I asked my daughter if she wanted a party for her birthday or a trip to New York City. She chose the trip.
So we met my mom in New York last weekend.
And I want to tell you about it so you too can emphasize experiences over buying stuff — even when it comes to your kids.
And we all want our kids to be happy, right? Yet, every Christmas and birthday, what do you do? You buy tons of presents they don’t need and that overwhelm their playrooms and bedrooms.
It’s not making them happy.
Our family focuses on experiences. We don’t have Santa because we are Jewish. We do not go shopping on the weekends as an activity. We do not buy souvenirs. And my kids don’t get birthday parties every year. They get a party with their friends every other year and that is their present from us. On the off years, they choose the restaurant for a family dinner and can pick out a present.
And guess, what? They are happy. Their rooms are a toy-free oasis. They do not ask for stuff, stuff, stuff. My daughter has not once mentioned getting a phone. (FYI: They are not getting phones any time soon.)
So, as you can imagine, our trip to New York included museums, shows and lots of food.
Yes, we went to the American Girl Doll store. But the main event was eating lunch at the cafe and getting Julie’s (the doll’s) hair done.
We looked around the store. But I have to say, my daughter was the only one in there not having a temper tantrum, begging for every little thing she saw. (Is this what Disney is like? If so, no thank you.) My mom offered to buy her one doll outfit. My daughter accepted the gift, but said she would clean out her current outfits when she got home.
We also went to Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Ave. on Fifth Ave. And get this: We just looked because I do not buy clothes without Sheon the Stylist. (Hire the experts to save time and money.) But I wanted to experience the luxury in those stores. I did text Sheon from Saks and told her I wanted to die there. Seriously, please someone set up my senior living in that store, so I can look at all the pretty things.
But if I were buying clothes, this where I would go because the clothes are more beautiful and better quality than anything you get at at big-box store.
I know most of you would balk at at $600 jacket from Saks, but if you add up all the money you spent on junky clothes this year, you would reach that number and beyond. For some reason Americans have become so cheap when it comes to buying clothes — even though they buy tons of clothes. They just don’t buy quality. (And they certainly don’t think about the slave children making those cheap clothes.)
I believe shopping should be an experience with amazing customer service and luxurious items. We are no longer accustomed to this thanks to Target.
The rest of our trip focused on food, shows and museums. We went to the famous Milk Bar for dessert. My daughter got “cereal milk” flavored ice cream.
We ate dinner at Cafe Luxembourg, where we had moules frites and a French cheese plate. Because we have focused on foodie experiences, my children have a pretty sophisticated palate. You should have seen the waiter’s face when my daughter asked for the cheese menu. And she said the mussels tasted like “butter.”
She also had her first New York bagel AND LOX from Ess-a-Bagel. She gave it 5 out of 5 stars.
At Serendipity 3, we tried the famous frozen hot chocolate.
At Fresco by Scotto, she ordered charcuterie, her favorite. (You may recognize the Scotto family if you watch “The Today Show” because they are regulars for the cooking segments.) Marion the mom greeted us at the door.
Speaking of “The Today Show” and NBC, we ran into NBC Nightly News host Lester Holt, who was interviewing Loretta Lynch. I mean we literally ran into them. Now that was an experience.
For our non-food experiences, we went to the Museum of Natural History…
…and saw the butterfly conservatory, where a butterfly landed on my head, creating the perfect fascinator for Prince Harry’s upcoming wedding.
We also saw My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center before it heads to Broadway, staring Henry Hadden-Paton of Downton Abbey and The Crown, and Diana Rigg of Game of Thrones.
It was fabulous.
And we saw The Lion King on Broadway. This was my second time seeing this show, and I always cry when the animals walk down aisles. We specifically bought an aisle seat for my daughter.
My daughter wanted to buy gifts for her brother and her dad, who has a birthday this week.
So she bought brother candy from Dylan’s Candy Bar. I love giving food and wine as gifts because they can be consumed and won’t stick around like an “I Love New York” t-shirt.
For dad, she bought a mug from Serendipity 3 because he loves coffee. But this mug is the ultimate. If it’s a special item, go ahead and buy it. It’s the “mindless shopping to fill your emotional holes at big-box stores when you already have everything you need and don’t get rid of anything” that I oppose.
The mug says “Powered by Unicorn Farts.”
Finally, I want to share with you what I packed. I took four outfits to New York for three days. Next time, I will do even less. But I am practicing with packing the capsule wardrobe.
On Friday, I wore this:
For both shows, I wore this. Yes, you can repeat an outfit:
On Saturday, I wore this: This navy coat is the most expensive item in my wardrobe, and I love it. I am so glad I spent the money on this at Nordstrom.
On Sunday, I wore black leggings and a black sweater. Why no photo? Because I discovered a hole in the leggings, and they are already in the trash. I do not keep clothes with holes or other imperfections.
In hindsight, I would have created two outfits with the navy jacket to bring even less. Follow me on Instagram because I am going to create a week of outfits with this jacket.
So that’s it. You can focus on experiences and stop the gift giving, too. It’s your ego (or the voice in your head) that tells you that you can’t. It tells you your kids expect presents and things on their birthdays; that you have to buy the entire American Girl Doll store when you go. There is no law stating your kids have to have presents for every occasion.
I bet they would take spending time with you at home or on a trip over any present. Try it.