There’s so much to worry about in the lead up to Christmas the presents for your kids being top on the list, probably. And then there’s the puzzle of trying to fit all of your family and friends into a social calendar that will maximize the fun and minimize the exhaustion, melt-downs, and hangovers. It’s all just too much.
So, like many parents, my wife and I look for ways to cut corners. Christmas cards, for example, seem to be on the wane, and so this will be the first year we’re not sending them out. Five years ago, the mirror in our kitchen which we use to display cards, sticking them around its frame — was crammed with colorful winter images and holiday well-wishes, as even not-quite-close friends might send a brief “thinking of you” style message. Now we have only a handful of cards, and no problems checking our hair in the reflection before heading out the door. I guess with Facebook and Instagram and other social media outlets, it’s easy to feel like you’re keeping in touch. After all, doesn’t a status update accomplish the same goal, and with so much less work? Or, as my wife thinks, an e-card.
One of the next things to go is the Christmas present for your spouse. This makes sense, especially when your kids are young. My wife and I spend a lot of emotional energy just remaining positive and upbeat with one another in the face of tantrums, chores, and long days with our four-year-old. It’s easy to see a marriage as less of a romantic proposition then a business one, with the goal being to turn out a well-adjusted, healthy, functioning little human being.
Besides, we’ve been together for a long time, and after a while, shopping for your partner stops feeling exciting and romantic and turns into just another chore. The creativity and excitement leaches out of the whole endeavor. She liked that necklace I got her a few years ago, so I’ll get her another one. She hasn’t read this book yet, so I’ll pick it up for her. Check, check, check: shopping done.
On top of that, who has the money to spend on lavish gifts for their spouse? We certainly don’t. Spending a couple of hundred bucks on the boy is one thing, and splurging for special food or events that the whole family can enjoy, ok. But putting out cash on one another? It feels excessive, and selfish.
Except that it’s not, really. Your relationship with your spouse is the core of your family’s life; it’s the heartbeat, the soul. If you two hadn’t fallen in love and decided to have kids, then none of this would’ve happened! Exchanging gifts can feel like an obligation, but if done in a spirit of fun and love, it can serve as a reminder that you are two human beings who care about one another. And it can add some necessary romantic sparks to the holiday season.
No need to make it complicated. Last year, after a few years of not exchanging presents, we decided to give it another go. We set a hundred dollar limit, and gave one another an afternoon to shop, with the goal of finding something that would surprise the other person. The time constraint made it feel like a game, and I ended up dashing all over Brooklyn looking for a purple shirt to match these fetching purple tights I had purchased — my idea was to buy her an outfit, which I had never done before.
It was fun! This year, we decided to go with a drinks theme, and surprise the other person with something special for the bar. It’s less romantic, perhaps, because it’s not as personal, but we both enjoy a cocktail before dinner, so really it’s an opportunity for us to spend time together, sipping and enjoying.
However you decide to do it, the important thing is to exchange a present or two with your partner. Don’t let the holiday season overwhelm you so much that you forget to honor the person you love, the one who’s there for you day after day. And while you’re at it, why don’t you treat yourself to something nice too, while you’re shopping. We must take of ourselves too, so that we can best care for others.