Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Perfect Frugal Gift For a Child

Just as I was reaching for my hat, I heard my cell phone chime.  Very little time remained with the nanny here, and I desperately wanted to take a quick walk around the block, near the woods, to ease the transition from lawyer to mama.  A home office is great, but has no commute in which to decompress.  Where was I, oh yes, the phone ringing.  I glanced at the caller ID and picked up, already knowing the caller's question.

Me: Hi Mom, what store are you at?
Mother: How do you know I'm shopping?
Me: You are on your cell phone, you only use that when you are in a store and need my opinion on something for the kids.
Mother: Hmmm, well I'm at Kohl's and they have Green Bay Packer sweatshirts on sale, but only 2T and 4T.  You said she wanted anything green.....?
Me: Pass on it.  2T is going to be too small too soon, and 4T not  wearable for another year or more.  Seriously mom, don't waste a lot of time shopping.  The kids have all they need, and nearly most of what they want.  Just come and hang out with them.
Mother:  Okay, okay.  Sorry to interrupt your work time.
Me: I was just headed for a short walk, I'll call you later.  

Are you searching for a frugal gift for a child this holiday season?  If so, look no farther than yourself.  We live in an age where stuff is affordable.  If families cannot afford Target or Toys R Us there is the vast world of second hand (SAVERS, Craigslist, garage sales).  And most people with kids have most likely experienced the "drop off", parents with older children dropping bags of clothes and toys off, happy to clear the clutter out of their home.  Stuff is cheap, stuff is plentiful.  Kids are drowning in stuff.  The one thing my kids need is time with loved one, those that make up their village.  My guess is my kids are not the only ones.

Entering our fifth year of parenting my husband know this all too well.  Thanks to the 4Ds they have very little adult influence beyond the two of us and the amazing child care providers we've hired.  Yes the 4Ds: death, disease, distance, and sadly disinterest.  No one was asked if they wanted to be a grandparent, the title was tossed upon them.  And sadly, it is not always welcome.  And with age comes diseases, and death.  My son was just over one when my dad died, and my daughter was not in existence.  For a variety of reasons, the baby boomer generation has played a small role in the kids lives, never every changing a diaper.  There is a void, that is clear.

My children are growing up in a time when needs and wants, of the tangible sort, are relatively easy to obtain.  But the intangible, the stories of where a person was when the learned JFK had died, watching Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, or hearing Elvis for the first time, those are scarce in our home.  I know this is not the case for everyone.  We live in the Midwest, where people flock to be with family.  Multi-generational Sunday dinners a common.  Grandparents fight over who will babysit on Friday night.  Sure, that may bring with it unsolicited advice on potty training or appropriate bedtime stories, but they are getting an experience.  One not available on a shelf.

Instead of rushing to a store to buy a kid a bunch of stuff, pick out a great puzzle, board game or book.  Maybe one you enjoyed as a child.  Just one item.  And then promise yourself you will do the puzzle, play the game, or read the book to the child on multiple occasions.  The object is a vehicle for the gift of your time and love.

Writing this I am reminded of the line from Dr. Seuss' The Grinch -- " Maybe Christmas..doesn't come from a store.  Maybe Christmas....perhaps....means something more".  Marketers will shutter at this post.  Politicians will tell you to support the economy, local businesses, urge you to shop!  I urge you to pause and ask what our children really need for the holidays this year.

Thanks for reading, and I'll be back tomorrow with more on the upside of frugal living.  It's good for your wallet, the planet, and your health.

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