Today, a lady in one of our Facebook groups asked what I thought would be a simple question to answer. She was tired of the holiday "gimmes" and had the idea that it would be best to inform her relatives to enjoy her children without gifts and that they would be the proud recipients of the contents of their stockings alone. This made me want to share what goes on in our home and before I knew it their was a mile long comment worthy of a blog entry. So, voila! Here we go down the next rabbit trail to cross my path this week. You see, our kids add things to their verbal "lists" all year long and it's always been our way of learning what types of things interest them. They almost never remember what they originally asked for, have no solid expectations and are genuinely happy to receive anything at all. We're able to keep an eye out all year long for ideas/gifts that they might truly enjoy and they still enjoy the pleasure of a true and honest surprise. All together it's a lesson in creativity, problem solving, hypothesizing and mental window shopping all rolled up into one conversation. In the end, we know our kids well enough not to be stuck in the "what to get ..." category of gift giving. One shot, one kill meets measure twice, cut once meets no more guess work in the toy department.
Our kids are well versed in advertising gimmicks. Through the magic of Youtube, Netflix and Hulu we've been able to share with them old commercials and documentaries about how things get to be advertised and why people think they need the newest, greatest toys, gadgets and accessories every time they turn on any source of entertainment. They don't watch much regular television and are thus not subjected to countless hours of "buy this/ buy that" propaganda. Thanks to their clutter-free opinions, they often decide on some really random stuff compared to their peers. They have standards that include durability requirements and value for the dollars spent. They ask each other questions like "How long can you play with it?" and "Can I play with it in different ways."
The biggest problem, outside of breakability conundrums seems to be that anything with a character limits how they can play with the object. A sword is a tool of many themes until you slap a character sticker on it. I have found that character toys limit the children's imagination and it is only after they have peeled the logo stickers off and shed the "rules" have they really enjoyed the toys we've given them over the years. They like to make the rules and don't want some ad agency and toy manufacture telling them how to play. They question everything. They notice everything. To quote a young Mr. Macaulay Culkin in one of his earliest flicks "I'm a kid - that's my job."
Our kids have a very healthy outlook on gifts, birthdays and holidays in general. It has helped us so much since we've been able to get them retro toys from the '90s and lots of stuff most kids today would turn their noses up at. They ask for things like pogs and actually like going outside. They aren't looking for the newest video games but, instead as us to download retro games from our own childhood. Don't get me wrong, they enjoy a good new game every now and then, but thanks to the fact that they've cut their teeth on the classics, their tastes are more refined than that of their peers and they often see flaws in game-play much faster than the kids of their own generation. Their parents grew up gamers and thus they have that opportunity as well and have learned to have a developed palate for games and do not rush out to beg for the latest throw out at Gamestop. Our oldest son actually owns a rebuilt Gameboy color and we hit up the local record store (you read right) for retro video games.
Netflix and Hulu have unlocked a wealth of information and entertainment for us all. They enjoy the classics like the Marx Brothers and enjoy a good Twilight Zone and in the same day can be found watching the newest movies from our local RedBox dispensary. I have found that overtime they have shunned the new movies easily if the plot seemed lacking or the acting not up to snuff. They have poured over trailers, reviews and critiques before asking to see anything in a theater and often time they prefer to watch movies at home and save the theater money for "a real wowza."
They LOVE reading! I have so many spots within this huge house that are simply overflowing with books! We are in serious need of a library room. At any one point in time you can find my independent readers enjoying comic books, reading to their little brothers or updating their GoodReads accounts on my phone. Our oldest is already reading Herman Melville and her vocabulary is only exceeded by her literary comprehension skills. She is a fount of wisdom I rarely see in her generation. A gift of homeschooling that more than promises to pay off in the future. Yet, they are still every bit goofy and silly and enjoy they same aged counterparts on and off the playground just as bit as any other kids. They are the leaders amongst their friends. Trendsetters for good and everything unspoiled by todays modern thinkers. A sort of hybrid, if you will. The best of every world and every generation that has come before them and anything standing in their way.
We've taught them not to sell out for any one day just because it's the "norm." We are having "Rule Breaker Thanksgiving" right now... as in today at this very minute. lol We celebrate each other year round and we all enjoy giving to others. Christmas is a favorite around this house, and yet we can celebrate it any day of the year. We've had Thanksgiving in August and Easter a month late. We've skipped entire mother's days and spent entire months celebrating birthdays. Ours is a family that knows how to party and how to work to earn the chance to kick our feet up. The value of a dollar does not go unnoticed amongst kids that earn their treats. They do their chores because it's the right thing to do and get stars for their charts as a bonus for going above and beyond. They've taken the Bible's words to heart and know that in the end 2 Thessalonians 3:10 holds true in the adult world and a work ethic starts NOW not later.
Our children have really great Christmas holidays no matter how many gifts come under their trees. We have always enjoyed the look on their faces because they never know what they are about to get. I find nothing wrong with going all out every now and then but, see no need to do it every year. Not to be confused with the idea that any of the children would ever go without. But, I can definitely say that our kids are well loved and not spoiled. They seek opportunities such as summer camp and nature explorations over new toys and clothing. They would rather help bake cupcakes and pies over anything that ice-cream truck is peddling and would never turn down a hand-me-down if it meant that money could be allocated to a fun family night. When we have it, we splurge and when we don't we find another way to have joy in our hearts. Our bottom line is that money isn't everything. They'd rather play with each other over spending a dime.
That being said, these are my favorite kinds of kids. They think, work, play, respect, love and have no major expectations outside of their own personal hierarchy of needs. They protect each other and themselves and when they have a problem, they come to us and communicate. They play well with each other for the better part of everything and they love each other at the end of every day. They are my favorite kids in the whole world and had I known them only as someone elses children I should be so very blessed to do so. I am ever so much more blessed because I am their mother and can only wonder what the future holds for each. As for now, we take to heart Psalm 127:3 and enjoy each of our seven little blessings.