As the Christmas holiday nears I start thinking about presents (duh). Buying them, wrapping them, giving just enough without being obnoxious, especially when it comes to our 4-year old. And I unintentionally start noticing what other parents are getting for their young kids. Am I doing enough? Are they doing too much? Is my son spoiled or is he deprived? Throughout the year we try to strike a good balance between giving him things he wants and not giving in to his every demand. Make him feel special but not entitled. Are we successful? I think we are, but an outsider looking in may totally disagree. “Spoiled” is in the eye of the beholder, especially during the holidays.
Our son is our one and only right now. He’s the only grandchild right now. So yes, I’d be totally lying if I said he wasn’t spoiled to some degree. But while it’s the grandparents’ duty to greet him with a little trinket whenever they see him (especially since they all live out of town), it’s my job as a parent to pull on the reigns a little so he understands the process of being rewarded, and why he can’t have every little thing his heart desires. Well let’s be clear here – we don’t have an unlimited budget to give him every little thing his heart desires… But even if we did I think we’d still err on the side of conservatism because that’s how my husband and I grew up. The whole “we’re not here to keep up with the Joneses” cliché was a favorite with my parents. Ugh I hope I never say that to my kids, even if it’s what I’m thinking…
So back to Christmas. Fortunately at this stage I think he’s happier opening lots of small, inexpensive stuff rather than one big gift. More bows, more paper, more trinkets, more this, more that. Fits the bill at 4 years old right? Gimme gimme gimme! So over the course of a couple of months I pick up odds and ends as I’m out running my regular errands. And I try to keep in mind some of the things we want him to DO in the coming year, not just play with. Camping with daddy is on the agenda, so he’ll get a cute little sleeping bag from Santa to set the stage.
And that brings me to the extended family. One of the reasons I remain fairly reserved at Christmas time is because he has 3 sets of grandparents, plus aunts and uncles and cousins who are champing at the bit to load him up. So for that reason I have to make lists – lots and lots of lists – to come up with ideas not only for Santa (us), but for the other family members as well. “We’re getting him the sleeping bag, so you get him a lantern.” “We’re staying away from big toys this year, so you can have at it.” “He needs a new outfit, so why don’t you handle that.” And before you know it the living room has exploded with more boxes and bows.
Yes, he’s spoiled in late December. I realize it and maybe it’s wrong for me to say, but I don’t feel guilty about it. Instead, I try to balance it out by helping him understand that all kids aren’t as lucky as he is, and that he should be thankful for everything he has. I let him choose the Angel Tree recipient from the church Christmas tree. He picks a non-perishable food item to bring to daycare every day during the food drive. He helps me box up clothes for the Goodwill truck throughout the year. And he drops change in the Salvation Army bucket every time we pass it. He’s only 4 so I’m not sure he totally understands what it all means, but I hope we’re giving him a good foundation for being humble and gracious as he grows up. How does YOUR family balance the gimme gimme gimmes with the give give gives?