Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Don't Spoil Christmas

"No kid in this country needs another toy!"

My dad said this to me one year - no, actually two, three years in a row - while asking what my kids might like for Christmas. He told me flatly he would not be giving them toys. I wanted to reach through the phone and pump his hand, kiss his cheek and throw confetti over his head. Amen, brother....or, uh, Dad! That is the true spirit of season, especially to moms who are harassed by constant clutter.

My dad basically said all American kids are spoiled rotten with toys. I heartily agree. I read a Time For Kids article my kids brought from school that spoke specifically to that point: American children have so many toys that they are taking over family homes, stressing out parents with monstrous clutter. And, my friends, imagine the waste of time in managing that clutter, the money expended in acquiring those toys, and the sheer volume of playthings destined for the landfill eventually. It's nuts.

I read this article, I'm Dreaming of a Toyless Christmas, this morning and so thoroughly agreed with it, I had to write my own post about the subject (something I intended to weigh in on last year). Our family of six lives in a nice but limited 1220 sq ft home, and we simply do not need anything more in this house.

Yet, I get it - that idea of the dream Christmas when your kids' faces light up with sheer joy beneath the glow of the tree lights as they gaze in wonder at the fabulous, copious, perfect gifts left for them by a jolly man in red. That vision tortures me every year, too, and if I weren't grounded in memories of my childhood and did not have a husband more frugal than I am to stay my hand sometimes, I might cave to it.

I've been on both sides, feeling that I gathered too much for our kids (at Ikea where most toys are inexpensive) or wishing in that 12th hour when I see the disappointment in their eyes that Santa had gotten them that one (often quite expensive) thing they really wanted. Holiday shopping is stressful, a chore in gauging others' expectations, for just that reason.

Though sorely and perpetually tempted by the consumer frenzy, I can't go overboard on any child - my own or my nephews and nieces - because it wasn't my experience growing up; it is not what it's about to me. I won't compete with others' extravagance, either. I earnestly wish we would all do less and teach our kids by example sound financial sense, an appreciation for countless beautiful things the holidays provide that aren't wrapped in pretty paper and bows, and, most importantly, the spirit of giving generously to those less fortunate.

I understand and remind myself it's not about the gifts, even while I'm still agonizing over them but noting it especially once I see how quickly most gifts are laid aside.

In the article I read today by Erica Marie, she points out that she would like to give and receive more gifts of experience such as gift cards to favorite eateries, bowling packages, and mini golf outings. What a beautiful idea! After all, memories are the best gift; you can play with them for a lifetime and pass them on to your children. Last year my husband and I finally took our kids to the circus as our present to them. They were thrilled by their first circus experience, and it was an amusing, and very memorable, family outing.

Yes, I know aunts and uncles and grandparents (not my dad) will give them toys and gadgets, and I hope they have fun with it. But it brings me joy when I see clothes or books or special ornaments to be kept instead of expensive playthings. I certainly can't ban the giving of toys, but, luckily, the spirit of St. Nick in this house breathes more tradition and moderation than extravagance.


  1. You reminded me that I still miss our Tennessee Christmases. They were never about the gifts, were they?

    1. They never were. We should write some posts about that, Papa.


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