On Black Friday, I spent $250 on my kids’ Christmas presents. 250 bones. Or, how I like to refer to it, 5 ½ pedicures, more than a week’s worth of groceries, one cheap plane ticket or an affordable monthly car payment.
This rather large sum of money was spent on children who do not understand the following: the meaning of Christmas, being appreciative or the concept of money. In fact, our children (ages 5 and 2) believe we work solely for the purpose of fueling their addiction to the arcade games at a local pizza restaurant. To top it all off, the things I purchased were more of the same. Remote control cars and dump trucks filled my online shopping cart, as if they don’t have five of each already.
When we quizzed them on what Santa might be bringing them, they answered with one thing each: a fire truck (with a working siren) and a scarf. Wow! We can spring for a cold weather accessory before the holiday, but I’ll take the easy gift idea, kid!
The next day, when the Target holiday mailer arrived, our 5-year-old excitedly busted out his smelly markers to circle all of the gadgets he never knew he wanted. After only requesting a scarf the day before, I was a tad shocked to see he had circled almost every. single. toy. in the catalog. Except for Barbie’s, because, “Ew.”
For a kid who seemingly has every plastic toy imaginable, how could he want so many things? We can barely keep up with the mounds of trucks, Legos and whatcha-ma-callits already crowding our rooms and halls. Do they play with the ones we already have? Yes and no. Does he “want” all of the things he circled? Yes, but that flash in the pan interest will be forgotten once the next Rescue Bots episode flickers across the television.
What I have learned over the past two Christmases is that our kids, throughout the many family holiday celebrations, become immune to the thoughtfulness each relative puts in to their gift giving experience. Instead of cherishing each present, they throw the box over their shoulder to see what else awaits them, making us as parents twinge with guilt. The excitement of receiving overshadows the actual “things.” In the end, it makes for ungrateful attitudes and entitlement; aka, a parent’s worse nightmare.
So this year will be different. We are pledging quality over quantity. The junk I bought, it will be returned or donated to an organization which provides presents for those less fortunate.
Will they be deprived of the magic of Santa and Christmas? Absolutely not. We will still make their wishes come true, but the over spending and abundance of stuff will not be happening this year. Instead, we are choosing to give them things that will provide a chance for them to experience the outdoors, challenge their mind, get them moving, or enhance their love of reading. Sure, a noisy fire truck and a Lightning McQueen thingy might be sprinkled in, as well, but for the most part we will be avoiding the Walmart and Target toy aisles altogether.
Besides the obvious of wanting to avoid over-stimulated, spoiled and entitled behavior, our goal is also to show our kids that the newest flashy thing does not equate happiness. The kitchen apron and chef hat might seem “sooooo boring” when they open it, but the dozens of cookies made and ingested while wearing them won’t be. They might not appreciate the beginner’s chapter books wrapped individually under the tree, but the sense of accomplishment after finishing them will feel better than opening a long forgotten race car.
It sounds cliché, and it probably is, but we are trying our absolute best to raise kids who appreciate the small things in life. This is our attempt to show them Christmas is not about the stuff, but rather the feeling. Our hope is this mentality spills over into other aspects of life, once the holidays are far behind us. Wanting more and needing more are two completely different concepts, and being appreciative is one of the most important life lessons we can instill in our small children. Now let’s just hope this all goes according to plan, because with a toddler in the mix it’s really a toss up!