The Mast-Head: Christmas Shopping

       When I was younger, my standing joke at this time of the year was that all I wanted for Christmas was socks. It was true then, and it is true now; socks are just fine, at least for me. For our three kids, however, gift-receiving is another matter altogether.

       And children’s presents are made complicated these days by the ubiquity of smartphones. While the younger ones may want those shiny and bright geegaws seen in the Sunday paper circulars, the truth is they will cast them down quickly to lose themselves in a tiny screen if given the chance.

       So it is with pleasure that I observe that our 3-year-old still likes his Play-Doh, plastic dinosaurs, and toy cars, and he will entertain himself in the yard by waving a stick at imaginary foes. The thing is, of course, those unseen enemies may well turn out to be characters he has seen in cartoons.

       The oldest of our children, who is 12, has been fully seduced by all things online. She spends as much time as she can with her smartphone, often playing an in-app game while streaming TV shows or YouTube in a tiny window in one corner of her screen. Presents for her have been whittled down to the basics: A gift card for clothes is about the only other tangible thing she is interested in.

       The sister in the middle enjoys crafts. This week she quickly used up all the supplies in a marker-making kit she received for Hanukkah. Yet, even with her, such physical diversions can quickly give way to digital distractions.

       As for their mom, who doesn’t wear jewelry and prefers to pick out her own clothing, presenting her with the time she covets would really be a challenge. She likes to read, but buying her a novel for her Kindle is hardly a romantic gesture.

       For me, it’s easy. Socks. For the rest of the family, not so much.