Holiday Strategy Switch: Gifting Experiences Instead of Stuff

 Tricky lighting for a crisp iPhone photo, but the amazing  Wonderland at Roseville  holiday lighting display is something to see- totally free to visit, a labor of love that the owners of the home spend over a month setting up every single year simply for others to enjoy!

Tricky lighting for a crisp iPhone photo, but the amazing Wonderland at Roseville holiday lighting display is something to see- totally free to visit, a labor of love that the owners of the home spend over a month setting up every single year simply for others to enjoy!

Last night, I tried something different. Instead of giving my girls a Hannukah gift, I crafted a little poem, wrote it on this way-more-useful-than-I-ever-imaged board I bought to use as party decor a year or so ago, and held my breath. My girls are many things, but thankfully present-obsessed isn’t one of them- but this time of year- as Hannukah begets Christmas begets both their birthdays- they tend to get into this state of “gimme stuff”! And it makes me cringe. For so many reasons…They have so much, they don’t need it, the shouldn’t be conditioned to expect it, I don’t want more junk in our house, I don’t like watching the quick dismissal of new things for the newer thing and eventually it all goes in a drawer because they really just want to watch slime videos on the iPad, and so on…

Since this was my first attempt at the switch from stuff to an experience, I did put a little extra pressure on myself to make it feel extra special. And, Brian was traveling so, if it was a total bust, I was dealing with the blowback solo. Hence, the poem on the board (I posted the video of Alexa reading it below), and, well…you’ll see.

There is this light display in the town next to ours (Wonderland at Roseville in Fairfield, CT in the event you are in the area) that I have always wanted to take the girls to but never quite motivated to make it happen. So that was our first stop. Then, I let them choose our dinner spot (McDonald’s, and the nearest one just so happened to be the only one in the vicinity with a play area so, that was a bonus- even though Alexa is basically as tall as the entire structure at this point, she and Goldie could play in one of those germ infested things for hours). After that, we went to Alexa’s school book fair at Barnes & Noble, which actually was a funny moment in light of the “experiences over stuff” theme of the night. Every single mom I had a conversation with in the 30 minutes or so we were there said the same thing- basically along the lines of this (disclaimer: taking creative liberties in the dialogue to sum up the overall sentiment as thoroughly as possible) “Ugh, why did I agree to come here this late- my kid is hoarding the toys in a slap-happy, holiday-season-hungry state and the last thing we need is more STUFF?!?!” Yup, we are all in the same boat. (Noted it is a fortunate to boat to be in, but sometimes a well-built, simple canoe feels much better than an overly-accessorized- and unnecessarily so- speed boat, if that makes sense?)

As the girls buckled into the car to head home (around 8pm- usually bedtime but hey, I was really milking this whole experience thing- “making fetch happen” is the phrase that comes to mind, if you are a girl around my age, you should totally get the “Clueless” reference), Alexa looked at me and said:

“Mom, are you sure you aren’t Daddy?”

The ultimate validation of my plan! I was saying yes to things, being relaxed, not bringing up bedtime and not stressing out about time- just like Brian. Go me! (For one night, mind you- I DO NOT see this as sustainable behavior- the ying needs the yang, even if Brian is often annoyed at my task-master mom moments.)

Upon returning home, the girls got in pajamas and I set up a little make-your-own-sundae bar in the kitchen- a pint of vanilla ice cream and remnants of sweets we had in the pantry poured into little bowls. After a thorough tooth brushing session (I am laid back, but not THAT laid back), we climbed into my bed and watched the Charlie Brown Christmas special together.

It was awesome. And I didn’t have to clean up wrapping paper and instruction books and figure out where to stash two soon-to-be-ignored throw-away trinkets when I woke up this morning. Lex commented several times that she loved the surprise experience so much more than a quick gift before bedtime, and I couldn’t agree more. Yes, ordering a $17 Barbie on Amazon Prime is much less effort, but, if I can throw a wrench into the expectation of presents on top of presents on top of presents this time of year, the planning, prep (and added pounds from sneaking fistfuls of the sundae bar toppings) is time well spent.

NOTE: Shout out to my always-ahead-of-the-curve friend Anne Epstein who planted the seed for the whole “gift of experiences” concept in my brain last year. Every night, as I scrolled Insta and saw the pics of her boys, with huge smiles on their faces, enjoying ice cream for dinner or mid-week movies, I would say to myself “DAMN, I gotta get my act together to do that next year, so smart!” So, as I do with most things Anne does first (i.e. hoard these socks, or obsessively collect LoveShackFancy dresses and pair them with these sneakers), it only takes me like 365 days to get with the program. But once I do, I am all in!