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A Guide To The Holidays With Children

Updated on December 19, 2013

The First One Doesn't Count

They never remember the first one like we do... but it's still magical and awesome.
They never remember the first one like we do... but it's still magical and awesome.

Happy Holidays... or Is It?

I try to get into the Christmas spirit. I slave away for weeks on end before the holiday deciding on recipes and planning out what to make. One year, I had recipes taped to cabinets and post-its all over to keep me on task. I dislike the holiday, something about it turns me into a grouch. I had decided that maybe this "dislike" I have is not really about the holiday itself, rather something about the holiday. It wasn't the baking; I love baking. It was hectic, absolutely, but there's something I find calming about it.

Then we went to the mall to go Christmas shopping, and the mobs of rude people running about the mall and sucking whatever Christmas spirit I might have had right out of me. Maybe this was it. I hated Christmas because of the cesspool the mall worsens into during this season of giving. No, it turns out that I hate the holiday just as much shopping online. Was it because shopping for children confuses me? That could be it. Unless they can appreciate a gift card, I have no idea what to do and I refuse to be the person that people have to lie to about the gifts being awesome.

It finally occurred to me. On Christmas Eve every year, I sit and realize "crap, I can't procrastinate anymore. These needs to be done today." Being a left-handed person who never was able to properly hold a pair of scissors, wrapping presents is a nightmare. I can't properly cut a straight line, not even by a long shot. I always end up with two dozen paper cuts, and eventually I give up and barely cover up the presents. I don't understand why we bother. The children don't look at the present and say "wow, that was an amazingly wrapped gift Mom", so why go crazy trying to be perfect about it? In fact, I don't even think they care about it being wrapped at all, because it takes them all of 30 seconds before the paper is completely torn to shred and the child screams with glee (if you're lucky) over the gift it probably took you 20 minutes to wrap. So I just bled out of two dozen paper cuts to see the paper shredded as if it were tossed through a shredder. You go to bed at midnight to be awoken at 5 am with a child jumping on your bed saying, "did Santa come? Can I see?" It was a long night, Mr. Wrapping Paper, and we're going to go crazy for what seems like nothing until you get excited about the joy on your children's faces.

From Thanksgiving until Christmas morning, everything leads up to this morning sitting around the fire while listening to Christmas music and eating blueberry muffins while unwrapping the goodies under the tree. It isn't about the cookies or how cut up you got a few hours before wrapping up the presents. It's about that moment when your child sees the gifts they asked for and didn't even know they wanted, and hug you and jump for joy. All the stressing out over what's important on this list to get or what isn't on that list that would make them happy, is forgotten in the hour or so it takes to open the gifts. That is what gets me through the month of hell before. I envision that look of happiness I have gotten every year so far, and smile while someone pushes you out of the way to get the last Furby on the shelf or cuts you in a line you were sitting in for an hour. That is all that matters on the holiday.

Uh Oh.

He cried because he actually thought we gave him an empty box.
He cried because he actually thought we gave him an empty box.

Tips for Gift Buying for Kids

With all that talk about Christmas spirit and children's joy, now you need to get through the biggest challenge of the holiday: shopping for your children. So here are tips to help you through that.

  • Passing the child usage test: I saw this on an episode of Yes, Dear and realized I had done this myself when shopping for my oldest child. It's the "Child usage" test. Now this isn't the same test you would normally do to check wear and tear. No, this is much more important of a test. It's really an "how much of an annoyance this toy" is. It imagines how miserable it would be to step on it. You play with it to see how annoying the sounds on it are. This is a test if you can survive the toy, not just if your child will enjoy it. Your child would enjoy a box if you let him.
  • Lists exist, but there's a secret toy: Children write lists, but sometimes they leave out something they really want.My son is guilty of this. He won't put down something like a videogame console he wants, because he thinks it's too expensive and feels guilty asking for it. He ends up getting it anyways, because we know it's something he wants and figure out a way to make it work. This year, was the PS4, which we were fortunate enough to get for him without overpaying too much. Last year, I waited in line at Walmart to get him the Wii U, though that I was able to actually get in store. I hope this means he'll be pleasantly surprised. It really is the thought that counts. Knowing your child enough to know what they really want and really surprising them with it is, to me, the greatest gift to myself.
  • Clothes? I'm not for buying my oldest son clothes for Christmas. That's something that grandparents do. They get away with it, because they spoil them all year round so the children (at least mine), usually smile appreciatively at the gesture and say "thank you" even though they really wanted something fun. I do buy my baby clothes for Christmas, because I don't think he really knows what's going on yet, and it's a perfect excuse to just wrap up clothes he needs anyways. My husband isn't for this idea, because he thinks that as parents, we have to make up for the clothes and underwear that the grandparents buy on Christmas. He's right, we do have to compensate for that. Unless they really want clothes, in which case gift cards are always great. We all know that parents have no style... right?
  • The Dreaded Gift Cards: I don't mind getting gift cards for Christmas. I'm not picky about things, but I enjoy actually picking something out rather than pretending to like something I'll never wear or be forced to wear it when visiting relatives just because they bought it. Which, in reality, sends the wrong impression because it makes them think you like the clothes which makes them to continue to buy the same style of clothes. This isn't me. I don't wear something I don't like, just because. Usually, they forget they bought something unless they see you wear it anyways, fun fact. When you do wear something that you like from them, it shows them to keep going in that direction and they remember "Hey, didn't I buy that?" You sure did. I don't like to be on that end of the equation, so I stick to gift cards. My nieces and nephews? They get gift cards. Why? Because 3 of them are teenagers that are impossible to shop for and I don't want to be the one to get a lame gift and the other I would just rather they have something they need than something they don't or isn't in the style she wears. I don't know anyone that actually gets offended by a gift card. Seem impersonal? Then personalize it with a store they will want to shop at. Do they love books? Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift cards. That shows you're thinking about them as a person, not just picking a random gift card just because. Also a bonus? You don't have to wrap gift cards.

I know these tips don't seem like a lot, but trust me, these are the best things to consider when shopping for the children or teenagers in your life. Hell, this advice works for the adults in your life too. Happy Holidays, readers!


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