A Kraken Christmas

images-28Well it’s finally happened. My oldest son, now 11, has finally hit the stage where toys and ‘affordable’ gifts are no longer the gift of choice for Christmas. Gone are the days when he was happy with the Playmobil Castle (which we managed to sneak in last year), or the tool bench to ‘build’ on. He has now moved into that odd age bracket where gifts he would like fall under gift cards or minimum $100 items, usually for gaming or electronics of some kind (which honestly I just don’t get and can’t really understand. It’s not for lack of trying, it’s just seems like there’s a lot to understand).

Honestly, it’s challenging. I strongly believe in giving people what they ask for but gift cards though functional are not always that exciting. You can’t play with it or enjoy it on Christmas day, and that is not all that I want to get him either. I wanted something tangible. We needed to round out his list.

134So slowly, slowly I have gone out with him to the stores, shopping, looking, making suggestions and asking if he would like this or that -cause maybe he hadn’t thought about it before? As a result, I’ve managed to get a tangible list, that has a variety of things on it that he would like, in various price ranges (which is great cause my mother had no idea what to get him and like me doesn’t want to just do the gaming or gift card thing).

Yes I know, I know this is the age and this is what kids his age are into. But I believe there has to be balance. It’s not good to game all the time, nor do anything the same all the time. So yes there are some things on his list that pertain to electronics and video games, but now there are some that are not.

images-29It was interesting though, going out shopping with him as I learned a bit more about gaming and what he’s into and why. For instance, he wants a number of specialty add ons to support his gaming, like a new keyboard, special mouse, etc. These are not just any adds on of course and retail starting at $99; he is looking for Razer Kraken Headphones, which provide high quality audio and have a retractable mike, and come in black, green, pink or blue. The Razer Expert Gaming Keyboard and also the Razer Naga Gaming Mouse, oh and don’t forget your Gaming Mouse Pad. The neat thing about all of these is that you program them to set them up how you want and to fit your games. It’s pretty cool and I can see why he would want these.

He has also asked for a suit. Yes a regular jacket and pants black suit, complete with shirt and tie. Originally inspired by the character Artemis Fowl, young millionaire genius, he first asked for one last year. I wasn’t really that keen on it. They were expensive and he’d likely outgrow it in a year, or so that was my reasoning. Besides where would he wear it? But this year, he asked for it again.

images-30Now I know not every young boy his age would be interested in a suit, but I thought it was really cool that he was and since he asked for it 2 years in a row, I felt it was more than a passing fancy. I liked the idea. He still didn’t know for sure where he would wear it, but I thought we can create some situations where he would, which could actually be a lot of fun. And I would guess he would create some himself. Besides he just puffed up and looked so proud when he tried it on. Stood a little taller, looked a little more like the young man that he’s becoming.

Other things he’s asked for (after our shopping adventures) were an alpaca hat (sigh, yes still $100), pyjama pants (at our house it’s a tradition onChristmas Eve for everyone to get pyjama’s. It makes me smile to see the little boy still present and enjoying the tradition when he is asking for them without being prompted by anyone else). And he’s always been an avid reader, so found some new book series that he thought were interesting like Seven Wonders and The Unwanteds, and added those to his list as well.

Once we were done, I was happier. Happy to see that he had a nice variety of things to choose from and that it wasn’t all about gaming. Yes still many of the gifts started at $100, but in my mind they were things that I was more comfortable paying that kind of money for. (ha ha interesting how are perception is everything) It also provided some options for others who would like to get him something for Christmas too.

images-31I imagine as he gets older it will get more challenging and expensive. He’ll either move more into gaming or perhaps brand name clothes. I may have to remortgage the house or take a second job just to finance Christmas gifts for him – ha ha. But it’s ok. I’ll continue to take him out around this time and ‘see’ what’s out there. I’ll continue to encourage his love of reading and heck if he wants to dress up and asks for more outfits along that line, I’ll take a look at that too. I’ve also considered what I call experience gifts for him, such as laser tag, dog sledding, rock climbing, where we go and do something together, which I know Matthew would really enjoy (and I really enjoy to). But again there’s that high price tag thing (dog sledding starts at $159 per person).

