Even with Christmas right around the corner and Santa ramping up his reindeer-prod battery recharging schedule, some of you still have not finished your Christmas shopping. I know I haven’t.
Chances are you’ve already bought stuff for the people who are semi-close to you, like your alcoholic yet surprisingly-still-single drinking buddies or the gals in your Stitch ‘n’ Bitch Quilt Club & Coffee Clutch. Acquaintances like these tend not to be too particular when it comes to being on the receiving end of free stuff and even if they don’t like your gift, who cares? It’s not like your world would fall apart without these marginal individuals cluttering up your social calendar.
Buying something meaningful for spouses and/or partners is a completely different story. It’s a bit more of a challenge to shop for people you truly care about who might read into a poorly chosen gift a lack of effort or even a lack of love for them. There are three different shopability profiles for that complimentary component in your love life…
- Easy: The two of you are either dating heavily or newlyweds so you still do a lot of talking and listening, which provides ample opportunity to pick up hints as to what your lover wants. If all else fails, you can always fall back on standard new-couple Yuletide gifts, like jewellery, expensive electronic gadgets, and “Romanti-Saver” three-day cruises to tropical shores. While one is most likely to expend the most energy considering the optimal gift for a new love interest, in the grander scheme of things the gift itself matters little at this stage of your relationship. You could give a cat poo with red and green sprinkles on it and your lover would cherish it always as a keepsake of your blossoming love.
- Difficult: The two of you have been soul mates for quite a while and, over the years, have run the gift-giving gamut. All the obvious X-mas gift choices, like satin robes, Rudolf slippers, and pricey hobby equipment, were given years ago so you are really in a bind as to what to buy for someone with whom you have gone through so much. An easy way out of this mutual dilemma is for the both of you to agree to forgo personal gifts and buy “something for the house”, such as a new stove, an upgrade to your climate control system, or pay down Junior’s student loan so the collection agencies will finally give you some “heavenly peace”.
- Super Easy: The two of you have been
chainedmarried to each other for so long you can taste it. You agree that a long vacation might be fun but you decide to spend your money on something that will last a lot longer… divorce, the gift that keeps on giving.
But Christmas really is about the children, isn’t it? Luckily, the kids on your shopping list fall into categories which closely mimic those for adults, only it is much easier to predict what young ones want. The children in your life have been dropping hints for months and if you have been paying any attention at all you should have a pretty good idea what to get them to reward them for their love and for being the all-around great person they’re turning out to be. So figuring out what to get children depends more on…
- Their age. A child’s stage of development must be considered. You wouldn’t buy a three-year-old a Junior Exothermic Chemist’s Set unless you want to cash in your homeowner’s insurance.
- Their conduct. Unlike adults who have some input into your relationship with them, children are subject to whatever arbitrary disciplinary actions adults impose to correct their deviant and/or disrespectful behaviour — that’s why God made us bigger than them. Many parents wisely use Christmas in the same way that employers use the pre-raise negotiation employee evaluation interview. The main difference is that there is no overt performance/reward dialogue between parent and child so the evaluation of the child’s worthiness of expensive gifts is based on an aggregate of the parents’ experiences over the entire year. The beautiful thing is that the young child believes in Santa so any ill feelings for the sparsity of gifts under the tree are projected toward Saint Nick, and not toward the parents. Once the older child becomes aware that the magical Santa claims are bogus but continues his/her bratty behaviours the parents not buying him/her any extravagant gifts reinforces in the child the concept of cause and effect.
Children’s Gifts by Age
- 0 – 3 years: Rug-rats are easily impressed by anything new that pops up into their environment so just about anything makes a great gift for them. You could easy get away with stuffing a sock with an old pair of underpants with two buttons sewn on as eyes. A gift such as this could very well become “Bobby”, the child’s companion right up until his kindergarten’s staff psychologist pries it from his/her chubby little mitts. So at this stage of development holding back on gifts’ quality or quantity will not be corrective in any way. The only way to mould a child who seems to be heading down the wrong path is with the judicious use of a rolled-up newspaper and by rubbing his/her nose in “it”.
- 4 -10 years: During this stage of a child’s development, he requires more complex toys to hold his attention. Coupled with the belief that Santa is an omniscient, omnipotent, and transcendental toy manufacturer/distributor, the youngster on your list will make greater demands of Father Christmas (and your finances) as he passes through this period of his/her life. Requests for tricycles and a sheriff’s badge will evolve into demands for 20-speed mountain bikes and AirSoft assault rifles costing three figures. While the amount a parent must spend on Christmas rises with the child’s age, the child in this age group is now actually providing a written list of his Yuletide demands. The one thing that the parent must remember is to explain that Santa is an old-fashioned guy who demands a snail-mail list. In this day and age it is unlikely the child will have the vaguest idea as to what’s involved in mailing a letter, so they are forced to turn their Letter to Santa over to a parent.
