My mom has an early-December birthday. Most years it comes less than a week after Thanksgiving, and it always catches me off guard. This year I forgot to mail a card in time and ended up calling my mom on her special day. At the end of our call (which lasted over an hour), she said, “This was the best birthday present I could have received from you.”
I realize that’s a very “mom” thing to say, but I know she truly meant it. With both of our lives being busy, talking to each other uninterrupted for over an hour was a gift. I’d almost phoned it in (literally) and purchased flowers for delivery. But what my mom really wanted was to hear my voice and have a heart-to-heart chat.
As I thought about all the gifts I have to get before December 25, I realized that maybe I could make those more meaningful, too. Remember those coupon books you made for your parents as a kid? The handwritten tokens boasted favors such as: “One free hug,” “Breakfast in bed,” “Set the table.” As a kid, those services may have been the only thing valuable you had to offer, but I guarantee your parents loved the heart behind them.
You’re an adult now, but that heart still matters to the people who love you. Here is a list of some heartfelt gifts for the people on your list.
She’s known you all your life and probably still sometimes thinks of you as her little toddler. Moms love to receive something sentimental. (Mine still gushes when my brother gives her a sappy Hallmark card.) They want to know that all their hard work made a difference in your life.
Photo gifts. Moms love to have their kids on display. Try rebooting an old family photo. You know, that time you went to the beach when you were eight, or the family camping trip? Keep it simple and frame them or find a creative way to display them. (These DIY tile photo coasters cost less than $1 each and are easy to make!) You could also initiate a family photo shoot to capture new memories.
Date night. Another idea for mom is to take her on a special date. Moms crave one-on-one time with their adult children. A young man I know took his mom out for dinner, then surprised her with tickets to her favorite musical. A friend of mine plans a yearly spa day with her mom. Don’t underestimate the gift of your presence.
He may have been a rock in your life, but chances are he has no idea how much you appreciate him. While their interests may vary (fishing, sports, business, etc.), all dads want to feel respected and know they are loved.
Handwritten note. Write your dad a letter, sharing favorite memories and expressing thanks for all he’s done for you. Even if he made mistakes, honor him with words of affirmation about what he did right.
Day trip. Plan an excursion with your dad based on shared interests. Get tickets to a sporting event, go whale watching, plan a hike, visit a cool museum or explore a new city. Most men enjoy activities and doing them together creates a special bond.
If your grandparents are living, count yourself blessed. I remember going into a restaurant with my grandparents while I was on a business trip in Florida. As I was walking to our table, a middle-aged woman smiled and said, “You’re so lucky. Enjoy it.”
Give ‘em what they want. When it comes to grandparents, most know what they like. One year, one of my grandmas asked that we only get her “cat themed” gifts from that time forward. She couldn’t be bothered with less desirable gifts (Ha!). Tune into your grandparent’s special interests and cater to them.
Legacy video. Computers have made it easy to produce really cool videos. Interview family members about family history, their memories of the grandparent and what they appreciate about them. Create a video of responses. A less high-tech alternative is to simply compile the answers in a journal for your grandparent to read.
When I bought gifts for my nephews, I didn’t want to spend my money on junk that would break. I discovered that my nephews just loved spending time with me.
Crafts and games. Choose interactive activities that you and the kids can do together. Each year my sister prepares a craft for her 13 nieces and nephews to do with her during Christmas break. It’s a highlight for them. Last year, she raised the stakes, bringing some crazy games like Pie Face and Speak Out that even the teens enjoyed.
Fun times. A friend of mine gives her nieces and nephews an experience with her each year. It may be a fancy tea party or a trip to a paint-your-own-pottery shop. Not only is it a gift to the children, but my friend receives the blessing of time with them.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to let your friends know you care. All it takes is a little creative thinking and time.
Home-baked goodness +. The holidays are a great time for good food. Make a favorite family baked good or treat and attach the recipe. Be sure to include a Christmas card with a thoughtful, handwritten note of encouragement.
Make a plan for the new year. December can be a hard month for many people, so give your friends something fun to look forward to in the new year. Plan out something to do together after the holidays, such as explore a historical site, go on a fishing trip, or take an art or photography class. This gift shows that you plan to make your friend a priority during the coming year.
Many of these gifts are interchangeable and can be used for those not listed (siblings, coworkers, stepparents, etc.) Either way, give the gift of yourself. Infuse yourself into your gifts, letting the recipient know how much he or she means to you. We’ve all heard that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. That’s especially true when what you give builds stronger relationships.
Copyright 2019 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.