Something They Want

Cara McKee, a writer and mum-of-three living in Largs, is rethinking her family’s Christmas wish list…

I met an old man at a poetry thing the other day. I go to poetry things a lot, and meet a lot of old men, and, because I’m a mum, they instantly understand that I must be fascinated by all things children, so show me photos of their gorgeous grandkids. This particular man showed me his granddaughter who, he told me, gets so much stuff at Christmas that it’s impossible for her to appreciate it. On Christmas morning she might as well be sitting by a conveyor at the unwrapping station of some particularly un-festive factory, unwrapping toy after toy, flinging wrapping in one pile and toys, barely noticed, in another.

It’s a first world problem for sure and while I am thankful that we have the opportunity to have too much stuff, there’s also so much pressure to consume in our culture. We buy things to congratulate; to cheer up; to demonstrate love and concern – just to show we remember someone exists!

All this means that even those on a very tight budget do their best to ensure that their kids get some nice things at Christmas. We end up with more stuff than we know what to do with and come December 25 we’re drowning – not just in presents, but in all the packaging and wrapping, leaving our blue bin overflowing. And the kids? They can only play with one thing at a time and as the man’s granddaughter discovered, there is only so much stuff a person can appreciate.

All of this was why I decided to change our Christmas game, following the model suggested by Chantelle Ellem of Fat Mum Slim for gift buying: Something they want; something they need; something to wear, and something to read.

On top of this we make sure that none of these things are huge. We even had a chat with Santa, who’s agreed that he’ll just get our kids their stockings, so he can get more for kids whose parents can’t get them much (we help him out a bit with that as well because there are lots of children in the world). We try where we can to get things from charity shops (last year we made a family pact to only get each other things from charity shops, which of course we all broke!), which are especially good for books and games. We also try to make gifts ourselves (like my brother-in-law’s awesome mandarin gin) or buy it on Etsy or at craft fairs from those more skilled at making. That said, there are lots of great books which I’m eyeing up this year, especially Kate Pankhurst’s ‘Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World’ and Rachel Ignotofsky’s gorgeous book, ‘Women in Science’.

The really good stuff we remember about Christmas isn’t about the stuff… it’s the people, the good times and the cat in the Christmas tree – or is that just us? We all need more room for all of that.

Cara runs the Tanka Project, a daily tanka poem on all sorts of different subjects – a tanka is like a long haiku (both ancient forms of Japanese poetry).

Find on Instagram @tanka_project, or on Cara’s website at

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