It happened. I crossed my legs and sucked in, trying with all my might to save our anniversary, but our tiny one came barreling into the world ON our first wedding anniversary. Sayonara whimsical weekend celebratory getaways and hello Chuck E. Cheese’s (and other gifts for kids).
In part, stud muffin and I are both closet introverts, in part, we live in small places, and in (larger) part we have too much stuff and don’t particularly like it. It makes for messy rooms, pieces break and disappoint and if we’re being honest, keeping up with the Jones’s toys next door is priceeeey.
Gifts for Kids
When my baby (who the airlines now officially refer to as a my child) turned 2 yesterday, we had already decided that his “gift opening” ceremony would be a short one. I’ve heard the formula:
- Something you want
- Something you need
- Something to wear
- Something to read
…and until I had kids that sounded reasonable to me. Now I can’t imagine even buying that many things for each kid once they outnumber their parents.
First of all, he’s 2… we still have a free pass on his (non) memory and since he doesn’t understand the whole birthday deal, we have zero pressure to perform. So we’re changing things up in our home. Since husband and I have birthdays that are just over 2 weeks apart, we made it a tradition from the get-go to go somewhere together instead of buying gifts for each other. Year 1 we did a weekend in Niagara (with our 2 month old little screamer), year 2 a weekend at a resort in Ras Al Khaima and this year, my 30th, I’m expecting big things!
For munchkin’s first birthday (and our anniversary) we hit up the local zoo (dude LOVES animals), this year we did a Scandinavian adventure.
Extravagance is definitely not the order the day. If we had a whole gaggle in tow I reckon we’d make a day at the pool and a barbeque just as much fun as a tri-country odyssey (but we wanted to sneak in one more flight before he became a full fare).
The Value of Experiences
Here’s our rationale:
- All I remember from my childhood are the things we did together, the adventures, the traditions, the time together
- My family has always been super close and very open about everything because we have spent so many nights in tiny hotel rooms with nowhere to hide and insanely expensive internet that we refused to pay for. We also always read a book together on vacation and have nightly dinner “topics”
- The more we get gifts for kids, the more stuff we have and the more places and boxes we also need to store it
- Stuff doesn’t make people happy.
An article published in the Journal of Psychological Science following more than a decade of research into the topic found that over time, people tend to become less happy with material purchases and more happy with experiences. I love the rationale. No matter how wonderful a thing (new car, house, phone) – we adapt to them over time as they become ordinary – memories in retrospect however tend to become fonder (even negative ones turn into hilarious anecdotes). Just the anticipation of an experience can engender happiness. SO if you read that carefully, there is delight in anticipation, delight in the experience, and a delightful memory post-hoc.
Going on adventures are so valuable because they also become opportunities for learning. Growing up wherever we went on holiday (all over Canada the US) we had the obligatory Parliamentary and University tour. We learned all about governments and higher education, and are better for it today. When we go on vacation we like to rent cars, get a good “feel” for a city, and use apps to learn all about the places we visit.
Plans I have for future birthdays:
- Give a kid (or maybe their siblings) $100 for the day and allow them to pick a special adventure they would like to use it for
- Enroll them in a class/camp they are into (sports/dance/pottery/basket weaving)
- Subscription to a great magazine (national geographic/monthly mass readings & reflections)
- Memberships or seasons tickets to museums, rec centers etc…
- A “day-your-way” where the whole family is at their service
- Finding ways to use “their” day to make someone else’s (volunteering)
- If a bunch of their birthday’s are close together – a bigger gift (a ping pong table or the like) that the whole family can enjoy
- Always share what we love about the birthday girl/boy over dinner
I think these options will result in sweeter dreams, fonder memories, more learning, greater joy in our home and fewer sprained ankles (tripping over toy cars) and storage bins.
But, if you’re wondering – we had a little party and bought him a kid-sized blackboard/whiteboard for his birthday so that there was something to unwrap and he can practice his letters!
What are some ideas you have for making birthdays special?