My daughter and I recently returned from Disneyland. It was amazing. In fact, I had more fun taking her and watching the wonder on her face than I ever had being there as a kid. We met up with her three best friends there (whom she hadn’t seen since we moved from Vancouver) and it was a full-on Princess extravaganza. I felt a little badly for the one male in our group who resorted to taking shots of testosterone each night just to survive the whole experience! (Just kidding. He didn’t really dope up, and he survived just fine.)
The trip was made possible by my aunt and uncle. When they asked what they could buy Riley for Christmas, I thought and thought and thought. She doesn’t need stuff. She is like many North American kids…she has everything she needs and then some. As such, Eric and I have been gravitating to the concept of investing in memories rather than things. Don’t get me wrong, this is not necessarily the cheapest option. Sometimes memories cost more than the hottest toy – take that Disney pass for example. But unlike the hottest toy that will be outgrown and tossed out in time, the memories will forge greater relationships in the moment and then last over the years.
As this was about memories, we took a million pictures at Disneyland. My favourite one is Riley, exhausted from the first 12-hour day, in bed in her pajamas with her dinner on her lap. She almost fell asleep as she ate her quesadilla! She was so happy and so tired!
When our friend Louise came to visit for the holiday season, she built upon this memory-building gift giving idea. Her gift to Riley (and our family by extension) was tickets to a performance of the National Ballet’s rendition of The Nutcracker. For a little girl who has been taking ballet for three years, this was a magical moment. She even wore her pink ballet outfit to the performance and got to meet some of the ballerinas.
But since Riley is a bit too young to fully grasp the concept of “memory building = Christmas gifts”, we realized that we would need to wrap some things up that represented our time together. We figured a basically empty tree and an admonition, “But remember your gift happened weeks ago” would not cut it. So we framed a huge collage of Riley’s time in Disneyland as well as the signed poster that she got at the ballet. On Christmas morning, as she tore off the wrapping paper, she squealed and relived the memories as she poured over each photo. Now those frames hang in her room, representing the gifts that she was given this year.
I realize that I am too late to give you advice on gift giving this past holiday season. But here is a suggestion for the rest of the year – Valentine’s Day, birthdays, your anniversary. Take the amount that you would have spent on a traditional gift for your lover and invest that money into a “memory date” instead. Here are some ideas:
- A Starbucks (or other favourite coffee/tea house) card charged with enough money for 5 coffee dates together. Make the stipulation that you can only use the card together so that s/he doesn’t use it all up on the way to work each morning.
- Tickets to an event that means something to you as a couple (or at least the person who is receiving the gift – part of this gift is participating in their interests!). Perhaps it is a concert, theatre presentation, movie tickets or even a Monster Truck Rally!
- A gift card to your favourite restaurant so that you can escape together when life gets crazy and stressful.
- A weekend get-away package set for sometime when you can get good deals. Book the travel and accommodations and then plan some activities so that you can present the overall concept as your gift.
- Gift certificates from your favourite babysitter so that your spouse can cash them in when s/he decides that the two of you need to get out for an evening. (If you think that handing your babysitter a wad of cash in return for a promise of service is an unwise idea, then have the necessary amount for 2-3 nights out tucked inside an envelope that is only used for this purpose.)
- Coupons for a walk together at the local park, a boat ride, a time tobogganing, a trip to the local art gallery, a walk in the downtown part of your city, a ride on a train, time to volunteer together at a local soup kitchen, a trip to a local tourist spot, cups of hot chocolate delivered to bed complete with whipped cream on top, and so forth.
Here is my final suggestion: if it is decent to do so (because you can most certainly spice up the suggestions I have given above), take a camera with you during your “memory date” so that you can preserve your time together. Because while the primary investment you are making is time – the return on that investment are life-long memories.