The One Thing You Need To Know About Buying Holiday Gifts For Your Kids

Disclaimer: I come from a family that takes Christmas shopping super-seriously. As in, my mom would request detailed lists from my brother and I in the early fall, and it was not unusual for her to make serious a dent in her shopping by Halloween. Growing up, I didn't think much of it...but now? Now I realize that, among other things, my mom was super organized and beyond enthusiastic when it came to buying Christmas presents for kids. And this was pre-Amazon Prime, you guys. She put in the time and did it the old-fashioned way, pounding the pavement and visiting actual stores.

Now that I have a kiddo of my own, my partner and I are faced with determining just what kind of example we want to set for our toddler when it comes to gift-giving. While I love picking out presents just as much as the next person (OK, maybe not quite as much as my mom), I also want to be careful with what we teach him about it. There are fine lines between gratitude and greed, and entitlement and appreciation. We've got a while to go before actually lessons will be learned (my little guy is only 19 months, and right now, bananas are the best present we could ever hand him), but I know that won't always be the case. Hopefully, he's going to grow up feeling like he has everything he needs, but what about everything he wants? It's too early to tell.

My son also happens to be the first grandson on both sides of our family (yes, also for my gift-giving aficionado mom; the Presenthusiast, if you will) so gifts are showing up regardless of if they fit into my husband's and my ideas about celebrating. (I think I'm supposed to say "hashtag blessed" here, right?) If anything, making Santa-related decisions has opened up my eyes to the many layers that exist when it comes to establishing traditions and setting tones in your household. And I can't even begin to understand the factors that other families or you, for example, might be considering as you make your Christmas plans.

Of course, what's right for my family may not necessarily be right for yours, and vice versa. But I do want to encourage my fellow parents to listen to your instincts. It's easy to be swayed by images, comments, and posts about how much or how little we're supposed to be giving. Is your family toning it down this year, either by choice or by circumstances? No one should have a say in it but you guys. Are you and yours going big, with presents exploding out of your house in every direction? That's awesome, and you know what? No one should have a say in it but you guys. That may be easier said than done because we all know that haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate especially when it comes to what's in your kiddo's stocking, but you know what: who cares?

Seriously. I'm listening to (and loving) the Michael Bolton Christmas album as I write this, so I'm learning firsthand how important it is to ignore Judgey McJudgersons (spoiler alert: it's very important).

I know, I know, it's easier said that done. But consider this one more small vote of confidence in your direction when it comes to making decisions for your family. As long as you're not endangering others by, like, not properly securing your kiddo's giant inflatable backyard castle, or not teaching them how to steer their baller snowmobiles, feel free to ignore the haters. And on the flip side, if your family is feeling chill and not-super-into the holidays this year, I'm equally supportive of that (not that you need my support nor approval, which is the point, but you have it regardless). In fact, I'm probably going to be slightly jealous when I'm clearing out all the empty boxes, ribbon, and torn giftwrap from our house next week.

All that said, we can all reserve the right to change our minds, too. For now, my family has adopted the Want/Read/Wear/Need method of gift-giving, if for no other reason than to keep me sane and organized when it comes to shopping for our toddler. It's just what it sounds like: four gifts that each meet one category are chosen, and that's pretty much it. I think I stumbled across the idea last year on Pinterest, probably because I scrolled past an impressive holiday-themed graphic that a talented blogger surely made to introduce it. We don't ask the grandparents to subscribe to it (I've given up trying to exercise any control over their gift-giving choices), but so far it has worked well for my partner and I while planning for our toddler. We'll continue to do this as long as it works for us, and not a day longer.

Maybe this idea strikes a cord with you, maybe it doesn't. If so, great! I'm glad I could help. And if not, that's awesome too. I'm going to be busy enjoying family time and traditions with my loved ones so I'm probably not going to be thinking about it. Well, until I login and see your beautiful photos on Facebook, but still. I'm going to try to scroll past quickly and then try not to think much about it. But that's just me.

OK, good talk, guys. Now it's time for me to get back to what's really important this holiday season: that Michael Bolton album, obviously. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals (and/or best wishes for any other season celebrations you and yours enjoy; Sorry for the awkward sign-off, I just really wanted to quote Home Alone).

Images: Jere Keys/Flickr; Giphy(3)