You are a wonderful man in so many ways—a loyal companion, a strong and loving father, a hard worker and provider—and for that I am grateful. But I can no longer make excuses for you in one area: Christmas gifts.
I understand that you are busy. I, too, am busy. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking about, buying and wrapping thoughtful gifts for not just you but also our child, my family, your family and several friends, neighbors, teachers and service providers.
I cannot be a martyr and accept this as my fate because to do so would be not only a disservice to me but also a grave disservice to you and our child, allowing you to fulfill the stereotype of the half-assed male figure groveling at the feet of the stereotypical superwoman who will shoulder the burden and emasculate you with her resentment.
Instead of stewing, I will be direct and give you some tips so that future Christmases can be authentic family affairs that exemplify the real reason that we give to others. In other words, no more passes…….
Let’s start small: Every family has different traditions and, in ours, stockings are important. Everybody gets a stocking. Even me. You’ve probably noticed that your stocking is full every year with little treats and tokens specially chosen to make you happy. Newsflash: that was me. I’m sorry if I’ve just burst your bubble about Santa but it’s true. So that means you have to fill my stocking. Please don’t make me fill my own stocking. That’s so sad.
And when I say fill, I mean “fill”—stockings are “filled” with stocking stuffers which are small, thoughtful, often inexpensive gifts; you can’t take something from under the tree and put it in the stocking and be done. Or worse, balance it on top of the stocking because it’s too big to fit inside. That’s not a stocking stuffer, that’s a gift. Just put it under the tree. But don’t leave the stocking empty! Don’t put a Toblerone in there and walk away! Like I said, you have to ‘fill” it. That sounds intimidating but all you have to do is go to the drugstore and roam the aisles for a few minutes. Here are some ideas: lip gloss, nail polish, flower seeds, mints, socks, votive candles, hand lotion and sample sizes of perfume or cosmetics. You can do it!
As for under-the-tree-gifts, I really do understand that it can be hard to think of gifts for people, especially your lovely wife. But if you really can’t think of anything that I would like, then we have a big problem; either you don’t know me very well (always bad for a marriage) or I don’t have enough interests. Both of these things are very bad. But here’s a tip: around December 1, just start listening to me. It’s really that simple. And then spend some focused time thinking about me……..real time, not just the time you spend waiting for your email to load—but a purposeful time (tomorrow’s lunch hour? your commute?) dedicated to thinking about your wife………….things that you love about me or want for me, things you see me do and hear me talk about. If I’m only talking about dates and times and dinner, then maybe your gift to me should involve time. Time with you or time alone or time to pursue an interest or a hobby.
But maybe I do talk about more than dates and times and dinner (oh god I really hope I talk about more than dates and times and dinner!) and, in these instances, PLEASE TAKE NOTE! I may have given you 5 present ideas in one conversation about going to the library.
Or maybe I’ve given you the ultimate gift in uttering the words, “You know what I’d really like for Christmas?” If I come right out and tell you what I’d like for Christmas, then you should definitely get that for me for Christmas. If that feels like a cop-out, feel free to get me another more personal gift. As long as you don’t spend the kid’s college money and the rent is paid, I’m good with more gifts!
And here I will emphasize a point that bears repeating, a gift does not have to be expensive to count as a good gift; a thoughtful gift makes me feel much more loved than an ill-conceived expensive gift. Cost is completely beside the point. Remember when you gave me a bound book of all of my writing? Very thoughtful! Remember when you gave me a gift card? And it was the same gift card you gave me the year before? And that was it? Not thoughtful. Like the opposite of thought. Remember how I sent you out on December 26th for a do-over?
In that moment, I was very aware of how your lack of thoughtfulness looked to our child. Hence the do-over.
I imagined him assuming that moms don’t get gifts. Or that husbands don’t take joy in giving to their wives. Or that moms make the holiday but they don’t actually get to participate in it. And at that time, our child had reached the age where he was too old to only GET gifts, he also needed to GIVE gifts. And, you know what? Kids actually love this part of Christmas! They love giving, bless their little hearts! And helping him buy gifts for me is your responsibility. Don’t make me arrange it for you. And don’t view it as a burden on your Saturday, view it as an opportunity to bond with your child and teach him about the importance of loving his mom and how fun it is to make her happy. Teach him about thoughtful gifts versus expensive gifts (see above). Educate him about supporting independent businesses. And make it fun by stopping for a donut on the way home. Our child learns by watching you, so the care and enthusiasm (note that I didn’t say money) with which you give to me teaches him how to treat his mother. It also teaches him how to treat his future partner. Essentially, you are building a husband of the future and that is a huge responsibility. Don’t blow it.
The following things are less important but will go a long way in showing your thoughtfulness:
Did you take the time to wrap your gift? Or did you put it in a grocery bag and staple it shut? If you’re not confident in your skills, just do your best with what I’ve provided for you in the gift wrapping box or feel free to have it wrapped at the store. These people are experts and they generally put a lot of time and effort into making a gift look inviting.
Try not to go to the gift shop on the corner every year. Maybe you could go to the gift shop on the next corner? Just to mix it up a little and show that you’re willing to walk one more block.
If you want your name to go on the gift tags for your family’s gifts, you have to participate in that gift giving experience in some way (besides paying for them. Nice try). If you can’t go out shopping, maybe you could research some ideas and I’ll do the buying. Or you could order some gifts online . Even wrapping the gifts counts as gift-giving effort (it also gives you a heads up about what you are giving them).
When in doubt, ask me what I’d like. There’s no shame in that. Use it as an opportunity to hear what’s on my mind; it may lead to a great conversation about what makes me happy or what’s lacking in my life. Thoughtfulness grows out of knowing someone’s thoughts and feelings.
Although the abundance of gift-giving this season can get overwhelming and veer into blatant commercialism, let’s hold on to the essence of why we give to each other…….to celebrate each other. To take joy in each others’ happiness. And at its very heart, to acknowledge and give value to each others’ hopes and dreams.
Please remember, I am your wife, the mother of your child, and supposedly the number one most important woman in your life. Bestow upon me a token of affection that reveals this simple truth.
That being said, I will love you always – even if you give me last year’s gift card.
Fondly and lovingly,