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Teaching Kids about Giving, not Getting
I would like to open a forum for discussion of the whole gift/guilt/kids and consumption issue, for those who celebrate Christmas. I am a single parent who does receive child support, I do have a good job, and it isn't as though I can't "do" Christmas at all. I love the holiday and we have a beautiful tree with other traditions each year. It's just that I am getting resentful of my daughter's expectations(she is 8). I also realize that I have been instrumental in creating them.
She has a late November birthday, which I realize adds to the problem. Her father participates in none of the birthday celebration nor Christmas gift purchases. His side of the family is very generous, as is her stepmother, so she is not hurting for gifts or expressions of love. She also HAS everything imagineable. My issue, I guess, is where do I break this connection of guilt and obligation to spend money and buy her things just for the sake of it? What am I trying to prove and to whom?
p I have seen the receipt of gifts become meaningless year after year, as they get piled into the closet to be resurrected and played with in perhaps JULY?! She is an only child, so spreading them around isn't an option. Any feedback on this would be greatly welcomed. Thanks. I find myself on bedrest this holiday season, which had lead me to think about what is essential for a happy holiday (in our case, Christmas). I'm now remembering a book I read last year, after a Christmas of too much stress. If you'd like to have a simpler, more meaningful holiday experience this year or next, I highly recommend the book: "Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season" by Jo Robinson and Jean Staeheli. Natasha
It seems to me there are a couple of ways to approach it. One is to ask why you feel you need to purchase things to express your love. Is it because you can't spend as much time with your child as you want? There are lots of holiday activities - concerts, plays, tree lighting ceremonies, teddy bear teas - that you can substitute for buying something.
And that gets to the other approach. Does your child have any idea of the meaning of Christmas? Can you try to teach her more about why we celebrate it and plan some activities together in that spirit? For example, rather than buying her a bunch of presents, take her with you to buy some toys to take to a homeless shelter. There were some good ideas in the Chronicle's Datebook section today, and Natasha Beery in another post to this list suggested a book that sounded like it might have some alternatives as well.
For myself, I would like to start some holiday traditions for our family that take the emphasis off the gift receiving, and I'd love to hear how other people have done this. Lysa
In my case my parents have far more money than I do, as do my sister's family and also my brother and his wife. As a result my son really gets too much stuff every year, but I just can't seem to break out of this. I know that if I even tried to explain some of this to my family, they would only smile tolerantly and just feel sorry for me. They really wouldn't get it, being a crowd of rampant consumers all, ever ready to rush out and get the latest "must own" thing.
p It's always a relief when the holidays are over because of this, even though at that point I am left with a lot of bills and, yes, many toys that don't get played with much. I feel the only way I could possibly get away from this competition in gift giving would be to move to a mountain top or desert island some where and cut off all communication with my extended family.
Has any one else faced a similar problem and come up with a reasonable solution? I don't want my son to think less of his grandparents or aunts and uncles, so I don't what to cast a lot of aspersions on the expensive gifts they give. Besides, I could probably get him to say that he liked some homemade thing I gave him best, but deep down it just wouldn't be the same thrill for him as the latest Hot Wheels set up, or something of that ilk.
I didn't mean for this to turn into such a long whine, but if any one has any suggestions, I'm definitely open to them. Dianna
My own 4 year old son, thanks to a bunch of catalogs inundating our mailbox and Sunday paper ad inserts, by now wants about two UPS truckloads of gifts. I tell him that Santa has to think of all kids, although of course this might not fly with an 8 year old. In the end, my beautiful memories of holidays past tell me that these are what you decide to make them. A child might not appreciate what for him/her are abstract arguments on how privileged we are as a society and how callous our sense of entitlement can be, but that doesn't mean that we should (completly) bend to the, in the end, unhealthy demands of guilt and consumption. The best gift a child can receive is clear guidance, a structured life, and time with parents (along with sound financial planning that will allow him/her to not have to take care of them in their old age). This in itself is a tall order in our days of absurd work hours and double income obligations, but if one provides these, the issue of guilt becomes moot.
Another issue that bears mentioning is that of labor conditions in the toy factories of Asia. Due to repression of unionization efforts and terrible working conditions in China for example, I try to make an efort to buy US or European made toys. These are more expensive (e.g. Brio, Lego), but I just buy less. Another option is to buy used toys and invent a nice personal wrapping for them, which I am doing this year. It is a good way to support a small local business (I hate ToysRus) and fight waste. The preoccupation with labor conditions abroad and waste can also be solved by offering, as a gift, a outing to see The Nutcracker. With my family, we went to the Oakland Ballet's rendition of it a few years back. It was my first time at the ballet, and I loved it. I want to take my son again this year. Good luck. - adad
We've also outlawed gifts for all the minor holidays (Easter, Valentine's day, Halloween, etc.). Instead we've encouraged them to send cards. The cards have gotten pretty creative, I think our parents are actually enjoying the challenge. Our oldest daughter who can appreciate them loves when she gets them. She asks me to read the card over and over. She especially loves the XOXOXO's and what they mean.
Both sets of grandparents and all Aunts and Uncles live out of town so they all sneak in extra gifts when they visit but so far it hasn't gotten out of hand. Last time my sister was here she brought 2 books and told me she was afraid we'd ask them to stay at a hotel if she'd bought toys.
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