Every December, like many parents, I start thinking about presents. The only difference is, I’m wondering how to avoid presents. My son’s birthday is in mid-December, inevitably accompanied by the gift extravaganza known as the holidays. Our family celebrates Chanukah, eight nights of it. Between the two, Max could easily rack up dozens of gifts—most of which he doesn’t need, given the fact that he is not exactly a deprived child.
When Max was a tot, I’d hide presents from him. People would walk into our house for his birthday party and hand me gifts, which I’d sock away in a closet then give him throughout the year. Now that he’s older, pilfering presents doesn’t work so much anymore, so I’ve had to come up with other strategies to avoid present O.D. What’s worked:
I ask for gift cards. There’s no shame in telling family or good friends you’d like gift cards to Target, Kohl’s, or whatever stores you frequently shop at for your child. (If you request gift cards to Starbucks, however, they might get a little suspicious.)
I also tell people exactly what my child needs. Max is having a birthday party next week with a Lightning McQueen theme, and he is beyond psyched for Cars paper goods. I am not beyond psyched to buy it all, so I asked my sis to hit up Party City for the plates, cups, tablecloth and napkins. People might hesitate to suggest gifts because you think it’s not polite but not once has anyone ever seemed uncomfortable with that or said, “How rude!” Every single time, people are grateful to know what they can get Max that he’ll enjoy.
I have people make donations in his honor. My son has special needs, and has benefitted immensely from the good work of organizations and non-profits. And so, I zap website links to family and ask that they make donations in honor of his birthday. A beautiful thing! I’ve also shared GoFundMe projects started by parents of kids with special needs, like this one by a mom of a daughter with cerebral palsy who needs money to buy her daughter therapeutic equipment.
I hit up teachers for suggestions. For years, I’ve been reaching out to my children’s teachers around the holidays to get their ideas for books, educational games and apps, so the kids get a good mix of fun presents and ones that will benefit their brains.
I pay it forward. Once all the presents have been opened, I ask my son to donate one or two to kids who don’t have enough toys. Truth is, there’s always something he’s not that into or a duplicate of a toy or game he already owns. I don’t think of this as doing wrong to the person who gave him the present—I think of the gift my son gets in learning to help other people in this world.
Image source: Flickr/yorkd