What does it mean to give our kids gifts? I saw a lot of different sayings and quotes throughout the holiday in regards to how we know what’s too much to give to our kids. How do we give to our kids without them feeling entitled or greedy? How do we give to our kids so they can really just hold on to the feeling of gratitude? There was a time many years ago when I lived paycheck to paycheck, yet I wanted to give my kids a Christmas. I wanted to give them the gifts that I knew all their friends were going to get. I didn’t want my kids to ever feel left out; we would call it keeping up with the Joneses. There was pressure as a single mom to be able to do that, and I remember putting things on credit cards and getting so far in debt because I needed to make sure that my kids had everything they wanted for Christmas.
I’m going to tell you that when I thought I was doing it for them, I was actually doing it for me because I don’t think my kids expected to get everything on their Christmas list. Somehow, some way, it made me feel like I was being a good mom if I did get them everything or close to everything. It was what I thought people would think of me as their mom if they went to school, and what if they were only able to tell their friends, “Oh! I got a pair of jeans” or “I only got a t-shirt?” As much as my kids may have been so excited to have new clothes or whatnot, I, their mom, couldn’t be known as the mom who couldn’t give them more. So it was really about me; it wasn’t even about them. Now that I am blessed, I’ve worked very hard to make money to be able to give my kids even more. I thought about it for many years, wondering what was too much.
One of the traditions that I have started in my home is that every year before Christmas, we go through their closets and take out everything that they’re not playing with, that they don’t touch anymore, that maybe they’re saying, “Oh, I’m bored.” What does “bored” mean? What are you not playing with anymore and you’re saying you’re bored with? We donated it. I just went through my kids’ closets this past month, and there are toys that I spent a lot of money on. What was great is that my kids were like, “I don’t play with it, and I’m ready to donate it to some kid.” I am going to Africa with my husband and some friends in a couple months, and I thought what a great opportunity to give the kids at the orphanage these toys that my kids don’t play with anymore. Also, it gives my kids the opportunity to feel what gratitude is through contribution. They realize that the kids that are going to be playing with their toys are kids that don’t have anything like that.
We can still give our kids gifts, and it doesn’t just have to be at Christmas, birthdays, or other special occasions. It’s really about how we teach our kids to be grateful. How do we teach them to feel responsible for taking care of it and grateful that they even have it without feeling guilty or guilting our kids into gratitude? Not making them feel like, “You should be grateful because kids around here don’t have that.” Not like that. But actually, talk to them and ask them questions like, “What does it feel like to have this toy besides the excitement?” and “What does it feel like to be able to play with this with a friend or share with other people this item or toy that you got?” Get them fully associated with what it’s like to actually have it, play with it, and feel grateful for the opportunity to have it versus not having it. It’s not even how much we give our kids. It’s the feeling of gratitude that they didn’t just get it because you have the money; they didn’t just get it because you have millions of dollars, and so they get everything they want just because they want it.
What did they do to feel that they were worth having it? It really comes down to teaching our kids, especially this time of year, how to really appreciate what they do get. I can tell you, it feels really good when your kids grow up and you ask them, “What can I get you for Christmas?” and they’re like, “Mom, there’s really nothing specific I want; I’m just grateful that we get to come over and have time with you.” That is the true meaning of the holidays for me; it’s the gathering and my kids coming over, and I’m getting excited just to have this family time and not about all the gifts like it used to be when you were a kid.
It’s really about instilling in our young kids this tradition of what holiday spirit is. And if you are religious, which many of my friends I know are, they help them understand the reason behind the season of Christmas and where Christmas came from, and I think that’s also beautiful. So kids aren’t again expecting all the gifts; it’s really about honoring what the true Christmas spirit means, whether it’s religious or just in the spirit of the holiday. I just wanted to take a few minutes and talk about this because I know that it’s been one of those things that we parents feel when it comes time for Christmas. Are we giving too much? What is too much? What is too little? And what is it really about giving? Is it about them, or is it about what I’m going to look like as a parent?
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