A friend of mine recently made a rather profound statement. It has been rattling around in my thoughts particularly as we moved through the Christmas season. I think it is something we often miss amid the consumerism of the Christmas season. My friend said:
When I spend less money on ‘stuff’ I have more money to spend on ‘experiences.’ I think, in the long run, experiences will matter more to my kids than the stuff I get them.
I believe there is a very important truth here.
Memories you hold most dear
Consider the Christmases you remember from your youth. How many specific gifts do you remember? Perhaps there are a few. A very special item that you hoped to find under the tree and were delighted to open it on Christmas morning.
My guess though is that far more often it is experiences that created the memories that you cherish. Special traditions that your family enjoyed. Playing games with your siblings. A special time with your mom or dad. More likely those are the memories that you hold most dear.
As parents we love our kids and want them to have a great Christmas. Too often that is spelled S-T-U-F-F. Have to get the hot toy of the year or little Johnny will be so disappointed. If the tree doesn’t disappear behind the stacks of boxes it just isn’t Christmas.
The struggle with stuff
I admit to being susceptible to “stuff-itis” myself as my wife would attest. As an only child and also the only grandchild on one side of the family, I had far more than my share of gifts most Christmases. My wife who grew up in a larger family just rolls her eyes at me sometimes when it comes time for Christmas shopping for our son.
But, as my friend reminded me, I must admit that my fondest memories from my childhood revolve far more around experiences than specific things.
Most of those many gifts I received as a child have long been forgotten. I don’t even remember if the Nerf football was a Christmas gift or not. I do remember waiting for my Dad to come in from the barn in the evening and spending a few minutes playing catch with that football. I don’t remember opening the model train set. But I do remember the hours I spent with my grandfather working on creating the perfect layout.
Time and experiences matter
What is most sad is all too often we buy piles of gifts that we can’t really afford, so we pile up large credit balances. Then we overwork ourselves trying to pay off those balances over the next several months. By the time we get done working we are too tired to do much more than collapse in our chair and veg out in front of our TV. Meanwhile, I think in most cases our kids would gladly trade that pile of gifts for just more time with us.
So another Christmas has come and gone. Perhaps it is too late to make those changes now, but I would challenge you, especially, if you have children, to consider what experiences your children will remember. If building memories means a little less stuff so you can enjoy more experiences, your children will thank you someday.
What are your favorite Christmas memories?
Photo credit: Scarygami (creative commons)