Friday 3 January 2020

How Presents Change

On the eve of my son's twentieth birthday, I am given to thinking about how birthdays and specifically birthday presents, have changed. Many years ago, we would walk the toy isles of our local Zellers and Walmart. looking for the perfect gifts. Zellers is now gone - long gone. Walmart is still around, of course. For a few years, when he was quite young, our son was really into super heroes. He referred to them as "his guys". He would line up "his guys" along the side of his little single bed which was pushed up against the wall for less of a chance of falling out of bed. He was particularly fond of Spiderman.

Then came Lego. Lego is wonderful. Lego is crazy expensive, especially when you buy special kits. But honestly, he still has every piece of Lego we ever bought him, or Papa and Nana bought him, or he got from other people for Christmas or birthdays. I truly didn't mind buying Lego because it was time well spent.

Video games. The advent of video games coincided with staying in his room more - to be expected as he went through those teenage years. But he was also a sporty kid, so soccer balls, basketballs, and other sports paraphernalia were part of his gifts, but when you're born in January and you're a Canadian kid, receiving sports items is anti-climactic as it's a little tough to go out and kick a ball around in thigh deep snow.

Then clothes. But clothes are hard. As a tall, slender boy it was sometimes hard to find clothes that would fit properly. When he was younger, the pants with the elastic in the waistband and the buttons and button-holes were a godsend! We could get them long enough and then he could cinch them in at his waist so they wouldn't fall down. But as he got older, out of the two kids, he cared more about what he was wearing. He liked certain brands, certain looks. Daughter just wanted volume - more clothes versus particular name brands of clothes. Son, instead, had fewer pieces, but exactly what he wanted. He just did laundry more often. He's still like that.

Now?  Well, now it's best when your young adult children lead you directly to what they desire. Show me the link, the website, sit down with me and I'll pay for it on Paypal. True, the surprise is taken out of it, but better that, than items that sit unused, unworn, unwanted. I imagine some parents give money, or gift cards. Again, that way the receiver gets exactly what they want. But it's a little sad. So what is son getting this year? Well, I highly doubt he reads my blog, but since it isn't quite his birthday yet, I won't reveal. But it's what he wants, and the other part is practical, what he needs now that he's away from home, at school.

Do you know what doesn't change, though? The tradition of it all. I still baked the same chocolate layer cake that I always bake - that never changes, even though I ask my family if they'd like something different, the answer is always no - it must be the chocolate layer cake. I will still hang up the happy birthday sign on the wall in the kitchen. We will still sing to him. But this year, he may well end up going out with the gang on the night of his birthday, and just be with mom and dad for supper. I get that, and I'm totally ok with that. I always felt a little bad that his birthday was so close to Christmas - did it make it less exciting, being as he just had an exciting holiday with presents? But I guess it's all he's ever known.

We always played a game with the presents - hiding them in various locations and then our kids would go searching in the house while we guided them with "warmer", "cooler", "hotter" "boiling!!" until they found each one. As they got older, the hiding spots became more challenging. We may still do that tomorrow!

Yes, he will be twenty years old tomorrow. I sometimes can't even believe it. When did it all happen? But for Christmas this year, he still got a tiny Lego kit, and when I stopped by his room to chat with him yesterday, he showed me the finished product. It warms my heart.


  1. Happy Birthday to your big kid. You know honey, no matter his age he will always be your boy. I loved that he did the lego toy. What a sweetheart. Hug and tell him you love him every chance you get. Blessings, xoxo, Susie

  2. Happy Birthday to your son and enjoy the chocolate cake! The "traditions" will stay in his memory long after the memory of any individual gift has faded.

  3. Twenty years old. Wonderful. Happy birthday, and lots of chocolate cake!

  4. Nothing is as certain as change! Happy Birthday to your son! My daughters are now 44 and 42 and my baby, my son, is 37. It has a bit of bittersweet element in the knowledge. But so much for which to be grateful! And the tradition of chocolate cake is a delicious one!

  5. Happy birthday to your big boy.
    Wonderful reading about those presents over the years. We now give money because I am totally out of sync with children's and grandchildren desires. They may live almost next door but their language and their life is hard to keep up with.
    Many many happy returns to your boy. Enjoy that chocolate cake

  6. Happy Birthday to your son! Love that he built the Lego...I have a friend who designs his kilns with Lego, it is useful for all ages!

  7. Twenty..goodness! I remember when l was twenty..
    Fifty odd years ago..And..things have certainly
    changed over that time, and your quite right,
    presents have to..I became a single parent in daughter was four years old, and, her
    presents certainly changed since then, she went
    off to University at eighteen..and in three
    weeks time she'll be've gone
    from dolls to vouchers over that time..And..Lego
    seems to have always been there..! :).

    We seemed to have had a lot of it in fact, and for
    many years it just sat there, doing nothing..well..
    don't tell, but l used to tip it out and have a
    little play, finally giving it to a neighbours
    Grandson..! He was over the moon with it..! :).

    I was gonna mention my own presents as a child...
    I'm afraid l just had the stocking pinned to the
    fireplace, with an apple, colouring book and
    sweets..! HeHe! We were very poor you see..Bless! :).
    AND..Chocolate layer cake...mmmmmM! Lovely!

