Do you have a second? Because we need to talk about what to get your parents for Christmas this year. Your parents have done a lot for you. They created you, fed you, bathed you, and took care of you when you were nothing more than a sobbing poop machine. They also sat idly by each Christmas letting Santa take all the credit for the gifts under the tree until you learned the truth. Keep in mind, that’s a lot of their hard earned money spent just to see you smile on Christmas morning. You kinda owe them everything. And I get it — they're basically impossible to shop for. They seem to not need much, and when they want something, they buy it themselves — leaving no chance for you to swoop in and get them the thing they've been eyeing for months.
Let's make shopping for the 'rents a little simpler this year though, by narrowing down the options. Because the retail world is bursting at the seams with shiny things available for purchase. There are several gifts that would probably be perfect for them, and even more gifts that would be a total disaster. There are just some things that you should never buy your parents. Gifts that might send the wrong message or are just straight-up inappropriate. Here are the gifts your parents do not want to open this Christmas.
1. Something that nudges them into a fitness routine
You care about their health because obviously, you want them to live forever and ever, but suggesting it via a tangible object adorned with a big red bow is not the way to communicate this. Sure, maybe dad's doctor even told him he needs to start exercising regularly to keep his health in check, but rather than getting him a workout DVD, a treadmill, or a step counter watch, invite him to go on regular walks with you. Plan a shared fitness goal, or even an active excursion that gets the two of you healthier together. The former is often seen as an insult, whereas the latter is quality time together, which will always be seen as a gift.
2. Something for the home that's boring and made for chores
This does not include cute trinkets or kitchen items or tools if those things align with your parents' interests. But just because their vacuum recently broke doesn't mean they want you to buy them a new one. Don't buy them paint because they mentioned they might want to repaint the guest room. Don't buy a new rake because the one they have is old and rickety. Chores suck at every age, you guys.
3. Something that gets them into a new hobby
They have hobbies already. Do you know what they are? If not, it's time to start asking more questions during your visits and phone conversations. Think about this from your perspective — if you've never had any interest in gardening but because your mom thinks it's a cool hobby, she gets you a gardening tool kit and some starter seeds, how would you take that? While any gift is a nice gesture, it doesn't really make sense to use this once-a-year gift-giving tradition as the time to suggest new hobbies. It also means you haven't been listening. Find a present that celebrates their current hobbies, and they will love love love it.
4. Something weirdly intimate
This one should be obvious, but unless you have a unique bond wherein you share every personal detail of your lives with each other, stay far far away from intimate gifts. This includes but is not limited to: underwear, lingerie, sex toys, mugs and t-shirts with extremely dirty jokes written on them; erotic books, movies, magazines, and calendars; tickets to tantric workshops, etc. Just, do not.
5. Something that comes from a fruit or wine basket catalog
These are very popular gifts to give, and here's why they're a bad idea: They're too expensive for what's included. They cost around, what — $50 or so? And what always happens when someone opens a basket like this? The booze and the chocolate are the first things to go. Or you get stuck with a box of mealy pears and want to punch a wall because WHO WANTS PEARS? Then the crackers, nuts, and cheese spreads turn into the random stale snacks that take up too much space in a cupboard and eventually they get tossed. If you're going to spend $50 on wine or chocolate, get a bottle or two of wine and/or a giant box of assorted chocolate. Your parents get what they really enjoy, and you have wisely spent your gift budget on the stuff they'd pick out of the basket anyway.
Or better yet — build your own gift basket filled with everything you know they like. It's usually cheaper than a pre-made basket, it's a fun DIY project, and it's a better gift.
6. Something related to your differing religious beliefs
We are entering troubled waters here, and this is why a gift that's tied to religion — specifically if you and your parents practice different religions — is a bad idea. Unless you know they're excited for you, super supportive, and want to learn more about your spiritual journey, then it just seems like a safe bet to avoid this kind of gift, and you'll also avoid any potentially dicey convos in the process. Same goes for anything relating to politics. Everyone is entitled to their own feelings and opinions, and when it comes to family, hot topics like this should probably be handled with kid gloves, or avoided altogether.
7. Something that could get one parent in trouble with the other
Maybe your mom likes red meat but eating it regularly would hinder her health, and your dad (or your other mom) is worried about her. Maybe your dad likes to collect guns, and your mom (or your other dad) feels unsafe with them in the house. Don't get mom a steak of the month membership, and don't buy dad a brand new rifle. Hobbies are fantastic, but setting your parents up for an argument through a gift is not so great.
8. Something that could be bought in bulk at Costco
Any item that is sold in large quantities at Costco and comes in packing resembling a bucket, a crate, or a palette, has no place under that gloriously decorated tree. This is a good rule of thumb for any gift-giving holiday. Nobody needs a new pen — I don't care how fancy it is. Nobody needs a plain white t-shirt. Nobody needs a toothbrush. Nobody needs anything that can be found at the grocery store.
9. Something that forces them to spend more money
This would mean buying only part of a romantic getaway like the hotel or plane ticket when they have no current plans to take that trip. Unless it's an open-ended ticket that can be used at any time, or a hotel reservation that they can reschedule. Or buying them one or two pieces of sporting equipment like ski boots and leaving them to buy the skis. If you have a ginormous gift idea because you adore your parents and want to treat them to something awesome, think it through and make sure you understand what will be required of them to take advantage of it.
10. Something you've already given them
Unless dad makes it clear that he wants a brand new pair of slippers every year, make sure you're changing up your Christmas gifts. Otherwise it's just kind of lazy and careless, even if your intentions are nothing but good.
If the socks are wrapped and not just coming out of a stocking, then you've done something wrong. Nobody wants socks for Christmas, including your parents.