I think that for those of us parents who have kids, ok specifically boys, who fall into this age bracket we just do the best we can. Don’t dash our kids dreams, but aid in expanding them and showing them options. And taking them out to look can be quite fun. (Also look for sales! and comparative shop! (especially with Black Friday around the corner. Electronics are usually a big sale item on Black Friday. Plus I came home and checked out Amazon for all those Razer products he’s asking for and they were at least $20 cheaper than what we saw them for at The Source).

There’s ways to do it and there’s ways to make it work for everyone (and at a price you’re comfortable with). So if you have a young boy who falls in this category of ‘games and gift cards’ this Christmas and you want more, I hope these ideas get you started, save you some dollars, and give you a variety of options. The important thing is is to figure out what your kid is into and go with that. If you check things out a little, you’ll discover that may not be just the one thing they’re telling you about. Best of luck!

The Importance of One on One

Hiking at Moraine Lake

In many of the parenting articles I have read over the years they have often suggested that as the number of children in your family increased that you should make time to spend with each child one on one. Give them each a bit of time with just you and them, and with each parent individually. Yet as the number of children in the household increases the amount of ‘leisure time’ seems to decrease comparatively as there are more activities, more friends to play with and more things to do in general, like cleaning and laundry!

Where do you find the time exactly? The thing I have learned and been gently reminded of, is that kids don’t need large blocks of time or need to do fancy and exciting things during with you. They just want some time with you, it doesn’t matter to them how long or what you are doing; just that you spend time with them. Of course there are times when they would like to do something a little more involved and exciting (like laser tag, dinner or a movie), but they don’t always need that kind of activity with you on a regular basis. Your one on one focused attention is what they desire.

A prime example of this for me was this past Saturday. I had to take Matthew, my oldest, to pick out his frames and order his glasses. Our optometrist is up in Signal Hill, which is northwest Calgary and a bit of a drive for us. I had the opportunity to do this with just Matthew as D’Wayne had offered to watch the twins while we went.

Luke and Mom

Matthew was super excited to go. I had asked him to shower before we left, washing his hair and even suggested he dress up. He not only did as I asked but combed and parted his hair and put on a shirt and tie! He was bouncing and excited in the car as we drove to the optometrist, his eyes sparkling and chatting about this and that. It is not often that we get to go somewhere and have an uninterupted conversation, as usually the twins are chiming in or have something of their own to say.

He noticed and mentioned how I had showered and put on make-up and I responded, “Well if you’re dressing up then I should too.” He just smiled. Once we got to the optometrist we were literally only there for 10 minutes, as Matthew already knew which frames he wanted and it was just the details to sort out. I was kind of disappointed knowing that our time was so short. That’s when I decided we’d stop at Community Natural Foods on the way home. So we popped over there picking up a ‘few things’ (I had intended on only getting some vegan cream cheese but ended up with a few more items, especially with Matthew picking things up and asking to buy them. And honestly in that store he is asking for dried mangos and cheese, not chocolate bars and candy, very hard to say no).

Even this time in the Community Natural was fun, bonding and a way to continue to get to know each other. Yes he did ask me for many things, of which some I said yes and others no, but it was great. We laughed, we enjoyed.

Chloe and Mom

As I was driving home I realized then that the time I spend with him one on one does not always have to be fancy, simply focused and interactive. I have always made the effort to spend time with just him, either taking him to a movie, going for a walk or playing a board game at home once the twins are in bed. But I realized in that moment that whether it be a trip to the optometrist or a little grocery shopping as long as it’s him and me that was all that mattered. And if I could give him more moments like this, even at home, if only small, that that would make such a difference in our relationship. As I have even noticed that although sometimes I have to fight with him to come and dry the dishes, that once he is there, he is quite chatty and happy and we have some great conversations and connection happening.

I feel as parents yes it is important that we spend one on one time with each of our children but that we need to give ourselves a break and realize that it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, just a happy and enjoyable few moments (or more when possible) where we can connect with each other, and remember who we are to each other and in this world. To listen and recognize the beauty in our children and the great gifts that they bring to our world, as well as to share who we are and our wisdom with them. That is connection, that is bonding and that is something we don’t always achieve with all the kids together at once. It is not only rewarding for the child, but will be extremely rewarding for you as well.

Matthew and Mom