The Other Side of Gift Giving

All my life I have enjoyed the gift giving aspect of holidays. I love that you can share your time and thoughts with a loved one through the celebration of a gift exchange.

I might have even put just a little too much heart into it as I was a teenager. I can remember getting my feelings hurt when friends didn’t put quite the same amount of effort into gift giving as I did.

As I grew older, gifts themselves became less and less of a meaningful thing, and I began to understand that it was really the thought behind them that really triggered all my warm fuzzy feelings. Less became more and quality became MUCH more important than quantity.

Then I became a mom.

gift givingYou know the time when your first baby is brought into your life and the world feels the need to shower you with love? So they do. And it is actually great and wonderful because you really need all the love you can get because life is scary and uncertain and you are so incredibly tired and you just want to feel, well, human again? Yes, It was really nice to be showered with gifts. Literally ANYTHING that I could open up, Amazon package to gift wrap, created some real warm fuzzies.

But then, it kept coming. The gifts I mean.

The flood of stuff.

EVERY TIME someone visits they feel the need to bring a treasure. And it’s all so sweet and thoughtful and it shows how much they care. How much they are thinking about your children. Their desire for connection. But then the connection and meaning begins to fade and the STUFF part starts to accumulate in the house and it is difficult to manage.

I struggle with taking my children’s toys away. I struggle with making that decision for them. I wonder if maybe they might look for it one day or maybe become more interested in it at a later age. I worry about the gift giver too. I worry that they might come to our house and look for it one day. That the gift giver might feel insulted if we are not valuing the treasure that they so kindly offered our family.

If it’s not clear already … I tend to overthink …  a lot. But this. This worry is something that keeps cropping up. It is a struggle that I can’t quite find a solution to.

I tried the micromanagement. Christmas and birthdays came and I panicked so I wrote lists of very specific things that we would “allow” into our home. For the most part, our loving family and friends complied and tried so hard to meet our demands. The problem, though, was that the stuff still piles up. Even if it is well chosen things, it is still things. And let’s face it, there is only so much space in the closet.

You might be thinking, “Why don’t you just give it away or donate it?“ Well, here is my problem with that. Each item given has a meaning. It has a thought behind it and it was purchased with someone’s hard earned money and time. Also, my children know who gave them each of the gifts that they have. They look for things.

The struggle is real y’all.

This year for Christmas we didn’t even do gifts from us as parents because we were aware of how many toys were coming into the home already. The boys received so much. They had so much fun opening gifts and really love playing with each new thing.

But now, as the holiday has come to an end … we find ourselves in a huge pile of new toys to find spaces for along with the old toys that they still enjoy. It seems now, as if the toys in our home are literally growing. They multiply with each year and each child.

I know my struggle sounds so silly. Like I need to just step back and be grateful instead of being critical about how MUCH we are given. I need to step back and relax instead of micromanaging the gift giving language of our loved ones. I know that my struggle might sound petty or irrational. I also realize this is a problem that not everyone has. That it is actually a privilege to be able to struggle with such an issue. Much of the world is struggling with many greater issues than this.

But honestly, I think that is all connected to my thought process.

There is a deeper issue for me. It is about more than just simplifying our life, or not having to manage the clean up of so many toys and things. The greatest issue for me is a fear that my children aren’t developing the deep gratitude that I wish for them to develop. I fear that they aren’t being given the space to learn about valuing their toys / things. I fear that the more they are given the more they will be separated from the world around them. Sometimes, even though my children are young, I wonder if having so much stuff is truly too much.

How is a mom to know that answer? What do you do in your own family to manage the toys around the house? What are some ideas your have to keep the focus away from material things?

Marguerite is a teacher taking a break from the four walls of the classroom to teach her two beautiful boys (ages 3 and 1) in their home (as well as the park, library, grocery store, etc.). Most days, Marguerite can be found sharing in the simple joy of trying a new food or splashing in a puddle, drying tears from a scrapped knee, or trying to paint or garden with two babies at her feet. She is a huge advocate of early childhood development and a big supporter of the idea that our children are our future. She works each day to help foster an environment that helps her children grow into kind, productive citizens. Marguerite is also a big fan of community and the idea that “it takes a village.” Her husband, Nick, of six years and her are constantly looking to widen and deepen the community in their lives. Marguerite choses to write for RSMB in order to share with other moms how wonderfully messy her life can be and that no parent should feel alone in this journey of motherhood.


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