Right before Thanksgiving, I sat down with my granddaughters, ages six and three, with a Christmas toy catalog. As we turned the pages the oldest circled and put our initials by the toys we each said we’d like for Christmas. The girls picked out dolls and princess dresses, while Papa chose trains and race car sets. We talked about how much fun it will be if Santa brings us the toys we chose, and we tried to guess which toys we might get. If Santa brings everything we circled, he’ll need a bigger sleigh and some extra reindeer.
There are few things I like better than spoiling my grandkids. Watching them tear into stacks of presents and seeing the look on their faces when they get “just what I wanted!” is pure delight. I am concerned, however, what message I am teaching them. Are they learning that more is always better? That love is measured by money spent? The challenge is that while I can afford to buy the girls piles of presents, and it warms my Grandpa heart to do it, I may be feeding the god of materialism that is so destructive to their little souls.
As we approach Christmas Day here are some questions I am asking about the presents I give to my kids and grandkids this year. Maybe these are questions you are wrestling with as well.
1. What message does this gift send?
I often just buy the gifts on the list without thinking about the message behind the gift. Does this reflect my values? Does it reflect who I hope my child or grandchild becomes? Is there an underlying worldview behind this gift, or is it truly just an innocent toy? I don’t want my family to get a mixed message from what I say and what I give.
2. Is this a gift that will last?
Last Christmas, we bought one of our kids the drone they requested. They were ecstatic when they opened it, and tired of it by New Years. I don’t think it has been out of the box since. Every year, parents and grandparents spend millions of dollars on presents that kids forget within days or even hours. This year I am asking, “What could I give that might still have meaning even after I am gone?”
3. Does this gift truly reflect the recipient?
One year for Christmas, a well-meaning relative gave my daughter a Barbie doll, a gift many little girls would love. Except my daughter didn’t play with dolls. She liked sports and she like making things; she hated playing with dolls. While there was no ill-intent, the gift clearly announced that the giver didn’t really know my daughter. Rather than just grabbing whatever is on sale, this year I’m thinking through gifts that reflect the recipient.
4. Is this gift personal?
A few years ago my daughter gave me a wallet with the Denver Broncos logo on the front. The wallet was inexpensive and unremarkable, but I will likely carry it the rest of my life. My daughter knew that I love Jesus, my family, and the Broncos, in that order. It’s one of my favorite gifts of all time both because of what it is and who it is from. I want to give gifts that, while the may not dazzle, they hit home.
My hope is that this year, as we are buying those last-minute gifts, we will take the time to find gifts that bring more than momentary squeals and laughter. And I’m kind of hoping Santa brings me a train.