The holidays are shortly upon us. If you’re a noncustodial parent like me, you’re putting the final plans on those holiday child visitation arrangements and getting more and more excited. The holidays often mean a bigger visitation stretch than normal for us, and that is a gift in itself. I hope you are as lucky as I am to get to plan for special times together just ahead.
As joyful as reuniting during the holidays is, gifting during these occasions can be less joyful. Let’s get the nastily sore subject out of the way: balancing gift giving for the child, with the child support you still have to pay. I find myself every year tormented by the fact that I’m trying to keep gifts balanced among the children, but I am still paying hundreds for one that lives elsewhere. Plus travel expenses, plus gifts?! It adds up super quick. It is hard to separate the obligatory child support from gift budgeting, and I’m speaking from experience of course.
Do your best to separate these two subjects as best you can, it is hard, but if gift giving and receiving during the holidays is tradition in your family, it would be quite obvious if the child you already don’t see regularly felt slighted in any way. Now, that doesn’t justify unreasonable spoiling of course, just find that balance and separation between the two. While my new family adjusted that first holiday season, Christmas was scaled back across the board. It stayed that way ever since and it is much more enjoyable anyway.
Now that the actual money spending subject is over, let’s talk about possession. It is 9 tenths of the law right? Well, gifting to a child of a split household can mean the child may choose which house they choose to take the item to. And it may not be their decision to keep it at your house. Harsh reality, sorry. When gifting something that brings your child joy, and especially if it is the “it” toy that year, expect it to at least travel to the other parent’s house, or disappear to that domain completely. The idea of that made me cringe entirely. Probably more than cringe to be honest. Back in the day my ex and I were still so entitled to the “what I bought [the child] is mine for my house” nonsense.
If you are over that hurdle already, I applaud you. You are more grounded in reality than I was back then. I’m glad to say I got over it, but trust me, I was there a while, and it’s not a healthy situation for you or your child. That being said, there are some things you can establish as “for mommy’s house” and such, but be selective and light-handed with those assignments. It will only reinforce the segregation of the households, which your child feels without these possessive reminders.
Ok, the tough subjects are out of the way, now let’s get into the gift guide. I aimed this list at items that can ease the strife of noncustodial parenting, bring closer bonds, and share some common ties. The gifts were chosen especially with these factors in mind. Fair warning, my children are elementary-aged, so most of these will suits this age group.
Noncustodial Parent Gift Guide List
Hands-Free Video Chat Portal. This. Is. Genius. Raise your hand if you utilize FaceTime, Skype, Google Duo, or other video chats with your kid(s) and find yourself looking at the ceiling, or just their forehead, or they move out of view and you’re coaxing them back. I feel all these pains. If you’ve seen the advertisements for this, you know. It is one of those inventions you just think, why didn’t I invent that? Don’t underestimate another video chat device. What’s special about this one is it can track the subjects and pan in their direction. So long to my front row seats staring at the ceiling fan. Have one on both sides and it is equally enjoyable. Your child can watch you cook or clean, or go about your home, and you can view them playing all around their room to play and more. If you’re lucky, the other parent is supportive of upkeeping your relationship and can be trusted to install this for you and your child, and (gasp) even split the cost! Co-parenting trophy status if that is successful!
GPS watch or phone. Be cautious with this one, you don’t want to be accused of tracking or spying on the other parent, but it can be a great safety device for your child. I know I don’t like the wondering or the helplessness I feel being so far away, and these devices offer some insight and peace of mind. Being able to reliably communicate or know the child has a lifeline of sorts in addition just brings peace of mind. No specific electronic to push here, but find what is appropriate for you, your child, your budget, and probbaly most importantly your co-parenting method with the other parent. Right now I am leaning towards a Gizmo, but haven’t bitten it off just yet.
Blue light blocking glasses. With the first two gifts having electronic screens, I felt obligated to throw this in. The blue light behind all these screens of today can cause eye fatigue and strain. Give your child a simple precautionary tool to protect their beautiful eyes. I love that my child has some that match my own, it makes it fun and makes me feel like I am protecting a small part of her even if I’m not there. These are super affordable and wearing fun glasses is pretty on trend right now so they should rock them no problem. Even if your child wears prescription glasses, this feature can be added to their lenses next time you’re ordering new ones. It is a jump in cost, but I think well worth it.
Postcards or stationary. Who doesn’t love receiving fun things in the mail? It may seem like an olden way of communicating, but it never gets old to feel loved. Have a kit for you to send, and a kit for your child to use to write to you. They don’t have to be lengthy or even have words. Before my little one could read I would just draw pictures, or color in part of a coloring page and leave the rest for her. It’s the simple things. The postcard pack linked above is especially my favorite because they have quite a few parent/baby animals which just makes it all the more sweet. For extra fun, include sheets of stickers, or a dollar for the ice cream truck if you’re able. Tiny gifts light up kids of all ages. Pro tip: attach stamps to the envelopes or postcards before gifting this to your child. You are more likely to receive them back that way. 😉
A special stuffed animal. While many a parent loathes piles of stuffies in their house, the noncustodial parent – child relationships I’ve seen, really benefit from these. Choose a meaningful animal you and your child have a special attachment to. Maybe you enjoyed watching the flamingos at the zoo every time you visited, maybe she loves sloths for no reason, or maybe he always snorts like a pig when he laughs so hard. Stuffed animals can reinforce these special memories when your child is snuggling with them, even without you near.
Books. Paper books with audio books to match. I dare say most books have audio book versions of them nowadays. Find a book your child is keen on, a series of them even, and get them the set. (I’ll always suggest Harry Potter.) With a copy on both sides of a phone call, it is easy to read to your child as they follow along, and even if you’re not there, they can login to their audio book and still be read to. Books are great for younger kids too. Reading is such a vital part of development, and encourages their growth in so many ways, even picture books with the very young can be a bonding experience across any distance. Tap into what your little one is intrigued by and cater to that interest. My personal suggestions of picture books include any works by Mo Willems and Eric Carle.
Experiences and togetherness. These cannot be bought from a store. They are given and received from the heart. Nothing means more to you and your child than quality time together. Build memories together. Memories are the only gifts we can give that make us richer over time. They are always the right shape, size, color, on trend, etc. Enrich your children this year, give them the gift of experiences and togetherness with you.
Choosing gifts for any child is special. Being selective and thoughtful for a child not often in your arms is even more so. It is a tough position to be in, but you’re living through it, and gifting from the heart. Your child will see it and feel it. Enjoy your holiday season and hug your little ones a little tighter.
Happy Holidays, from one noncustodial parent to another. May your season be peaceful and joyful and lovely. Cheers to 2020!