There's a lot of talk out there about Christmas being too materialistic. And it's true, it really is. But what doesn't seem to get talked about is how fun it is to give gifts. The act of gift giving, truly, is okay, too. Good, even, in my humble opinion.
I love knowing that I am getting something for my children that they are going to love. Knowing that their eyes are going to shine in wonder and amazement upon opening. I try to put some specific thought into what I am getting; I hate buying a gift just for the sake of buying a gift, which is sometimes necessary -- it's the thought that counts and all that. But for my children, and for the things that are coming into my house, I try very hard to get something that represents them and is something that they actually desire. As well as something that I don't mind having around.
For the little ones it's a matter of paying attention to what they already have and enjoy as well as to what their natural interests are. Now that I have a preteen I can appreciate how easy it is to shop for preschoolers: the hard part is holding back! And it doesn't take a lot of money at all. They don't blink an eye at second-hand toys from thrift shops. And their favorite items that provide immense joy are often the simplest: I will always remember that Conner's favorite gift one year was a container of tennis balls.
Of course, that was ten years ago. Now he's a wee-bit more complicated. And so hard for me to relate to. Toys, I get: It's all these electronic gadgets that elude me. I was never one as a kid to even play video games, for pete's sake. It's not like he's even asking for much, or for many, I should say. But of the three things that made it on his list, two of them cost over $100. A Wii? Fat chance. An ipod? Is that really necessary?
The quagmire I want to avoid is ultimately spending as much on miscellaneous stuff that he never asked for as I would on just getting him one thing that he did. This is what came to my mind when my mom pointed out the prices on a "Zune" in the sales flyers for the day after Thanksgiving. A Zune? What's that? Is that like an ipod? Oh, it's Bill Gates' version of an ipod? Like, ipod has just become a generic name like Coke, only sometimes when people say Coke they're really talking about a Pepsi and now Zune is like a Pepsi so people will have Zunes but they'll still call it their ipod?
A couple of sharp tacks, she and I. I could go on but you get the idea. The rest of the conversation was just as pathetic. Poor Conner and his archaic mom. It's so much worse than "becoming your mother": here we were commiserating about not being able to keep up with all the electronics out there -- and, yes, that was the first time I had heard of a Zune -- and it takes my mother to tell me about a latest thing.
Of course, after she and I finished this incredibly enlightened conversation, John walks into the room and I ask him if he knows what a Zune is. "Oh, yea. It's the Windows version of the ipod." You don't say.
I totally blame him for my ignorance about everything electronic, by the way. It's like the woman who doesn't bother to cook because she married a chef. Except, er, I don't exactly have that problem.
Then I tell John that Radio Shack has Zunes on sale for $99.99 on Black Friday. Twenty minutes later I scream-whisper him into the room to tell him I found them for $79.99 at Target on Black Friday. He looks at the ad with me, "80 gigabytes! 80 gigabytes? Do you know that this time last year if they'd had 80 GB ipods for $80 at Bagram the BX would have been overrun?? Forget Conner -- get it for me and we'll give Conner mine!" Uh, that's the spirit, hon'.
But little did I realize how portentous his remark was. The one about being overrun, that is. I did attempt to take advantage of the Black Friday sale on the Zune ipod. (Or is it just a Zune?) But I am sooooo out of practice with American consumerism. Getting up at 6:00 for a sale that begins at 5:00 just isn't going to cut it, at least not around here. Especially when you go to the wrong store. And since the right store got in like, 12 zunes, my chances of getting one, even if I'd spent the night in the parking lot, were like, nil. Sorry, bub.
I did find another Black Friday bargain for Conner that I know he'll love, so the morning wasn't a total loss. But it did make me nostalgic for the little guy who used to go around, happy as a clam, a tennis ball in each hand; items so precious he wouldn't even throw one, so certain was he that it might get snatched up and not returned.
March 30, 2012
5 years ago