Regifting Holiday Presents to My Kids Saved My Sanity

Guess what. I’m a lazy mom. OK, well, maybe it’s not really a secret. And as one my friends says, I’m not lazy; I’m just motivated — to do less work. My secret to optimizing my laziness — er, motivation — around the holidays? I regift holiday presents to my kids.

Yep. I hide toys they haven’t played with for a while. I stash them away in the spare bedroom, and come Christmas, I take them out, wipe them clean of any sticky fingerprints, wrap them in brightly colored Santa-covered paper and carefully place them under the tree.

Am I the Grinch? Maybe. But my children beg to differ.

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Don’t worry; for good measure, I do throw a few brand-new presents in there so as not to fully deprive my children of the Christmas miracle. But my girls are so excited to open each and every present they get on Christmas (and every other holiday), that it doesn’t matter to them if they’ve previously opened some of them before. They either don’t remember, or they just don’t care. The excitement of the season prevails.

We keep the the house lights off in the morning, so the room is dimly lit by nothing but tree lights and the dawn reflecting off the snow outside. The tree sparkles with the ornaments that have been passed down from generation to generation in our family, with a few new ones peppered in. My girls gasp at the beauty of the tree and at the colorful and oddly shaped gifts stashed below.

First, they open their stockings, which usually contain stickers, hair elastics, books and crayons — all of their favorite things. The highlight in each stocking is a piece of fruit stuffed at the very bottom, a tradition carried over from my mother-in-law’s Dutch family. After they have taken a few bites of their fruit, they toddle over to the tree. My husband reads the names on the gifts and passes one to each girl.

That’s when the real party starts. For my daughters, the act of opening the gift provides far greater pleasure than whatever is contained in the wrapping paper itself. They love tearing paper open and crumpling it into balls; it’s always a competition to see who can throw the paper more accurately into the green garbage bag my husband holds wide. My daughters love pulling out the tissue paper from the gift bags and waving it around like flags.

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When they open their gifts, they are cheerful and thankful. They don’t notice the toy trains are ones they’ve already played with — or that the rainbow football looks oddly familiar. They just know they get to play with these toys right now, and that’s all that matters.

I’m a lot happier this way. And so is my wallet. Parents of young children will vehemently tell you kids are expensive, especially around the holidays. Every purchase adds up quickly, and it hurts a little more when I realize kids have extremely short attention spans. They barely play with a new toy for a week or two before it gets tossed in the “boring” pile and they move onto the next attraction. By taking things out of the boring pile and regifting them a few months later, I’m making them exciting again while saving a few bucks. Can you blame me?

Although being budget-conscious is a huge bonus around the holidays, nothing beats saving time. With two working parents in the house and two young children to look after, there never seems to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. We can barely manage to keep the house clean and the laundry folded on most days. Adding Christmas shopping to the list seems like an impossibility that will never get done. After working all day and then putting two hyperactive children to bed, neither my husband nor I have the mental energy to figure out what to buy for the kids, let alone the physical energy to go out and get it. And so, I head to my secret stash of toys the kids have deemed “too boring”… and grab a few that are still age-appropriate and in working condition and wrap them up.

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I am well aware my regifting plan won’t work forever. As my kids grow up — and as their memories get better — they will know I’ve been trying to get away with something they don’t approve of. They will want the latest so-and-so widget and the my-little-whoever gadget and will know when I try to give it to them again a few months later. And that’s OK. I’ll muster up more energy (and money) and will get all-new toys for Christmas then.

But for now, I’ll try to stick to regifting presents to my kids as much as possible because they don’t really care what they get in the first place. Right now, their excitement is all about opening the presents and playing with the wrapping paper. Right now, I’ll accept this plan as a sanity-saving measure, if only a temporary one, and go about the holiday season patting myself on the back.

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