We have a lot of family. Although my immediate family is small and quaint with just the three of us, our extended family from there has many branches. We are blessed with 10 living grandparents/great grandparents. My husband has 5 siblings and I have 4 (including step family). All but one of these siblings (combined) have at least one child. On top of this we have Aunts & Uncles and their kids and their kids from there. Most we see as often as we can (we love family functions!), with a few exceptions to those who we do not see regularly at all.
A special “card” my son made this spring for one of his great Nanas.
We used to try to keep up on birthdays and buy gifts for all, but in recent years we have really cut back on material items and decided to give the gift of time. Not only is buying gifts for all of these people financially crazy but most really don’t need anything at all – what do you buy for 90+ year old grandparents?!? Most will get what they desire within their immediate families or you can’t get something quality for the price point you would like to spend. Instead we’ve decided on giving the gift of time. We will try to make a special time to get together to see the person, even for a quick tea or just a special long distance phone call, to tell them happy birthday. Sometimes we organize a group birthday and celebrate all those in a particular month, or we invite them over for a BBQ or make them some baked treats. My son usually makes a special homemade card, but we’ve done away with the gifts.
We’ve also extended this gift of time at Christmas. Last year we officially stopped buying gifts for the 23+ close extended people on our list, with us three, teachers, crossing guard, coaches, etc., excluded and still gifted. We attempted to arrange separate gatherings with all instead. It was getting to be too much and I was shopping all year long for Christmas just to ensure I could get something for everybody. We told our extended family about this in June (2014) and asked them not to buy for us in return.
A simple picture can be a very thoughtful gift.
We had some family that didn’t understand why we decided to do this. To be honest it was not the money that drove me to make this change singularly, but the principles of gift giving alone. I want to give someone a gift because I want too, not because it is an occasion and I feel obligated. I want my son to be taught that spending time with someone is more important than gifts. In this materialistic world our children have so much stuff, much more than we ever had, and I am not sure they actually appreciate it all. I want him to learn that a game of baseball together or a special afternoon of play is far richer than another action figure. He still gets gifts from mom, dad and Santa, and he does more than okay that way. I want to teach him to be grateful for all that he has, his relationships and to be able to give when we can to others that do not have as much. We increased our contributions to charity last year with the money saved during the holidays. The sad reality is that every kid does not have the same number of toys or opportunities. For kids to appreciate what they have, it is awakening when they see what others do not.
A small tree full or homemade ornaments gifted with love.
I love love love giving gifts but I felt what we decided was better for everyone involved because we all get too much. Secondly, we all could appreciate “time” a little more as it is easy to forget how important it is. Now, before you think we are inhuman and never going to gift our family gifts again, we are just going to do it more inconsistent and thoughtfully. Things like buying my grandfather yellow beans every time I visit a farmers market because they are his favourite, or picking up the tab and organizing photoshoots for all of these extended family members (more on this coming soon!), picking up a fairy something or other because Auntie collects them, or buying Nanny flowers just because she is beautiful, we are going to gift with love at random.
I really believe time is precious and the only gift that is truly priceless and in a limited quantity. In the end the only thing we all wish for in life is that we had more time. We are going to make the most of the time we are given and spend as much of it with those we love, and do our best to remember why its the most important gift of all.