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Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

“Don’t Buy Me Any Stuff” Gift Guide

December 11, 2013

I originally wrote a version of this essay back in ’05 BT  (before Twitter). People have requested a reprint. Here you go. Enjoy… in joy.

The year our daughter Fayette turned 15 she said she didn’t want us to buy her “stuff” for Hanukkah. Huh? What was going on? Didn’t she still love us? Wasn’t she grateful for the many carefully selected gifts she’d received since… birth? Was she running away and needing to travel light?!

Get creative with those coupons

The truth was less sinister and more profoundly personal. As she put it, “I’ve had it with holiday commercialism.” This led to a lively family discussion about Needs vs. Desires. Form vs. Substance. Carnivores vs. Vegetarians.

NOTE1: Our son Ezra was then 9 and while he dearly loved and coveted all kinds of “stuff,” (except when it came to clearing it off the floor) he agreed his sister’s idea merited serious philosophical consideration.

NOTE2: Ezra now holds an undergraduate degree in philosophy.

Despite a holiday moratorium on buying stuff there were no restrictions on loving acts of giving. So we each faced the creative challenge of figuring out what to give. That first year we abandoned traditional gift-giving our tokens of affection and admiration became more experiential and far-reaching. There were live performances and other cultural outings, food factory tours, waterfall hikes, baked desserts, multi-media presentations, and hand-crafted treasures. But the best innovation was the advent of personalized coupons books, i.e., hand-made packets offering a variety of customized “goods, services and special privileges.” The key to coupon success is knowing your recipient.

Fayette, who frequently got busted for talking on the phone after lights out, was thrilled to get: “This coupon entitles you to use the phone between 11-11:30 on a school night. Homework and all getting ready for bed preparations must first be completed.”

Ezra, who has always loved sweets, got: “This coupon entitles you to 2 dozen of your choice of home-made cookies that you don’t have to share with anyone (unless you happen to be feeling particularly generous). Minimum 24 hour notice required.”

"Goldfish Tea" by Fayette Fox

I remember happily receiving: “I will water all the plants in the house for you for 1 week.” And David, who spends lots of time hunched over his computer keyboard, was delighted to get: “I will give you a 10 minute shoulder massage.”

Just to be clear, I’m not proposing a “No Buy” Zone. We’re emerging from tough economic times and retailers (large and small) are hoping we’ve regained enough confidence in our future earning power to do our part for the recovery. The Don’t Buy Me Any Stuff” Gift Guide is not an all or nothing deal. Let’s face, there is very cool stuff in stores. And sometimes the special something your kid craves is just what you want to give, and if you can, go for it. Then knock yourself out on the kid’s joy when he/she receives your gift. All I’m saying is that you are not and never have been required to go into debt buying stuff that’s out of synch with your innate sense of what’s appropriate and healthy for your child.

So, if you’re looking for extra meaning this holiday season and a little less wear and tear on your family values, talk to your kids about alternatives to traditional gift-giving. It may not be coupons, but your family will likely come up with all kinds of great ideas. When we explore more creative ways to show our love for each other, we celebrate the uniqueness of each of family member. Now there’s a gift!


Happy holidays from our family to yours


Oh, these fuel-ish thoughts!

March 22, 2013

Please don't feed the monkeys

I sat and waited for my friend to meet me for lunch at a local place. I was trying not to do anything else. I was not succeeding.

When you’re waiting for someone to meet you, or call, or return a text, it’s easy to think fuel-ish thoughts (the kind that adds to anxiety):

Where is she already?

12:30. Wasn’t this the time we said?

It was for Wednesday, right?

Today is Wednesday, isn’t it?

Or were we supposed to meet Thursday?!

Is she trying to call me?

Is my phone on? (Yes!)

Should I check again? (Yes, it’s on!)

Did she forget?

Did she have an emergency?!

Is she all right?!!

All that mental garbage, piling up, muzzling my good spirits of ten minutes ago as I congratulated myself for finding parking so close-by… and with 90 minutes still on the meter!

But now fuelish spores exude from my monkey mind, infecting this happy camper. Downer thoughts. Not worth a damn. Powerless to alter current reality:

I am sitting alone on a wooden bench in a restaurant. My friend, who agreed to meet me for lunch is now… 22 minutes late. Make that 23. Whatcha gonna do about that, monkey mind?

Grass wallpaper. Potted palms. Bamboo fountain. Ah serenity. Except for the noisy diners. But actually, they’re perfect. From every part of the room happy folks enjoy a mid-day break with good food and good company. Eight friends over there (a birthday celebration, perhaps) swap personal updates and laugh it up.

I wish I was sitting with my friend enjoying the same. But she’s not here… yet.

I should just call her! Damn. I don’t have her number!

But you know what? That’s fine. Really it is. She’ll get here when she does. And in the meantime, I’m taking notes for this blog. Trying not to do anything else. Because nothing else is needed. It’s nice to sit here.

Are we out of milk? I’d better…

Shut up! No need to think about what I could or should be doing instead of waiting here. So I’ll just sit and breathe. In. Out. Ohmm. Present moment… Wonderf….

Maybe I made the mistake!

Maybe my friend is waiting for me somewhere else and wondering if I blew her off?

I’m hungry.

Do I grab a table and order something?

Do I want to buy lunch for myself if she doesn’t show?

We’ve got food at home and I’m 10 minutes away.

I don’t need to spend the money. I don’t think I should…

Sigh. Anyone want a monkey?

Filed under: Humor,Meditation,Mindfulness,Yoga — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 3:08 pm
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