By AUNT LILLY
“Merry Christmas!” I cheerfully said to my niece on December 9th, 2011, as I handed her a bag from Old Navy with a very cute outfit in it, if I do say so myself. Her response to my holiday cheer was typical 15-year-old madness: “Thank you! But wait, this is not my Christmas gift. I want money. This was just so I could wear something for tomorrow.”
Mind you, this conversation transpired after my sister sent me a text at work asking me to lend some of my clothes to my niece, who was having an impromptu sleepover at my parents’ house. To make that happen, I would have had to make the 50-minute drive home, pick up some clothes and then take a 20-minute ride to my parents’ house, then spend another hour or so talking and watching my niece try on my clothes.
So lets think through this a little bit: I was supposed to go home from work (50 minutes in traffic), pick up some clothes and drive back to my parents house (a 20 minute ride from my house) where I’d spend another 40 minutes talking, plus another 15 checking whether the clothes fit my niece. All of that to drop off an outfit for a pretentious, yet lovable, 15-year-old-girl?
I’ve decided to make the outfit her Christmas gift, whether she likes it or not. It was already a big step for me to purchase a completely new outfit for my niece; I can count the number of times I purchased a completely new outfit for her on one hand. I am not one of those aunts who loves to purchase expensive clothing and the latest toys. I am more of a “quality time” aunt—the kind who enjoys my nieces and nephews. So giving material gifts is a big deal for me.
Which brings me back to my niece’s original request for cash. She’s not going to get it. I have already planned a ski trip for the two of us in February, my birthday month. While we’re there, we’ll celebrate her sweet sixteen, which comes in April. She asked me to take her skiing, and I’ll oblige, but only if I can kill two birds with one stone. Are you catching on? Christmas with this aunt comes all through the year, so even if I don’t hook them up in December, they could very well get something special from me in July.
Call me insensitive if you want to. But I have two nieces, seven nephews, a godson and a plethora of little cousins, and though I’d like to think of myself as an awesome aunt, I am not a rich aunt. I can’t keep up with myself at times, so purchasing individual gifts for each of my little family members, who all already have X-Box, Wii, Playstation, iPod, iPhone, iTouch and every other expensive gadget out there, is not an option for me. I mean, you do the math. I’m a much more thoughtful gift-giving auntie; we will do group gifts, going out to the movies, or for sushi, or a trip to the museum (free in DC). Christmas is every day for the kids I know. Throughout the year I surprise them with trips to indoor parks, cards, dinner dates, words of encouragement and long discussions about life. I love them!
However, if you knew me personally you would know, NO ONE sucks Aunt Lilly dry. Bottom line is I want them to experience the real meaning of the holiday season, like I did. Do not get me wrong, I was spoiled. What I appreciated more, though, was the time people spent with me, just like the time Jesus spent with people when he was on Earth. Isn’t that enough during the holidays?
What I plan on doing next year to continue my tradition of spending time with these wonderful kids is organize a group community service activity. Since they are all getting to the age where they can volunteer at a homeless shelter, wrap toys for kids or give to someone else in need, I will introduce them to the experience of service. Forget buying a gift they will eventually unwrap, play with for a few hours and then shove under their bed. My siblings and parents, for the most part, purchase those items for them. I’d rather have more fun spending time with them, telling them I love them and I pray they see another holiday next year. That, along with access to schools, water, food and clothing are essentials I’m down to give.
When children start to control the gifts they want to receive by telling the giver what they want, where is the love in the holiday season? For those like me who celebrate Christmas, God gave a gift to us—Christ. Shouldn’t children understand a gift is given from a cheerful giver and received by a humble receiver? Humility does not come from asking for what you want, but understanding what you need, working hard to get it and, if its a gift, accepting it graciously.
Of course, most children do not understand this, really. So, of course, I sometimes will indulge them by gifting a little cash or a video game. I’m not that much of an ogre. Bottom line is this, though: I give what I need to give them, straight from my heart. I want to be a cheerful giver. I cannot be a cheerful giver when my nephew asks me for a $100 polo shirt and I need to purchase groceries for the week. No ma’am.
Merry Christmas! Happy Kwanza! Feliz Navidad! Happy Hanukkah! Spoken from a true aunt who believes in quality time as the best gift ever.
Aunt Lilly is a self-proclaimed single-but-dating, 32-year-old “smarty pants,” who enjoys quality time and housewives realty shows. By day, she is a technology-driven business analyst and a fun-loving entrepreneur by night. She has written for Teen Diaries On-line, a teen blogging site. She will debut as a monthly contributor on the women’s newsletter I Am B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. starting in January. She will blog regularly here on MyBrownBaby about being an aunt.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.