I’ve always loved Christmas shopping for my kids. One of my favorite years was when we bought a Little Tikes kitchen and a Fisher-Price Workbench. Four-year-old Matthew strapped on his tool belt and grabbed his new power drill (which matched Daddy’s new drill), while two-year-old JonJon “cooked” stocking candy in a miniature frying pan. (And Baby David, only three months old, sucked happily on a new teething ring.)
Fast forward twelve or so years and you’d find three teenagers who did not have make-believe toys on their wish lists. In fact, they assured me they’d be happy with just cash and gift cards. Cash and gift cards?? Where’s the fun in shopping for those? I complained that I’d feel like an unimaginative, out-of-touch mother if all I could think of to buy them were gift cards. And cash was out of the question. “But you’d be giving us what we want!”
What does a parent buy a teenager who would rather pick out her own gifts? Gone are the days when you might have chosen something she didn’t even know she wanted. Her tastes are changing so rapidly that the pink fluffy slippers you were sure she’d love might get you a disdainful, “Seriously?” while she dreams of something from Joe Boxer – maybe in a leopard print?
My advice is for you to pay attention to their interests and passions through the year. For example, if his birthday gift is an iPod, then shop for accessories like a dock or portable speakers. If she’s seriously into watching professional soccer, buy her a scarf or a hoodie with the team’s name on it.
If you can’t figure out they want, it’s certainly appropriate to ask for their wish lists. My kids keep their lists on Amazon.com, and they update them as their interests change. I don’t always buy something from there, but it’s a good resource for knowing what they’re into now. (Though last year, when they were 17, 19, and 21, I bought them all luxurious bathrobes, which they hadn’t requested but thoroughly appreciated.)
Regardless of what you wind up buying, I encourage you to pick up a little toy just for old time’s sake. I try to tuck a small Lego model or a game into their stockings, because I remember opening gifts when I was in junior high and realizing I had nothing to play with. I’d received everything I’d asked for, but “everything I’d asked for” was either something to wear or something practical, like a hair dryer.
Besides, if they get something to play with, it means I get to play, too!