Experiences make the best gifts

Have you ever been badgered by your child to buy a certain thing for them?  We’ve all been there.  The latest fad or craze descends. All of their friends have it.  It’s all over TV.  Your child simply cannot live without it.  You try to avoid the shops and places where they will be reminded of this thing they can’t possibly live without. You don’t want them to catch you at a vulnerable time and when you are affected by any momentary lapse of willpower.  However, eventually you relent and purchase whatever it is.  You feel as if your child should be eternally grateful and fall all over you with joy but that doesn’t quite seem to happen.  It is as if, now that they have the item they badgered you about for weeks, they have scratched that itch and are now ready to move on to something else.  The thing gets put on a shelf in the bedroom, is never looked at again and now you are being badgered about something else.  It’s a vicious cycle.

A couple of years ago, when trying to decide what to buy my children for Christmas, I thought about all of the unused toys they owned, the things that just filled up space in the house but didn’t give anyone any joy and I decided that I wasn’t going to add to that anymore.  I didn’t want a house full of toys that I would still be paying for long after the novelty of owning them had worn off and they were nothing more than clutter.  I wanted my children to know that there was more to life than the acquisition of objects.  This however did leave me with a little dilemma.  What on Earth were the children going to unwrap on Christmas Day?  I didn’t think I would be able to get away with giving absolutely nothing.

I still hadn’t decided what to do when I noticed that I was seeing lots of advertisements for a performing horse circus that was coming to town.  It looked a little like Cirque de Soleil under an enormous big top but with horses.  I knew that it was something that the whole family would enjoy but it was bound to be expensive and it was coming to town right over the Christmas holiday period, never a time when anyone is flush with cash.  I had resigned myself to having to let it go when it suddenly occurred to me that here was the solution to my problem.  I would purchase us this experience for Christmas.

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We told the children that this year they would be receiving their presents a day early, packed them into the car on Christmas Eve, drove in to town and went to the show.  The looks on their faces as we drove into the parking lot was priceless.  Our youngest had been expressing a desire to go and never expected to actually do it.  I think I spent as much time looking at their faces during the performance as I did watching the show itself.  We still talk about it even now.

Since then I have given other experiences such as a specialist art class, a Minecraft camp and a behind the scenes zoo day.  Not everything has been a spectacular success but I am learning what works and what doesn’t.  I think some of the best experiences are the ones we all have all together.  This is where we are creating memories for our family.

I am also beginning to realise that some of the best experiences are things that we don’t even have to pay for.  There’s the day we all walked down to the beach and looked at the whale bones on the shore, the time we went camping and stopped at a little town on the way to watch honeycomb being made from scratch and the afternoon we all spent snuggled up in the lounge room watching a movie together.  It’s moments like these that the children will remember long after they have forgotten the things we have bought them.  I don’t think I will ever go back to giving expensive ‘things’ again and our lives are much richer for it.