I’m sure that most of you are like me. You know that Christmas is one of the most sacred of holidays, but it has become such a time of retail commercialization. It has always been a struggle for us to adopt traditions of gift-giving where Ben is concerned, without going overboard, especially because Ben is an only child. I will admit that we have spoiled him rotten in the past. We waited a long time for this precious gift and once he arrived, we couldn’t wait to shower him with everything money could buy.
As Ben got older and more computer savvy, he began making amazon wishlists (a throwback to the old Sears Christmas catalog I used to dog-ear!). It was crazy all of the items he would put on his wishlist. Probably because he knew he was pretty much guaranteed to get it all.
Take a peak at gifts one Christmas before we changed things —
This was actually the Christmas that sent me over the edge. Especially when the credit card bill came in.
This wasn’t even everything he received. The unopened gifts were his “Santa” gifts — all three toys (think gifts of the Magi) and Santa never wraps. Everything else, in and out of view, were his gifts from us. Usually at least 15 presents, valued at hundreds of dollars.
Talk about regrets.
A couple of years ago, we did begin a new tradition though. Using a simple 4-line poem. I explained to Ben that this is how both Christmas and birthday gifts would be chosen for him . . .
Something you want.
Something you need.
Something to do.
Something to read.
And yes, sometimes the something you need is something you need to homeschool — like a nice microscope!
He wasn’t terribly excited about it at first. He knew it meant he wouldn’t be receiving gobs of gifts, as in the past. But what it did do was narrow his focus. Now when he presents a request to us for a birthday or Christmas gift, he makes sure it’s something he really, really wants.
This has freed us up to cut back on the number of gifts we purchase for Ben and made it fun for him to guess what he’s getting, too. He’s already making a list of what he’d like for his upcoming birthday, and I’ve caught him thinking in these terms —
“I really need some new socks.”
“I hope I get the next Lord of the Rings book!”
“Mom, can an iPod Touch be the thing I want?” (the answer is, “yes, but you might want some alternatives there buddy.”)
It has also freed us up to spend more money on others. From Operation Christmas Child to sponsoring needy families, we have been able to budget some of those funds that used to go toward spoiling Ben, and bless other kids (and sometimes, adults) as well. This year, I plan to institute this rule for Mom and Dad as well!
That part has made all the difference for Ben. He is a pretty generous kid, and is happy to give up a few toys he doesn’t really need to bless other kids who might not have anything to open on Christmas morning otherwise.
Do you have any special ways you decide how to choose what gifts you give your children? Please, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear YOUR ideas!