Relational giving; we all love the idea, but man, coming up with something to give that seems useful and doable and actually wanted can be stressful. And since the very last thing this season needs is more stress, I've come up with a handy-dandy giving guide for you to use or share with those who are hoping to give to you this season.
These seven ideas will hopefully inspire you with ways to bless the parents of young children in your lives. Some of them cost a few dollars, some of them hundreds, some of them just your goodwill and time. Pin them, share them, make them your wish list or use them as a starting point to come up with relational giving ideas of your own!
The Gift of Encouragement
Part of the deal with this parenting gig is the nagging fear that you are constantly doing stuff wrong. Crap, I nursed her to sleep again -- no college. Oh no, I caved and fed her mac 'n cheese when she wouldn't eat her broccoli -- chronic eating issues and probably tantrums until at least age 30. You get the idea. Honor the new parents in your life by celebrating and witnessing their successes. Get out your rusty old pen and paper and write a letter, a real, scribbly, hard-to-read letter, in which you list or highlight all the things you think they do well as a parent. That beautiful way he sings to his son to calm him down, the times she shows up for meetings obviously tired but still prepared and carrying the picture she drew with her daughter that morning, the way their newborn is growing and thriving, that awesome idea he had that saved the day during the great shopping cart meltdown -- write them down. Applaud them. Give them lots of shiny time in the light.
The Gift of Wellness
Parents of young children have precious little "me time." Between kid time and couple time, it's easy for self-care to get a little lost. Find yoga classes in your area that offer child care and gift a tired at-home parent a 10-class pass. Schedule a couple's massage for your daughter and son-in-law who have been pacing and rocking their chunk of a newborn for the last four months. Pair up with your BFF and offer to push the stroller or wear the baby as the three of you go on a regular AM hike and chat about things that have nothing to do with bedtimes or poop. Give new parents space and opportunity to get out, stretch their legs and focus on themselves for a bit.
The Gift of Nourishment
For the first several weeks of parenthood, many of us are treated to an amazing meal train set up, during which dinner is lovingly delivered to our doorstep and very little thinking or planning is involved. But then, well, it stops. Offer to reignite the meal-bringing fire -- schedule a time to deliver a fully-prepared meal, hot and ready, in (heck) disposable containers (biodegradable, obviously) that can be carelessly tossed away. Don't forget dessert! Deliver your dinner with a smile, stay and chat if you're invited and leave the fam to a peaceful, stress-free evening of culinary delight as they savor not doing dishes for once. Or go all out and create a magical "in home restaurant" experience, complete with full service waiting and dish washing and lots of laughter. Bonus points if you bring crayons for the kiddos and an after-dinner cocktail for mom and dad.
The Gift of Community
Know a new stay-at-home parent? Figuring out what to DO all day with a young baby or toddler is a monster of a task. If you'd like to give an incredible gift to someone who has days to fill, get out your Google and do some research. Build her or him a 2014 calendar (online or on paper -- this is your excuse to buy that dang kitten calendar from the stand in the mall) filled with activities in and near your hometown -- story times at the library, concerts for kids, movies in the park, new-mom meet-ups, holiday events. All that research takes time and energy, two resources that can be at a bit of a premium when you have tiny people to tend to day in and day out. If you really want to invest in getting them out and about, gift a membership to a local museum or amusement park or sign them up for a music or movement class that parents and kids can do together. Our OMSI membership here in Portland is one of the best gifts we've ever received. I can even bring a friend and her kids for free during the week while my husband is working!
The Gift of Memory
Are you handy with a camera? Do you scrapbook like a pro? Take a young family out for an informal holiday photo shoot. Everyone wants beautiful photos of their family, and most of us try to hire professionals whenever possible, but it can be expensive and overwhelming to try and capture all the crazy changes that kids go through. Your time and editing skills could be a huge blessing. If photography isn't your gift, get your hands on existing photographs from the past year and craft them into a memory book for the family -- something I'm always trying to do and always running out of time to finish. Little ones LOVE looking at photos of themselves and people they know -- make them a storybook starring all their favorite folks! For the technologically savvy, one of our readers suggested a gift of literal memory -- gift a hard drive to store all the photos and videos they've collected of the kids over the year. It's amazing how quickly those suckers fill up, and more space is a wonderfully practical gift.
The Gift of Romance
Send your favorite couple out for a night to reconnect and recharge. Offer to babysit while mom and dad head out to a romantic, quiet dinner on your dime, or switch things up and steal the kids away while you leave the couple with a movie and some snacks and a hot toddy and some time to snuggle. Put together a date box with some gift cards or tickets and babysitting coupons. Gift a bottle of your favorite artisan spirit for post-bedtime nightcaps. Go with the family to a holiday event and declare yourself in charge of kid-care while parents kick back, sip cider, hold hands and gaze at lights. Every. Little. Bit. Helps. Seriously.
The Gift of Time
Time is the rarest and most precious gift you can give these days, in my humble opinion. This Christmas, make the gift a bit of yourself. Time to babysit, time to hang out, time to play. It could be a girls' night out, a coffee date with the kids where you snuggle and love and appreciate them and give the evil eye to anyone who complains that they are too noisy, or an offer to do laundry or clean the kitchen, a weekend away, an hour of down time... these gifts are precious and needed and loved. If you want to really go the extra mile, follow up with scheduling -- even in the face of incredible generosity, scheduling can feel overwhelming to young parents, and it can be awkward to call someone up and say "Hey, give me that babysitting you promised!" (I know, what a bunch of whiners, right? It's amazing what not sleeping ever will do to a person.) Persist. Call. Text. Email. Get on the books and into the lives of those babies and those lovely mamas and daddies and give them the gift of YOU. What more could we possibly ask for?
What are you hoping to give and get this season? How do you bless the young families in your life? How has someone blessed you? Leave a comment below!
Photos by Shannon Hannon Photography