gift-giving times?
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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