Gift Giving.

When I was a little girl, I fell in love with giving people presents.
Don't get me wrong, I loved getting presents too. And, I loved saving up my money to buy things for myself. One of my earliest memories is going to Fred's Salvage in Laurel, Mississippi after I had worked a very hard Charlie Brown Sno Cone stand sale in my front yard.
I made three dollars.
All I wanted to buy was scotch tape, cherry chapstick, and garland.
I loved the smell of the first two and was convinced that I needed shiny red and green garland strung all over my room to have a truly magical Christmas. Plus, garland, I rationalized, would attract more customers to my business ventures. And at five years old, I was all about starting my own businesses in my bedroom.
Buying scotch tape, cherry chapstick, and garland is one of my earliest, most cherished memories.
But even more than saving money and buying things for myself, I couldn't wait to pick out the perfect gifts for other people.
I liked giving gifts so much that as I got older my parents would never give me money for my birthday because they knew that as soon as I got birthday money in November, I started Christmas shopping for the month of December! And as much as I wanted things for myself, it was just too alluring to have the money to spend on the perfect gift for someone else. And that's what I did, and still do. I habitually use my birthday money and gift cards to start buying up the perfect present for someone else.
I can't stand it. If I had a million dollars I'd blow it in an afternoon... mostly on other people.
There's a sixth grade girl who absolutely adores Annie. She babysits her from time to time while I get work done around the house and I hear them squealing and laughing together. It's really sweet.
A few months ago Skye was at a weekend event with us (her father was the speaker) and when we came back after lunch she was beaming. She spent her break buying Annie and I presents. She bought Annie a mirror because, "Annie loves looking at herself more than any baby I've ever played with!" Next door was a funky, cheap jewelry store and she picked out a bracelet for me to wear on stage. One that matched the outfit I was already wearing! She's a fashionista. Her dad was so confused... he was shocked that she wanted to go shopping for us and not for herself.
I found myself telling her, the way an older sister tells their little sis, "Skye, God has given you a tender heart. A lot of times you think about other people before you think about yourself. That's why you love to give gifts. But be prepared: not everyone will give the way you do. And sometimes when you give, you won't get anything back. And sometimes you'll spend a lot of time thinking of the perfect present for someone, and it won't even cross their mind to ever buy you a present. It can hurt your feelings and make you bitter if you're not prepared for it. But you just keep giving anyways. Whether you get something back or not. Keep thinking about other people."
After it spewed out of me, I wondered, where did that come from? Poor girl just bought us presents and I'm lecturing her on the shortcomings of inadequate gift givers. I sounded like a bitter old woman who got coal in her stocking one too many times!
Truth Is
We aren't born with an instinctive nudge to place others ahead of ourselves. In the gift giving world this means that while we might find a million things we love at Target for ourselves, it may not cross our minds to think of someone else while we are shopping. You might be guilty of this if you seem to leave a Christmas shopping trip with more things for yourself than anyone else. You might be guilty of this if you find yourself in the aisle of a department store or browsing online catalogues and seem to be at a complete and utter loss of having any idea what to even get another person (the person is often a close friend or family member at that!). You might be guilty of this if you cringe at having to spend money on someone else besides yourself... like you dread birthdays because- there goes your Galleria money down the drain!
As a mom, I'm excited to teach my daughter how to avoid these pitfalls, and instead, how to become a joyful giver. I believe the reason Skye found so much joy in buying us presents is that she has seen someone in her life exemplify what it means to joyfully think of others. To be excited for someone else. To give, just because.
Oh, if we only learned earlier what it means to cheer for someone else. To want their best. To give them a better present than we get ourselves...
the world would be sweeter
My mom taught us to be good gift givers. She was always excited to give my dad the perfect present. She was always excited to give us each and every birthday gift because she had been looking for them, thinking about them, and buying them for months. The perfect present. You could see her face about to explode she was so excited.
One year I told my mom, "You need to get something else for dad because he got you the most amazing thing in the whole world. It's huge! And I'm afraid you don't have enough for him." I think my sisters told her the same thing. We were very nervous that Dad had "overbought" for her and so she started searching for another gift. And, a few days before Christmas I remember her coming home with another gift. A leather jacket. It cost one hundred dollars, might as well been a million. We assured her that now they would be even.
