A month or so back, I posted a story on Instagram mentioning that Gary and I don’t give our kids gifts anymore - and I wasn’t totally surprised when it sort of blew up in a discussion online. I’ve shared enough of my life to know that there’s usually some (a lot) of opinions when it comes to our relationship and lives as parents! That's actually part of why I like sharing this kind of thing - so you and I can connect on it and I can share why we do certain things as partners and parents.
Cut to this past weekend at our oldest son Jake’s ninth birthday party. We didn’t go crazy with wild gifts, food or anything. We had a low-key picnic outside for his friends with a bouncy castle. Parents, let me tell you, it made no difference to the kids that it wasn't this massive themed birthday party with presents. They had fun because they were together - there’s no need for this big impressive traditional kid’s birthday party every single year. I thought I’d write down and share our philosophy (if you want to call it that); it's really just our opinion on gift giving for your children and what makes sense for ours. Hopefully this takes some pressure off of the expectations you have for your own approach to birthdays!
Okay time for some background; Gary and I don’t give gifts to each other anymore. “Gift giving” isn’t either one of our love languages, and it feels unnecessary. The idea of Gary giving me a gift now just feels a bit orchestrated, and when it comes to birthdays or anniversaries, it feels like a checkmark we have to complete.
We didn’t just wake up and decide this one day - it happened naturally. Gary is a generous person by nature, and earlier in our relationship, he used to shower me with gifts because that’s just what he thought I needed and what I expected of him. Personally, I’ve learned that I’m not a material person. I know, I work in fashion and that has to be, in some capacity, materialistic in itself. But in my personal life I don’t place value on objects. The gifts he was giving me were lovely but they lacked true meaning for both of us. I prefer buying things for myself, and when it comes to our marriage, I choose quality time, experiences, and memorable moments rover an item that just sits on a shelf.
So fast forward to having three sons. When it comes to gifts, honestly they just do not care. Maybe they’ve learned this from us, but they don’t care for it. On Ben’s last birthday, we did another picnic-style event here in Miami and a ton of people showed up and gave him presents (because that’s usually expected at a kid’s birthday party), and literally every gift sat wrapped, in a room, for months. We had to tell him to “go open something!” Our children just are not into that type of thing. They, like us, prefer an activity or adventure.
Specifically, our boys are into things that mimic adulthood. Like if Gary and I are getting ready for grown-up dinners and they see us getting dressed up, they want to come with us. So we create “gifts” in the form of quality time and outings to look forward to. Like after their jiu-jitsu classes, Gary takes them for pizza, and they look forward to it for days. The gift to them is going to a restaurant, ordering food, asking the server questions, being allowed to take the credit card and pay with it - that kind of thing.
So all this to say, if your kids love presents - obviously that’s fun and great. But if you feel pressure to spend money every year on their birthday, and are constantly feeling like you can’t do everything perfectly and get the right gift - take that pressure off yourself. In my experience, kids are excited about what you put excitement and adrenaline into. An outdoor picnic with friends, an experience, a pizza night - your kids will find it exciting if you do!