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Charitable Donations Replace Christmas Gifts for Adults

By Lianne Wilkens December 16, 2013 9:15 am

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Mom on the Run: The Next Chapter

I stand back and look at the tree. My daughter came home unexpectedly for the weekend, so my husband and I took advantage of having a kid present and decorated the house for Christmas. She is in her senior year of college and our son is in his freshman year, and with no other kids at home, my husband and I are having to figure out new processes, new expectations for just about every aspect of life. We’ve got the day-to-day stuff down, but holidays are fresh new ground.

Putting up the tree ourselves didn’t seem right, but setting up during their Thanksgiving visit seemed early, and waiting until they show up a few days before Christmas seemed late. It was convenient that our daughter popped home when she did, two weeks before the big day. My husband hauled up the boxes, and in an hour the deed was done: tree, stockings, wreaths, flags, little Santas and angels sprinkled here and there throughout the downstairs.

Last was the presents, and that’s what I’ve just finished doing. I had wrapped the gifts already, and once the tree was up it took just a minute to transfer them all over.

All of them.

I stand and look for a minute at the tree. This seems … sparse.

“Is that it?” my husband asks, standing next to me and looking.

“Yep,” I say, nodding, arms crossed. “That’s it.”

Beneath the tree: one large-ish box containing the expensive boots our ROTC-obsessed son requested for Christmas. One large-ish box with the camouflage pattern camelback wearable water bottle for my son, from my parents, which my dad had delivered to our house. One small box containing a shirt for our nephew. And one very small box holding a beautiful sparkly bracelet that I picked up for myself for a crazy low price on Black Friday.

“Well, I have two boxes to add for you,” I tell my husband. “They haven’t come in yet.”

“And I’ll have one for you,” he adds.

We stand together, looking at the tree, nodding at this sobering news.

“Do we have anybody else to buy for?” he asks.

“Nope,” I tell him. This year, for the first time ever, we have finally, finally done away with adult gifts for my family. Instead, we are giving charitable donations: “I’ll write up some cards for my parents and sisters, saying what donations we made in their names.” I’m having iTunes gift cards emailed directly to my sister-in-law for our nephew and niece. “We do need to find something for your mom and dad,” I say. He nods … but we both know those will be small, token-type gifts.

But our kids … just last week we gave our daughter cash for a down payment on a car as her Christmas gift. Aside from the boots, we’ll probably give our son some money.

And that’s it! For the first time in 22 years there are no babysitters, no teachers, no coaches for whom to buy gifts. No kids’ friends or even kids’ friends’ parents – other moms and dads who sit on bleachers and serve as back-up cheerleaders and EMTs and couriers – expecting little gifts or cards or homemade cookies.

So beneath our tree is lonely. The years of mountains of brightly wrapped gifts are over. The big toy gifts evolved to small electronics gifts, and those evolved to checks and deposits and down payments on cars. Things too big to fit under the tree.

Until … yeah, I decide, turning firmly away from the tree. I’m going shopping.