Memories Rather Than Gifts

Someone once told me that you won’t remember what you were given for Christmas when you were 10, but you will remember who you spent it with.

On a separate occasion, another close friend pointed out that we can’t take ‘things’ with us. All we really have is our memories. The more I think about it, the more I realise how true both statements are.Being a parent of a large family, I have been very aware for a few years now of the clutter that tends to appear after birthdays and Christmases. With 6 children to buy for, we have to be very careful not to let things get out of hand. Over the last few years, we have made a real effort to focus on giving memories rather than gifts to the children. One year, we all went to Chessington with a picnic. Another time, we went on a daytrip to London. This was combined with a ride on the London Eye and dinner in China Town where I introduced everyone to delicious Dim Sum. Other examples include bowling, visiting a favourite restaurant and trips to the cinema.

While the day trips can work out expensive, it does normally balance itself out. BY organising a large trip or a treat, I automatically buy fewer physical gifts. Tickets or a note explaining the treat will often be included in the packages that get unwrapped.

Although the global pandemic which has raged over the last 12 months has made our usual way of gift giving more difficult, we have found ways around it without feeling the need to buy lots of ‘stuff’ which would just sit in a corner until I got bored of seeing it and sent it to a charity shop. For example, just after Christmas my eldest turned 16. I had been hoping to book an escape room experience, but new restrictions meant that this was impossible. Instead, we ordered his favourite takeaway and watched hours of Dr Who. We will book the escape room when restrictions are lifted again.

When I first started doing things this way, I was worried that the children might be disappointed. They had been used to receiving massive piles of gifts which looked lovely in pictures, but very rarely got played with. I was concerned that if they didn’t get as many presents to unwrap then they might think that they had been naughty or that I didn’t love them as much as I used to. In reality, I think the opposite happened. They started talking about how amazing their experience gift was, how much they wanted to tell their friends about it and how excited they were about it. I don’t think they ever really noticed the lower number of wrapped gifts. Or, if they did then they never mentioned it.

Looking back, I wish that I had started gifting things this way years ago. A memory is something that they can take with them. Long after they’ve outgrown Power Rangers or princesses, they will remember the time that we went to the zoo or the time we took them all to the drive-in cinema. Those memories are worth more than all of the shiny toys and electronics in the world.

Reflecting on the idea of experience giving rather than gifts, I have put together a list of some of our favourite experience gifts along with some that we are hoping to do in the future:

1. Chessington World of Adventures – I used Tesco Clubcard points to pay for this. All it really cost us was the fuel and a picnic, but it was a fantastic day out and we would love to go again.

2. Cinema trips – these are a brilliant way of giving one-on-one time too. If there is a film that we know one of the children will love, I usually book tickets just for that child and one adult. We normally splurge on popcorn and drinks before finishing the trip with a visit to McDonalds.

3. Drive-in Cinema – this is one of the most popular things that we have done. A few years ago, we took all of the children to a drive-in screening of Up. It was great because if the little ones got tired they could fall asleep in their car seats and we didn’t have to worry about them disturbing anyone else’s experience.

4. Visit a nail salon – If you have pre-teen or teenage daughters then this is another brilliant way of including some one-on-one time.

5. Football stadium tours – two of our boys are football obsessed. Stadium tours are relatively cheap and often include behind-the-scenes sections where you get to see things which wouldn’t normally be open to the public.

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