ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS
by Sally Burgess Forefront Families LLC
Here we are in the throws of the ‘silly season’ again. By that I mean we are trying to work out what to give one another for Christmas. Or maybe our kids are making impossible requests when we have barely paid off our credit cards from last year’s damages!
Why do we put ourselves through all this stress? Who really wants to stay up all night after Thanksgiving hoping to be the first through the doors to buy one of those 5-only illusive 42” TVs for 75% off? Even if you get into the stores, you find that by the time you have chosen those fabulous bargains there is a line three times around the inside perimeter of the store. We really must be crazy, right?
So, what is it all for? Christmas has become one huge commercial venture, a time when stores with lagging sales through the year hope to break even or maybe make a little profit by Dec 31st. The media create our ‘need’ to have the latest and greatest gadget. They push so much stuff under our kids’ noses that we find our children not only want, but seem to feel the right to have it all.
Never in a million years did I imagine that kids would be allowed and even encouraged to go through store books or advertising brochures to pick out what they wanted for Christmas. Some kids have no limit on how much stuff they can have from these mail-outs. I heard a mother in a store the other day say to her 8 year-old as they passed through the toy section, “Put it on your wish list.”
How many parents put a limit on the value or number of items on these endless wish lists? At a time when almost all of us have been hit by the financial crisis, we do not need the pressure of thinking that to be ‘great parents’ we have to give our kids (and one another), tons of stuff for Christmas.
On the TV show, ‘Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?’, they took a poll of 8 to 12 year olds and asked them, "What do you most enjoy about the holidays?" a) Decorating the house b) Spending time with family and relatives c) Receiving presents. What do you think most of the children said? Answer: B!
When we immigrated to the States in 1994 we unexpectedly lost all our savings because of an unscrupulous immigration attorney. We arrived at the beginning of November and by December 25th we were sweating bullets about how we were going to make it. There was absolutely no money for Christmas presents. What were we going to do? We had been ‘adopted’ by a wonderful American family who invited us to their Christmas festivities and since they had been so good to us we felt that we needed to take gifts. We really had to put our thinking caps on about what to do. We bought some little glass containers, filled them up with homemade cookies and gave them out. It worked a treat.
Because we had no money to buy gifts for our selves and our two adult children we never bought any for two or three years. Suddenly the whole thought process changed. We had each other and we did things together. We never even missed the gifts. Those were some of the most memorable Christmases in our lives.
How can we wean our kids off the perceived need to receive piles of presents? You can give them a budget figure and let them choose gifts to fit within that figure. That will show them the value of money and how far it stretches. You can say, for instance, you will give them three gifts each, but then the rest of the money you would have spent will buy a goat or cow for some mission in a 3rd world country. Or, you could decide together to buy toys or clothing and give it to a single parent or needy families in your neighborhood. You could ask those families to come and share your Christmas dinner. Have your kids think up fun things to do together as a family instead of spending all that money on stuff. You can get them to save their pocket money and buy one thing each for their brothers, sisters and for you, too, if you choose. What you are teaching them is:
a) Stuff means nothing compared to time with family and creating memories.
b) There is great satisfaction in giving to those less well off than you.
What I am really saying is that all your kids really want for Christmas…is you!
If you have any comments or questions on this subject, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out our website at www.forefrontfamiies.org and our blogsite at www.forefrontfamilies.blogspot.com