A couple days ago a friend of mine shared an article on Facebook entitled It Turns Out That Traveling Makes Us Far Happier Than Any Material Wealth Ever Does.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.
It’s partly because our financial situation has improved, and so now being able to travel at least a little bit is an option.
It’s also partly because our youngest is now five years old.
Everyone is totally potty trained, we are out of the nap phase, we don’t need strollers anymore or any other baby paraphernalia.
We are all ready to travel.
And we are all at the age where we can remember traveling.
And I want to throw this out there to everyone as we head into the Christmas season.
As you know, last year we took a good hard look at what we had been doing at Christmas with the kids, realized the more presents they got, the less they appreciated them, and we decided we were going to follow the four Christmas gift rule.
Yes, I was worried about them being upset. I was worried about them not being happy. But I knew we had to do something. They were becoming unappreciative and ungrateful and that was bothersome to me.
Plus, we had too much crap already, clutter was an issue, and most of the things we got them they didn’t even touch more than a handful of times.
At this time the kids all still believed in Santa (most of them still do), so we told them that we had talked to Santa, and we told him we only wanted him to leave four gifts for each of the kids.
They looked at us like, what the hell would you go and say something like that for?
And to be honest, they were a little bit let down on Christmas morning when instead of tearing through dozens of gifts each, they only had four to open (they did have some stuff in their stockings, too — the usual deck of cards and toothbrush and Chapstick and Play-Doh, so technically there were more than four).
But that let down lasted just a short time.
They each got one fairly big gift they really wanted. And rather than throwing it aside as they would have in the past, they really appreciated it.
And they actually played with it.
That initial holy-shit-Santa-is-only-giving-us-four-gifts reaction was fleeting.
And now, on year two of this tradition, they don’t bat an eyelash.
They were not traumatized, and we are not going to have to mortgage our house to pay for gifts.
So back to my original point and that article I mentioned that my friend had shared.
This year as the holidays approach us, I have not heard my kids mention one time any of the gifts they recieved last year for Christmas.
There has been no, Remember how awesome it was when I got that American Girl doll?
No one has said, How cool was that Wii game we got last year??? That was so much fun!!!
And what about the presents from two years ago?
Nobody even remembers what they got back then.
I remember the Easy Bake Oven we got for Number 4 two years ago.
You know how many times she used it before it wasn’t cool anymore?
Two fucking times.
What a waste.
BUT, what I do know is that the places we have gone, especially around the holidays, the kids still talk about.
They talk about the time we went to see the house that was transformed into an entire Christmas village. And that was three years ago.
I am sure nobody can recall anything they received for Christmas three years ago.
It has been the same thing with Number 4’s birthday, switching from gifts to experiences.
She remembers exactly what we did for her seventh birthday, and her eighth birthday and her ninth birthday.
I am quite certain Number 3, who opted for gifts rather than experiences couldn’t recall what he got for his seventh or eighth or ninth birthday.
The kids also talk about the trips we have taken to the Bronx Zoo and to North Carolina and to Hershey Park.
But they don’t talk about presents they’ve gotten for their birthdays.
And so maybe instead of so many gifts under the tree, you can help to show your kids that stuff doesn’t make you happy.
I mean, yeah, some stuff does. But not overkill.
What if you cut back on the presents and took a little day trip (or two) over the holidays?
If you live near NYC you could take the train into the city to see the Rockettes Christmas Show or go ice skating at Rockefeller Center and see the tree.
You could take the kids skiing for a weekend or go to Great Wolf Lodge (I’ve never been, but they are all over the place and so many people we know have gone there).
This year, we are taking a ride on the Polar Express. It’s a steam train in Essex, CT, and they convert the whole train into the Polar Express just like the movies and they serve you hot chocolate and the kids wear their pajamas and I’ve been wanting to do this for years. The kids have no clue and I know it is 1 ) going to be an awesome experience for the whole family, and 2) going to be something they will remember forever! I can’t wait!
We wouldn’t have been able to afford this if we hadn’t made the decision to scale back on the number of gifts we got for the kids, and it is certainly going to bring them more joy than one more present under the tree ever would.
So as we head into the holidays, I’m encouraging everyone to think about this.
Your kids don’t need a ridiculous amount of gifts. They don’t appreciate them. They don’t particularly want to take care of them. And they also won’t remember them.
But a trip or an experience they have, especially one they have with you, is something that will bring them happiness and fond memories.