Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Price Tag

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My parents maintained that Santa Claus came each year when my siblings and I were young. We wrote letters to him and enjoyed opening surprise presents that magically appeared between the time we finally got to sleep Christmas Eve and the time my lazy parents finally crawled out of bed Christmas morning.

The Christmas Spirit was, to me, that happy surprise. I knew I wanted to share the feeling with my children.

“Time to write a letter to Santa,” I told my oldest when he was able to understand asking and letter-writing. Together, we crafted a sweet request for basic toys and holiday candy. His eyes lit up at “wights!” and “pwesents!”

Not many years later, he asked, “How much (money) do we get from Santa for Christmas?” He’d figured certain things out early on but was bright enough and kind enough to keep up appearances for his younger brothers.

Still…. he also cottoned on to the idea of a max out-of-pocket to aim for as well. I didn’t love it.

Round about the third year of all of them writing a list of presents that looked closer to an Amazon order, I interceded. “I don’t like this method at all! It’s like a shopping spree, an itemized request, or a ransom note!” (The last comment being motivated by my third threatening to light the fire under Santa if he should fail to bring the robot he wanted.)

They, in turn, were confused. Christmas was a time that I told them Santa would bring about $X in presents and they enjoyed getting as close to that figure as possible. What saw was them mentally check off each item they opened Christmas morning. Once or twice, the scene was even like that of Dudley Dursley’s fit when he only had 36 presents instead of 37.

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I saw no magic.

All the commercialism of Christmas sours me by July anyway, but watching my darlings murder my happy surprise moment made me want to toss the lot and have them serve up soup over at the homeless shelter.

A neighbor of mine expressed a similar sentiment. Hers, being older, didn’t enjoy the benefit of Santa anymore anyway, so she began a more frugal, service-driven Christmas. I couldn’t do the same, but knew I was hating the holiday and I didn’t want to.

Last year, I told my darling children they could make a generalized list and what they got they got. I told them I was getting them each one surprise present from parents, and one asked-for gift of $X.

This year, I’m thinking of the same. After toy commercials and Wal-Mart ads, however, that soup kitchen is looking mighty tempting.

I’m curious what others’ experiences are, and how they’ve handled it. Do your children turn into itemized gluttons December the 25th? How do you Christmas?

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12 thoughts on “Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Price Tag

  1. Yes it has lost a lot of its magic as it is just a big marketing event now. After things changed a couple of years back I was forced to downsize Christmas. To be honest I think my son didn’t notice much as I made sure he got the present he wanted the most – which was usually not the most expensive. This is the first post ‘that chat’ Christmas. So a bit concerned about its impact on my son – hoping that letting him decide the Christmas plan will help.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll probably write more about this later, but see a lot of parents want to give their kids ‘everything they [the parents] didn’t have,’ not realizing that less really is more -that going without can be more character-building than giving in.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Whenever my kids start acting entitled we play The Thankful Game. I make everyone sit around in a circle right where we are and we go around and take turns either saying what we are thankful for AND WHY, or physically touching an item we are thankful for and telling it thank you for its services (“thank you table for holding up my food and providing a place for the family to eat together these last 7 years!”). We play until everyone’s tone of voice changes and the mood in the house feels lighter and more appreciative. Wash and repeat as needed!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. They haven’t, thank goodness! But I’d probably still make them do it anyway. If they can’t learn to appreciate what they have I do my best not to give them more. That may involve skipping meals or missing activities or paying me back for things. I have no qualms about being the bad guy… it’s just always more effective before Good Cop gets home from work. 😑

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I think you are right that we try to live our childhood dreams through our children and give them the material things that we lacked. I cringe when I look back and think of the amount of Christmas gifts we gave our children and I see my daughter and son doing the same for their children. Caught up in an endless commercial spiral. It has to end sometime, the whole reason for Christmas is so distorted. When I look at some of the outdoor Christmas decorations and Christmas tree ornaments being sold I get confused as to exactly what holiday we are celebrating.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, agreed! Some people in our neighborhood opt for Secret Santa and ‘adopting’ a kid or family for Christmas… but I KNOW families that are less fortunate and they spend more on their children than we do. Credit cards are not good for Americans.

      And I agree that we’ve lost sight of what we are celebrating. Even IF someone truly does not want to be religious, it’s about love.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t type much–injured hand–but early on we have always said santa brings only one thing, and we take care it’s never a huge present. That way they know never to ask for remote BB8s or something.

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