Dad got mom a full sized body pillow that year.
It was the biggest thing we had ever seen.
This always makes me laugh.
Teaching our Kids to Give their Best!
I've never written a blog like this, and I have to admit, I feel rather old- or out of place- assuming that I have wisdom or advice to pass out to other parents! But I guess I' about to turn thirty, so here goes:
What my mom taught me about gift giving:
1. Listen to those you love and watch what they get excited about in stores or during TV commercials. Keep a mental note. Or an actual note! Go back to the store that day if you can and get the very thing they were mentioning. Keep it for their next big celebration. If you have kids, make a point to say, "Girls, let's remember that daddy really loved that lawn mower and start to save money so we can buy it for him." Teaching our kids to be interested in what their brothers, sisters, or friends like, sets them up for a lifetime of intentionally listening in order to give to others. Setting aside money teaches them that sometimes we give up things for ourselves in order to give someone else a special gift.
2. Start a present closet at the house. When you are at a store with your kids, allow them to pick out a few clearanced items for the gift closet. While you might want to let them get one small item for themselves, the point of the gift closet is to stash away really cool gifts for other people. It teaches them a great lesson to be able to say, "I know you'd love that too, but it will be more special for Julie if we just buy it for her birthday!" The gift closet is about always finding a bargain and having gifts on hand at any given moment, but more importantly, it is about teaching our kids that they can fall in love with fun gifts and be excited about giving those things to their friends instead of having them for themselves.
3. Allow gift giving to be fun. Keep your eyes open for discounted gift bags, ribbon, wrapping paper, etc. Encourage your children to put together the gift themselves. Even if we weren't with mom when she bought things for the gift closet, we always knew what was in there! For me, one of the most fun parts of the process was going into the gift closet and picking out two or three things to put together in a package. Even if it was an odd mix like: snow gloves, lip gloss, and a hello kitty t-shirt, I took great pride in putting together funky gifts and my friends never knew the difference! Giving our children freedom to be creative in the gift-giving process allows them to put their own stamp of approval on the gift and feel like it's truly their own creation.
4. Finally, it's never too late for you to become a great gift-giver. This doesn't mean you spend a lot of money or stress yourself out over finding the perfect gift. There is NOTHING more unattractive about a gift than a giver who tells you her grief over finding the gift, her annoyance, her mall induced headaches, or someone who throws in the occasional, "Well, he better like it. It cost a fortune." Yuck. It's better to give a gift card or a wad of cash than to be in a foul frenzy over buying presents. That's not what I mean!
What I mean is this, as moms and dads- as humans- it's never too late to begin to take joy in other people and what they love. So ask yourself, when is the last time I really listened to my husband and picked up on something he is enjoying and bought him a gift? When is the last time my kids came home from school and I picked up their favorite _______ just because? Go through Target. You don't even have to buy anything, but mentally make the trip about other people and not about yourself! Hard to do, I know!
It's never too late to model what it means to be excited to love on someone else and to show our children how that translates into gift giving ... whether that's a homemade card, a home cooked meal, a fun gift for a friend, or a surprise for dad/mom. Teaching our kids to take joy in bringing joy to others is a priceless gift!
On that note, I thought I'd share my latest purchases for the 'gift closet' that I hope Annie will fall in love with one day. These are ALL from Target and they are all currently 75% off... so go stock up for your gift closet and let the kids do the buying!

Bag of Balls: $5.08
Rake: .75 cents
Lion Bubble Blower: $2.24

I bought one bag of balls for Annie and one for the gift closet. Annie is in LOVE with her $10 ball pit! Summer pools are on sale for $5. Balls are $5. This is the greatest idea I've had in a long time!

The red clearance stickers that I have so grown to love at Target!

Bright Pink Sand Wagon: $2.87.
It comes with a shovel, sand pale, and a few other gadgets. Annie has been pulling it around the house, with her balls in it, all night.
(Another idea: Buy up these blue and pink wagons and use them for your next baby shower gift! Stuff them with baby diapers or teddy bears and use them as a decoration or a gift bag!)

Penwheels: .24 cents.
Party favors or fake flowers for your little girl. You can even chop these penwheels off their sticks, tie string through the middle and use a coat hanger to create your own sparkly mobile. For 24. cents there are about 24 million things you can do with these things!
Hope these ideas have helped. Happy Gift Giving.