It's Christmas morning, and I'm opening a gift from my kids. I have a hunch I know what it is, because I was there when they bought it . . . with my money. This is still a special moment; their little excited expressions confirm helping them buy presents for their siblings, their dad, and for me isn't silly. It's adorable. And something I feel is part of my job as their parent. Not only is taking the kids shopping for Christmas gifts just plain cute, the exercise also instills valuable lessons about giving, and doing so within a budget. Even if I am the one footing the bill.
Each year, my children, who are now 10, 8, and 5, get really pumped to go holiday shopping with me. I try to take each of them on a separate outing so we can spend special one-on-one time together, and also so they're able to keep their gifts for one another a secret. I'll typically allot each child about $10 per gift, but if they find something for less money, that's always a bonus. It's so fun to watch the kids breathlessly charge down the aisles of the store in search of the perfect gift for each family member.
While we're shopping, I know my kids will also pick out their gifts for me. I pretend not to see what they pick out, but I usually can't help but sneak a peek. It's just so darn precious to see what they think I'll like, and it's usually really spot on. My kids' school has also hosted a holiday shop where students can buy gifts for their families, so I'll send them in with my money. In that case, I won't see what they've picked out until Christmas morning. One year my youngest daughter got me a "Best Mom Ever" key chain. I actually cried when I opened it. The gifts my kids thoughtfully pick out for me don't mean any less just because I'm the one that paid for them.
One day, when the kids are old enough to get part-time jobs or babysit, I'll stop giving them money to shop for gifts. Until then, their only job is to just be kids. And since their tooth fairy money usually goes toward ice cream, paying for their gifts for the family, including my own, is how I can teach them that Christmas isn't just about receiving. And they see that gifts cost money, which helps them learn the value of the different items they choose and ask for. Which means that no, I won't be buying them a hot air balloon this year, or any year, no matter how much they beg me.