With time comes a modified approach to giving and receiving

Mike Christopherson
Mike Christopherson

Who doesn’t want gifts? Who doesn’t want a lot of gifts?

When I was a little kid – OK, full disclosure, it probably stuck with me for more years (decades?) than I’d care to admit – it was all about quantity with barely a nod to quality when it came to Christmas or my birthday and receiving gifts. At Christmas, whether I or another family member was playing “Santa” and distributing the gifts that had been previously placed under the tree to people situated about the living room, when everything was handed out I wanted to basically be hidden by a mountain of colorfully wrapped boxes. Anything less than that, and my mind was like, “What gives? Does Santa really know if you’ve been naughty or nice?” If my sister had a couple more gifts than me, I’d wonder to myself what my family, i.e. the gift-givers, saw in her that they didn’t see in me.

I know…immature and incredibly selfish. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a kid fortunate enough to have a bunch of gifts to open at Christmas not hoping to have as many gifts as humanly possible to open. They call Christmas the “season of giving,” but when you’re very young and you think the world for the most part revolves around you, it’s the season of getting.

Thankfully, most people grow out of most of the traits and behaviors that manifest themselves through I-me-mine-inspired greed. Whenever I need a reminder that it’s more fun to give than to receive and that it really is the thought that counts and not how much something costs, all I have to do is catch a quick glance of my wife. I think the world would be an infinitely better place and people would be much more thankful for what they have and less obsessed with what they don’t have if every guy married a dairy farmer’s daughter.

I’m putting these thoughts to paper a few hours after receiving a dozen forks as a Father’s Day gift. I couldn’t have been more delighted. If you would have told the 10-year-old me, or, heck, maybe even the 25-year-old me, that one day I’d receive 12 forks purchased at Wal-Mart as a gift and that it would leave me grinning from ear to ear and genuinely excited and grateful, I would have insisted with every fiber of my being that you were making future predictions about the wrong dude.

But that’s the groove your mind and your approach to living a happy, fulfilling life eventually settles into, and it’s a tremendous development to embrace. One of your kids overhears you wondering in exasperation where all your forks have disappeared to – we’re mysteriously down to around eight forks in the silverware drawer, but have at the same time accumulated around 50 spoons…somewhere in this thought there’s an Alanis Morissette “Ironic” reference – and he subsequently ventures out to pick up a dozen forks and a little gift bag and presents it to you on Father’s Day. Does it get any better than that?

That’s the only gift I received, by design. Not all couples will agree with this marriage strategy, but my wife and I decided a little while back that whether it’s Christmas or birthdays or Valentine’s Day or Father’s Day or Mother’s Day or any other mass-marketed “Day,” we’d get each other a tear-jerker or funny card and maybe some nominal, heartfelt or even cheeky, quirky gift, but nothing terribly expensive or outlandish. After all, if a family member asks you to make a Christmas list so people know what to buy you and you struggle to come up with three things you possibly want but definitely don’t need, how much more stuff do you really need to accumulate? If I feel the need to buy myself something that I’ve convinced myself that I need, I just go and buy it, no matter what day the calendar says it is. Same goes for my wife. If it’s a particularly spendy item, of course we’ll consult each other first, but I’ll take that approach over expensive gift-giving that feels mandatory or even forced. 

A marriage counselor might say this decision mutually agreed to by my wife and I spells the beginning of the end of our happiness or is a signal that our romantic spark is fading, but we kind of dig it.

And why not? After a while, if you’ve reached a point that, when it comes to material possessions, you basically have everything you need and then some, why not be more than happy and grateful to simply be with the people you love as much as is reasonably possible?

On Father’s Day, I watched hours upon hours of U.S. Open golf, we took the dog for a nice walk, and we made a homemade pizza that must have weighed 15 pounds after we piled on all of the ingredients. And we devoured it with the help of some shiny, brand-new forks. The day was a gift in itself.