As a parent, Christmas time is one of the most stressful times of the year. The magic of Christmas is no longer magic for me, because I am the one that makes magic happen for others, mainly my children. And when I say magic, I don’t mean just moving the Elves on the shelf during the night, so our children can continue to believe they are really Santa’s helpers coming from the North Pole to spy on them. What I mean is doing some real magic with our finances, so we can buy the presents on our kids’ Santa list. We always promise ourselves to be careful of over-gifting, but many of us just end up buying everything we can afford just so we can vicariously experience the joy of Christmas through our children. And every single time, we are disappointed when they only play with the one toy they really wanted while leaving the others to the side and into the forgotten vault in their little heads. It does not have to be that way at all, stop yourself while there is still time. If it is not too late, and you have not given into the post-thanksgiving consumerism explosion, make yourself a promise to limit children gifts to a maximum of three, which most experts agree is more than enough, as anything more than that will make children’s eyes start to glaze over.
Last year my daughter really wanted a Hatchimal, which were nowhere to be found by the time I got around to Christmas shopping. Some of these things were even going for $300 on ebay and I have no doubt someone desperate and crazy enough bought it. Not me. I got her a robotic cat instead, which was her second choice on the list. She was just as happy and the Hatchimal was never mentioned again, ever. I try not to give into the hype and buy my children the most expensive toy because it is the coolest one of the season. I know my children and what they enjoy, how they spend their time, their interests, hopes and dreams. Therefore, I knew that toy she wanted would be a temporary joy that would last less than a day. I also knew they would get more days of fun out of a bike, a scooter, a board game or even a video game than from an electronic toy made to last less than a month. It was not easy to make the decision of disappointing my child on Christmas day. I had to keep reminding myself that it would be a temporary disappointment. My daughter surprised me with her thoughtfulness by not even mentioning the missing toy and expressing elation at the gifts she did get. It was a humbling lesson for both of us. Hot toy or not, we are lucky to have the means to get anything at all.
Some parents are forfeiting gifts altogether, in favor of minimalism. Others opt for experiences rather than material gifts. However, I am in too deep to go that route at this point, plus I still like our tradition of giving thoughtful gifts to each other on Christmas morning. Nonetheless, my daughter is fast approaching the age in which toys no longer make sense for her. At that point, I will need to rethink my plan and get creative. Since I got my daughter into Girl Scouts, I discovered how much she appreciates having fun and spending time together above all else. Perhaps we can start a tradition of giving gifts we make ourselves or ones that allow them to experience something cool, like a family trip, a cooking class, movie gift certificates, etc. They may still crave the latest hot thing advertised on TV, but we do not have to resign ourselves to buy it. We don’t need to be Scrooges, just smart, and ask ourselves whether this thing they want has the potential of being played with more than 3 or 5 times. If the answer is no, do not buy it. I would rather take them somewhere fun, maybe even to Disney (which is parent hell by the way), but I know they will have great memories out of it.
Christmas can be stressful for parents, because our sole purpose is to make sure our children are happy no matter what. We live for those little grins, squeals of happiness and expressions of awe and wonder. We just must give ourselves a reality check occasionally and remember that we have limitations. We cannot buy a pony for Christmas. Where would it live, what would we feed it anyway? The child will be disappointed to get a toy pony instead, but they will learn an important lesson, that we don’t always get what we want, but will get exactly what we need; that, is the magic of Christmas.
PS/ There is nothing more rewarding than giving. This Christmas give your children the gift of learning to share and the joy of giving by donating to a charity dedicated to making other children’s dreams come true.
Girl Scouts USA. (2017, Dec 13). Girl Scouts, Who We Are. Retrieved from Girlscouts.org: http://www.girlscouts.org/en/about-girl-scouts/who-we-are.html
Pittman, T. (2017, Oct 31). Mila Kunis Clears Up Her ‘No Presents For The Kids’ Christmas Tradition. Retrieved from Huffingtonpost.com: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mila-kunis-clears-up-her-no-presents-for-the-kids-christmas-tradition_us_59f88e10e4b09b5c2569317e
Schafer, A. (2017, Nov 24). How To Tell Family And Friends To Stop Buying Too Many Gifts For Your Children. Retrieved from Huffingtonpost: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/11/24/christmas-gifts-children_a_23287393/
Smith, J. D. (2014, Dec 1). 25 Great Gifts for Kids That Have Nothing to Do With Toys (and Still Allow for Plenty to Unwrap). Retrieved from Huffingtonpost.com: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamie-davis-smith/25-great-gifts-for-for-ki_b_6245668.html
Stahl, K. (2017, Dec 10). Why You Should Give Your Kids Exactly 3 Gifts For Christmas — No More, No Less. Retrieved from Popsugar.com: https://www.popsugar.com/moms/How-Many-Christmas-Gifts-Should-You-Give-Kids-44228448