My ex always tries to one up me. One year, he asked me to let everyone on my side of the family know that my son was not allowed to accept video games as a Christmas gift. He then explained that my son was grounded and unable to play video games until he began to mind his manners at home. His Christmas wish list was mostly comprised of video games, but we scrambled to find him toys and books that he might like instead in order to respect his father’s wishes.
As I had done in previous years, I tried to coordinate shopping efforts to avoid duplicate presents. Up until Christmas Eve my ex still claimed that he had not gone Christmas shopping. Later, I found out that he had lied and purchased the video games from the original Christmas wish list by my son. Does this sound familiar? While I was baffled by his deception, it did not overshadow the wonderful memories we created that Christmas. So, how can you win the Christmas gift giving battle with your ex?
Keep the spirit of the holiday season.
“Your children need your presence more than your presents” (Jesse Jackson). Gift giving is an essential part of the holidays, but not the most important part. Figure out what makes this holiday special to you. If you were raised in a traditional Christian home, you may have been taught to observe Christmas as the day that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ and participate in religious ceremonies. If you are not religious, you may simply dedicate Christmas day to celebrating love, kindness and togetherness amongst friends and family.
Either way, Christmas is a day to create loving memories with your children. Keep the spirit of joy. Do not let anger and resentment about perceived wrongdoing by your ex keep you from enjoying what is most important.
Master the art of unique gift giving.
It is not the gift that counts, but the thought behind it. Buying the latest video game is too easy. Think outside the box and locate unexpected gifts by actively listening to your children. Did they marvel at something as simple as a cool pair of house slippers you spotted one day while shopping in Target?
Make them feel special by putting together a gift set with the slippers, a matching robe, nighttime snacks and a pack of hot chocolate for a thoughtful Christmas Eve present. They will know you were listening and that you care enough to put some actual effort into your gift giving. Or, go for individual touches like preparing a Christmas stocking full of age appropriate trinkets you know they’ll appreciate (such as Angry Birds plush toys for young ones, or Apple iTunes gift cards for your older children).
Remember that it is not about you.
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe). What matters the most is that your children are happy. Focus on making their happiness the priority. Think back to your fondest memories of Christmas. It is impossible to remember every gift you received, but you probably remember the experiences you shared with those around you. Keep that in mind as you strive to do the best you can for your children, no matter how much money you spend or how elaborate the gifts. Mark this as a time in which petty annoyances by your ex become less consequential and start to establish a pattern of positive thinking that will not only win you the battle, but may even win you the war.