- 11 years – Post Belief in Santa: Things start getting very complicated (and expensive) for the parental gift-giver during this developmental stage. The child will only be placated by gifts with either a name brand logo or of a high level of technological sophistication. The magic of requesting gifts from Santa having worn thin, a parent must rely on his own memory of which model of iPhone, video gaming system, or laptop will conform to his child’s minimum criterion for satisfaction. Good luck getting a written list to “Santa”… you’re lucky if your teen talks to you at all.
Children’s Gifts by Conduct
- Good Children: Parents rightly feel that they should buy great gifts for a child who does well at school, volunteers his/her free time in a sincere effort to make the world a better place, helps out around the house, and is pleasant and respectful to others. This is called “positive reinforcement” and rewards a good child for their good works. Because it is a Christmas gift from Santa, the child does not associate the reward with the deed so he/she does not learn to expect to be rewarded for every little act of kindness or selflessness they perform. Parents of such children must be cautioned not to harbour negative feelings should their child donate their expensive gifts to the local orphanage without ever having played with them him or herself.
- Bad Children: Parents of bad children also feel that they should buy their brat nice gifts but, aside from not appreciating them, the bad child is likely to intentionally break them before Christmas Lunch in the hope that they will be replaced on Boxing Day with something much better. A full-out tantrum-alooza lasting all afternoon and evening is invariably part of this plan. So to parents of such children I suggest that as a Christmas gift to their bad children, they enrol their youngster in a strict sleep-away military school. If the cost of a military education is prohibitively expensive, an alternative would be to sign up the tike as a novice at a Buddhist monastery in a remote area of a third world country, like Myanmar or North Korea, depending on whether the child in question has an aversion to spirit-breaking swelteringly humid or naughtiness-numbing cold and damp weather.
Do-it-yourself Gifts for Under $1
Not every family can afford military school tuition or airfare to an exotic sleep-away temple, so what’s a parent on a budget to do? The brat in your life doesn’t merit a gift which will tax the family’s resources and Young Donnie or Screaming Sue are not worth the hassle of a trip downtown at this time of year, so a handmade gift of negligible monetary value is the way to go.
Here are a couple of ideas that you can throw together in the time it takes to watch the Married with Children Christmas Special rerun using stuff you’re about to throw away anyway.
What you’ll need:
- A depleted toilet paper roll
- A digital photo of your child’s teacher
- Some ScotchTape
- Access to a computer and printer
How to make it:
- Print the teacher’s photo on plain paper (thick “photo paper” is no good) at a size just slightly larger than the toilet paper roll’s diameter. Every toilet paper tube I’ve ever come across has a 1¾ inch diameter so a 2-inch photo should be fine. If the kid is not even worthy of a gift costing four square inches of colour ink from your home printer, feel free to print out the picture in black and white on the laser printer at work.
- Cut the photo out, leaving a good 1/2 inch border of paper around the image.
- Center the tube on top of the image.
- Fold edges if paper upward and tape to side of roll.
- Wrap in expensive holiday-themed gift paper.
When the child opens the gift, instruct him/her to peer thought the tube with a bright light source in the background. Keep a camera handy to capture your child’s expression as he/she is reminded that they will soon be returning to school.
Muffins for One Set
What you’ll need:
- An empty 10 oz. soft drink can.
- Heavy-duty scissors or tin snips
- Zip-lock bags
- Permanent marker
- Pre-mixed muffin mix
How to make it:
- Use the scissors to cut the soft drink can about one-third of the way up from the bottom. Trim away any of the larger shards of razor-sharp metal. This will serve as the muffin cup during the baking process.
- Referring to instructions on the muffin mix package, calculate the amount of muffin mix required to make a single muffin (i.e. amount ÷ yield). Use a good kitchen calculator if necessary.
- Measure out the quantities of the various ingredients and place them into zip-lock baggies, labelling the bags with the marker as you go.
- Prepare a recipe card with the single-serve quantities. A best-guess estimate for the baking time will be good enough.
Pack the bagged ingredients, recipe card, and the cut-down Coke can into a dollar store gift box along with a note explaining that for such an acidic kid a single muffin should be enough because you cannot imagine that they could have any friends with whom they could share multiple goodies.
I hope that in some small way I’ve helped get you out of a bind this holiday season.
- Keeping the spirit of Santa alive at home (reporternews.com)
- The Gift of Giving. (areyouwithcaz.wordpress.com)
- 16 of the Scariest Santa Pictures Ever (neatorama.com)
- Christmas time! (poulosesarah.wordpress.com)
- 12 Days of Christmas: How to Scare Your Kid into Being Good All Year (abrahamthinkin.wordpress.com)