Every year around the holidays, I notice the world is divided into two camps: those who are easy to buy for and those who are not.
I used to think this broke down along gender lines, probably because my mom always told me, "Men are sooo hard to buy for!"
She was probably thinking of my dad, an auditor by trade, who was not a fan of receiving gifts of any kind.
"Now why would I need those?" he used to say, unwrapping a pair of socks. "I can mend the ones I have." And he did.
But then came my younger son, and voila! The apple fell a million miles from the tree and smashed my assumptions along the way.
Thanks to him, I now know the true predictors of being easy to buy for are not gender but 1) a sense of humor that would make Aunt Sadie blush, 2) a ridiculously large array of interests, all of which require equipment, 3) a pole barn large enough to store whatever comes his way and 4) a wife who is willing to put up with it all.
Son No. 2 has never been heard to groan sanctimoniously, "It's all stuff."
He asks none of the hard-to-buy-for questions, such as "Where am I going to put this?" "Is it organic?" or "Was it made in a fair-trade country?"
As a result, while the rest of us wonder -- but do not ask -- these things, he happily has raked in a barn's worth of golfing, fishing, hunting and weightlifting equipment, along with a collection of T-shirts and mugs we all howl over but would never use or wear.
His response to us overthinkers has been to limit our shopping to "As Seen on TV" gifts, with the spelling of as slightly modified and probably not suitable for a family newspaper.
To his credit, he has faithfully walked the talk, distributing nose-hair trimmers, leaky egg poachers and plastic-wrap holders to everyone on his list.
Even as I write this, I squirm a little at the materialism of it all. I try somehow to be "only a little bit pregnant" in the stuff-distributing department. For example, as the son-described "mother ship" of this brood, I successfully urged us to draw names through an online service called Elfster, so that each of us would have only one family gift to buy.
"Give what you'd otherwise spend to charity!" I proclaimed -- a system I hope has been adhered to but has never been monitored.
While I've tried to make my "big gift" to the grandchildren some sort of experience rather than stuff, I always wrap up some stuff that will be related to the experience.
And -- my biggest violation of all -- I relish my role as family stocking-stuffer and the sometimes-painful overthinking that accompanies the selection of each item. My justification is that it's, uh, tradition! And also that it gives me the pleasure of thinking about each of my brood and their various interests and idiosyncrasies.
This year, when Elfster failed us and assigned spouses to each other, I fired it and took over the drawing. Somehow, it happened that I drew Pole-Barn Guy, and he drew me.
Another Christmas miracle, I guess.
Balancing Act author Pat Snyder is a northwest Columbus resident and life-balance speaker and coach. Find her at patsnyderonline.com.