I am not a Grinch, I swear.

I LOVE the holidays- decorating, baking, lights, movies, hot chocolate in reindeer mugs- I’m all about it. But gifts? Eh.

Hear me out- we’re just not “stuff” people.

My husband and I have long given up on exchanging gifts. We buy what we need as we need it, so the idea of “buying just to buy” is uncomfortable for us. Plus, we like to randomly gift things to each other- the element of surprise is nice. Nothing says “I love you” like a really good bottle of bourbon or new fuzzy socks on a random Tuesday in February (fuzzy socks are a close second to food on the pathway to my heart).

And the stress that I see on other people’s faces as they’re trying to figure out “what to buy” and “how to afford it all” just seems…kinda silly to me. I thought the whole point was just to be with loved ones, not to foreclose on your mortgage to stuff as much as possible under the tree.

Yes, we make sure the kids have plenty of shiny boxes to open on Christmas morning (although they like to point out that  there are a disproportionate amount of books and educational toys in there), but we also repeat (until our voices are hoarse) that this season is about giving, not about getting a bunch of shiny new things. And before those shiny new things find their way into the kids’ bedrooms, they have to hand over their no-longer-used toys for donation.  Vince is totally on-board with this…Grace is a bit of a kicking, screaming work in progress.

And sometimes I think they get it. Like the other day, when I suggested going to the local zoo to see a Christmas light display and Vince, using his very-wise-and-adult tone, reminded me, “It would be nice to go, but let’s remember that the whole point of Christmas is being together and giving love, not flashy lights and cocoa with marshmallows.”

“Yeah but we can still have cocoa and smashmallows, right?!?!”  <— Grace, lover of all things “smashmallow”

Listen, I said to cut back on the materialism- no one said anything about taking away smashmallows. That’s just crazy.

Anyway…then there are the times I’m convinced they don’t get it at all- like last week, when Vince asked for a skateboard that shoots sparks. I said, “You already gave me your list.”

“I know, but add that. I want that and all the other stuff.”

Sigh, palm to forehead.

“Vinny, you remember that it’s just a list of things you’d like, and you’re not getting all of them, right?”

His mouth grumbled, “Yeah,” but his face said, “Eff you lady, I want it all and I want it now!” I had mental flashes of Veruca Salt dancing on the EggDicator.

And then there are times like last night, when I realize that maybe I’m the one who isn’t getting it.

Pat and I were doing the “bath-pajamas-book” routine when I peeked into Vince’s room and found him lying on his bed, his face buried in his hands.

“Bud, what’s wrong?”

“Your Christmas morning is going to be ruined and it’s all my fault.” <— Vince, lover of the dramatic delivery

“What? Why?”

“I bought you a gift at the holiday shop at school today.”

“I know, the earrings- I love them!”

He was too excited to wait for Christmas, so we all got our gifts the moment we walked through the door last night.

Also, please don’t tell him that I don’t have pierced ears.

“No….I bought you something else. It was a flower. And I can’t find it.”

“Oh! Well, it has to be somewhere, let’s look together.”

Spoiler Alert: It was nowhere.

More sulking ensued.

I tried to reason with him. “Vince, you gave me a great gift, and I got it early which is really cool. I don’t need another one.”

“Yes you do!” he replied, suddenly in tears.

“Bud, what’s going on?”

“Mommy, there’s never anything under the tree for you and Daddy.”

“Well….no, but we have enough fun watching you guys open your stuff.”

“But that’s not fair! You’re the best Mommy ever, and you do everything for us, and on Christmas morning you make sure we have so many gifts to open, and you give a bunch of food and stuff to other people who don’t have anything. And you don’t get anything. It’s not fair. You deserve presents. It was a really pretty rose, and it was incidented (I’m guessing scented?? Jury’s out). It was going to be under the tree so you’d have something to open on Christmas morning. So you’d finally have a gift under the tree.”

Oh kid. Please don’t make me cry in the middle of the bath-pajamas-book routine. It’s timed very specifically, and any incidence of sobbing just throws it all off.

“Vince, thank you SO much. Thank you for thinking of me, and for planning that really nice surprise. I’m so sorry it got lost, but I have some good news.”


“This, what you just told me- that’s the best gift ever.”

“No it’s not.”

“Yes it is. And when you and Gracie snuggle in bed with me after Daddy leaves for work. And when you ask if you can set the table or load the dishwasher. And when you share your blanket when we watch a movie. And…hmmm…when we sing together in the car! Dance parties…and when I’m sick and you hang out with me and teach me about Pokemon. Vince, you and Gracie are huge, huge gifts for me. Having these two little people that I made, who want to love me with all of their hearts- Dude, there’s nothing better than that. Nothing.”



“Ok…but we still have a problem. I bought Daddy an extra gift so he’d have something to open too. So now he has one and you don’t.”

“Ok, how much was the rose?”


“Ok, Daddy will take you out this weekend to buy me another surprise. As long as you promise you understand that there’s no better gift than you guys –deal?”


I left his room marveling at how I had managed to create a little person whose heart was bigger than his whole body; someone who understood that Christmas gifts aren’t always about “buying just to buy,” but rather about small tokens that show love and give joy.

And then I smugly informed Pat that he had to take Vince to buy me a gift that was a beautiful, heartfelt representation of the sacrifice, love and care that I, as a mother, pour into our children’s lives….for $5.99 or under.

“I like cookies,” I added.


Hey, I may not be a stuff person, but I’ll never turn down comfort food (in case you’re wondering what to buy me this year).

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