What to do with a November or December birthday
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My son’s birthday is at the end of November. I remember going into hospital to have him and it was ordinary November, and when I came out suddenly the decorations were up everywhere and carol singers were on the streets.
Having a child whose birthday is so close to Christmas means some interesting present dilemmas. Do you get your child lots of stuff for their birthday, knowing they will be inundated again when Christmas comes around just a few weeks later?
Do you stick to only buying toys for birthday and Christmas, when they’re so squished together meaning a barren wasteland of no toy buying for most of the year?
These are all first world problems of course, like wondering if your turkey is too big for your oven, or trying to remember where you put the only set of working outdoor fairy lights.
And don’t get me wrong, I dislike the ever growing commercialisation of Christmas as much as anyone – the monopolisation of what is essentially a spiritual winter festival by a volley of ‘buy buy buy’ adverts and ‘Black Friday – when they’re gone they’re gone’ marketing campaigns.
But I’d also be fibbing if I said that gift giving wasn’t a part of our festive season.
Friendship and festive fun
Having said that gift giving is a part of our festive season, at the same time they aren’t the focus. I asked Chiswick Boy yesterday what the best bit of Christmas was and he said the turkey, followed by the crazy madness and noise that comes from having all our family under one roof. (That’s Chiswick Daddy, me, Chiswick Boy, an old cat, a young tortoise, a Grandma, my brother, his girlfriend, their four year old, their one year old, my aunt, my two uncles, sometimes a ‘waif and stray’ that is in London on their own…and I love it!)
Nor are presents the focus of birthdays – that’s always been his party, which has got smaller each year, and this year we just had a small handful of friends over for a Lego party followed by a sleepover.
Look here’s the cake I made – a very un-Pinterest-ready pair of Lego blocks. Did Chiswick Boy care that these were un-Pinterest-ready? Of course not! Am I proud of my creation, even knowing that it’s not really worthy to be share online? Yes I bloody am!
Back to the present
So back onto the main topic of present buying. I do put a lot of planning into presents – I have an app, I have a budget, I have carefully curated lists based on things people have said throughout the year.
Hopefully this means that I don’t buy tat for the sake of it. After all, for all the planning, on Christmas day everything, down to the last well chosen gift, just disappears just into a sea of wrapping paper – amidst that “crazy madness and noise” that my son loves so much!
Wait until your birthday / Christmas – for late November or December birthday?
What I do for Chiswick Boy is that I do have a ‘wait until your birthday slash Christmas’ toy rule mostly – particularly once we get past August. But I diligently make a note of everything he wistfully sighs over or picks up in shops. Then I tend to buy most things on that list.
Chiswick Boy always asks for a surprise if I ask him straight out, so this way he gets a surprise – and I know it will be a good one! Because I’ve been keeping this list of what I know Chiswick Boy loves, I’m pretty sure he’ll love everything that’s wrapped up.
And he’s been a good boy. Now that he’s approaching double figures, I know that these years are precious. For how many more years is he going to want a squishy ball and a few Skylanders figures?
Plus there’s always a few things I sneak in around his current obsessions that I know he will love. This year for his birthday I’ve got him *Hogwarts pyjamas from John Lewis which I am really excited about. We spend hours role-playing our own version of Harry Potter, where Chiswick Boy is the new boy at Hogwarts and makes friends with Ron, Hermione and Harry!
Despite not putting the emphasis on presents, despite having an app and a set budget, despite knowing how much presents just disappear under a sea of wrapping paper and aren’t as exciting as the turkey, the silly games and spending the day with family…despite all this I still find myself wondering whether I’m spending too much money and too much time on present buying.
I guiltily hover on Mumsnet threads to see how much other people are spending on their kids, and feel vindicated when I see people spending hundreds of pounds on each child – we don’t spend anything like that. Not that I’m judging – people can spend whatever they like, and celebrate Christmas however they want.
But I do find that as children get older the amount we spend goes up. Certainly when Chiswick Boy was young we’d struggle to spend anything over £30 – there just wasn’t anything he wanted or needed. Now, even though we don’t do a big ticket item, the small things seem to add up to more.
It’s not rocket science, just simple maths – buy two things for twenty quid each and five things for a tenner, and there’s £100! Which seems daft – but there it is.
Budget it don’t begrudge it
I like the FlyLady motto of ‘budget it don’t begrudge it’ – that’s kind of my attitude and I am thankful for being blessed enough to be able to spend a good amount of money and not have to worry about are it. When I was growing up money was tight – certainly much tighter than it is for me these days. So I never take having a good job and a healthy child and a roof over my head for granted.
I input everything into my app and I know exactly what I want to spend, and all the things that are on the wish list. I’m pretty good at stopping when I reach my budget.
The main thing about present buying this Christmas is that this year I’m determined to get all my shopping and wrapping done by 1 December so I can spend December doing the proper Christmassy stuff – arts and crafts with the boy (you can never have too many badly cut paper snowflakes), snuggling up on the sofa in front of a real fire watching Christmas films and baking misshapen Christmas Cookies.
That’s our Christmas present buying. How do you do yours?