We’ve already established that giving is a good thing. A fun thing. And in no way am I saying that gifts shouldn’t be exchanged at Christmas time. However, I think it’s our attitudes in the giving that need the adjusting.
My kids are growing up and giving gifts has definitely changed. It used to be very easy to buy the latest, greatest , trendiest toys and know that they’d giggle with glee and delight. It was also very easy to go overboard.
We had a couple of Christmases where I threw my *3 gift rule* out the window. (One they want, one they need and one thing I want to give them). We lavished the Lego, My Little Pony, Barbie, Princess, Bionicle, movies, games and more all over our dear little ones. There was laughter and joy….for an hour. There was giggling….and whining. And fatigue and failure. There were broken bits and missing bits before we could even get the horse out of the Fisher Price Barn. *sigh* Good intentions. But bad parenting. Less is more. Less is more. I know this and yet we didn’t listen to our own good common sense or intuition.
And then there were the lean Christmases. The one when my son turned 2 and we got him the Fisher Price cassette player with the microphone. That was all. The $30 it cost me to buy that was all the money in the world we had. My husband and I didn’t exchange gifts that year and our 1 year old, she didn’t get anything. She was too young to know and we couldn’t afford anything since her birthday had been 5 days before Christmas. Her birthday gift? An $8 blow up fire engine that she bounced and laughed on until it popped a month later.
But that cassette player for my son that Christmas was THE BEST gift ever. Our boy carried that everywhere. He sang every Veggie Tales and Kids Worship song at least 100 times over. He got so good at rewinding and changing cassettes, we knew he’d be a genius(he now runs sound,plays electric guitar in a worship band and knows ALL things technology). One gift. ONE. He was two.
I think perspective is good here.
Our babies don’t need every gift money can buy. They won’t know and they won’t remember. They also don’t need our $200 spent on them when there are so many more worthy causes where that money could go. Our 3 year olds don’t need iPods or Nintendo DSi’s. Our 5 year olds don’t need ponies in the backyard or every age-appropriate toy.
Here’s a few guidelines for giving to kids under 12(and these go for grandparents, aunties and uncles too).
- 1. Mom and Dad know their kids best~even better than the kids. So choose what you know in your heart will speak most to your child’s gifts, desires, hopes and dreams.
- 2. Don’t try to balance out the price you spend on each child. This is foolishness in my opinion. A 10 year old boy may relish the chance to get a $150 train set but his 8 year old sister may be the happiest girl in the world with a $40 doll stroller.
- 3. Be up front with your kids. If times are tough and you don’t have a lot, then tell them the gifts will be lean. They can take it. They understand.
- 4. Grandparents, if you are giving to ALL of your grandkids, then give to them ALL. Trust me, they will find out if one grandchild got something and they did not. And please, for the love of your children and the sanity of all, don’t buy toys from dollar stores, EVER.
- 5.Aunties(you are the worst) and Uncles, please ask your brothers/sisters before spending a whole bunch on your nieces and nephews. It can make for hard and uncomfortable feelings if your gifts trump mom and dad’s gifts. Be conservative. It REALLY IS the thought that counts in times like these. Christmas Day is not the day to show off how much money you have.
- 6.Parents, refrain from giving your child more gifts for their age. A baby doesn’t need 12 gifts to open. And neither does a 2 year old or any child for that matter. Use the rule: 1 they love, 1 they need, 1 they wear and 1 they read. Books, PJs, a toy and a treasure.
- 7. When you buy a toy or a treasured doll/stuffed animal. Don’t buy on impulse. Think about it. Research it. Ask your friends what their kids love and play with. If I could go back and count up the money I spent on things that looked cute or fun in the toy store but ended up being the biggest waste of money, I would be rich. People who buy on impulse are what’s driving the rampant consumption we see around us. DO NOT SHOP WHEN YOU HAVE MONEY TO BURN AND NO SENSE OF FOCUS.
- 8.Remember your kids are fickle. They will love something Christmas Day and forget about it by June. If you do end up with a lot of toy gifts, especially with little kids under 6, put some of them away immediately. Do not pull them out until February, March or later. When you do pull them out, it will be like Christmas all over again. And then put the played-with toys away for a few months. THIS WORKS WONDERS.
- 9.I will be doing an entire post on consumable gifts. They don’t always apply to small kids but it’s worth mentioning that if you have a baby on your list this year, think diapers, wipes, formula, baby food and toiletries. These items are extremely costly for new parents and a baby doesn’t know and doesn’t care what you’re giving to him/her.
- 10. Above all else, remember that children don’t have the capacity to understand the economy, finances and affordability Therefore, do not teach them about excess and having it all at an early age or they will come to expect you to out-do yourself year after year after year. Start out slow, be conservative and TEACH them with your giving about being thankful for the small things and for ONE thing.
Tomorrow’s post will be some gift ideas for Tweens and Teens. Right where I’m at….I have homework to do!
Here’s the link for the rest of this series on Redeeming Christmas.