  8. Those traditions are what help make a beautiful life. The memories are among the best gifts.

  9. Sending happy birthday wishes to your son. I like traditions especially around special days like birthdays. ... Mary-Lou =^..^=

  10. Twenty years! It goes by in the blink of an eye. And, of course, those twenty years from birth to the young man your son now is represent the most dramatic changes you will ever see in him. Wonderful memories of gifts of birthdays gone by. Tradition with the chocolate cake, too. It's all good!

  11. Thank you all for your comments. I can't imagine my kids being in their forties - it was mind bogging enough to realize I had two in their twenties! You are all correct in that it's the memories, not the specific gifts that matter. And we are proud of the young man that he is becoming - still sweet, and yes, still our little boy.

  12. How very touching, and you're right about how the gifts change--and as my sons get older (the oldest is 50 now) it just gets more difficult. Time passes so quickly! My grandchildren, most of them are older than your son and I struggle to find gifts for them. Gift cards don't do it for me, although I've done that in the past. This year I returned mostly to an old tried-and-true gift: books :) Sending my best birthday wishes to your son as he enters a new decade!

  13. Hello happy new year. The passing of our children's years makes us see changes that we cannot always change. My children are adults and I miss a time that some routines were just ours.

  14. Enjoyed reading your post. Our grandson (who lives with us now that his dad moved to Hawaii) just turned 21. I find this hard to believe... (and that his dad is now 50). Yes, where do the years go? I still have his Legos and Lincoln logs in a closet somewhere. And yes, now it's video games and gift cards! However, my daughter always gives our grandson 'hoodies' - and apparently they are really appreciated. As for tradition, at our house I have to make a special holiday pudding that has a cookie crust - nothing else will do. Traditions are important! Hope you have a wonderful 2020!

  15. Happy Birthday to your son!!
    I still phone my kids...(all in their 40's) to sing to them...
    HAve a great weekend...
    Linda :o)

  16. Happy Birthday to your son! What a sweet post.

  17. Happy birthday to your son! What a beautiful post. It brought back so many memories *sniff* The years go by so quickly. I still remember going to Zellers with my girls when they were little. Kmart, too! Oh my gosh...times have changed.

  18. Happy Day!

    Some things never change. My oldest at 45 is. standing in line for the last Star Wars film.

    Happy day I trust to he and you !

  19. I've noticed that about gifts too. And you know, the older you get, the more that changes. This year I found my friend Kate and I giving each other experiences and things that could be used/eaten versus another cute thing! We all have lots of "cute things" at this age. And no one will want them when we die! I love the traditions of hiding the gifts. And agree, the cards aren't so personal but it helps them get what they want or need and it's not wasted!

  20. Oh yes, gifts have certainly changed a bit over the years. My youngest grandchild turns twenty today. But I still have the fun of shopping for all the great grandchildren. At least for now. My granddaughter asked to be taken out for breakfast with the family for her birthday. She's quite the young lady. You have a super day, hugs, Edna B.

  21. This post really resonated with me. So many of the 'little' steps taken towards growing up. Superheros, Legos, Video games for the boys- Princess dresses, American girl dolls and all the other little girl things. It is a bittersweet moment when you realize that you don't need to buy a toy 'this year'.
    Wonderful post. xo Diana

  22. That's sweet about the lego set! I remember board games as a kid being what I wanted the most. Or those electric ones like Simon...I had one of those! Alex's birthday is next week, very close to Christmas. He tells me a bunch of stuff he'd like and I pay attention to all the comments he makes over the years and I always surprise him for his present. He never quite knows what he'll be getting! Actually this year he said he wanted a big breakfast and two birthday cakes instead of a dinner lol...that'll be fun! :)

  23. I love that he still gets Legos! I also love the tradition of hiding the gifts. And I am NOT surprised that everyone still wants that chocolate layer cake! As someone with a birthday very close to Christmas, I can relate to the rather uneventful-ness of a birthday following. Happy birthday to your son!

  24. This was a wonderful post, very well written!!! My daughters have gotten easier to buy for as they both have their own places and are on tight budgets....they want the 'luxury' items they can't afford....a supply of candles, Mrs Meyers cleaning products, skin care from Sephora....and this year it was new towels, pots & pans, a new bathrobe. None of us want things we don't use, we'd rather give 'consumables' to each other. Sweetie always gets a ton of chocolate and usually a Penn State t shirt to replace a worn out one. I get a ton of cooking supplies, which I'm good with....I then pass along my older items to my girls!

  25. You nailed it dear friend, isn't it amazing that the more things change the more they stay the same.Wishing your dear son a most blessed and happy birthday.
    A very Happy New Year to you and your dear family.

  26. What a nice post. Traditions are important. We always make dark chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and raspberry jam filling! Yum!

  27. Sending belated Happy Birthday wishes to your son and yes they do grow quickly and we see that now in our grandchildren. In years past, we also bought toys at then Toys R Us and other places, including Walmart. This past holiday season there were no toys as the granddaughter received a new iPad, we bought a keyboard, and the grandson received a bench for his electric keyboard. Glad to know the chocolate cake tradition is still appreciated and looked forward to by all.