We've never spent much money on gifts for our children, not for Christmas or birthdays. It's partly out of necessity: there just isn't enough money there to be spent. Truth be told though, we're both gawdawful cheap, and even if we had the extra cash to spend, we wouldn't.
This astounds and puzzles a lot of our friends. I can understand, in theory, why parents want to lavish their kids with toys and clothes and stuff and things, but I sincerely don't want to do that. Some people think I'm cruel and that I'm depriving my kids of stuff and things.
Do kids really need stuff and things? Honestly. How much do any of us NEED?
Beyond the want/ need discussion though, there's something deeper. I don't expect to be agreed with on this point, but this is how I feel:
I don't want the size and expense of the gift to be the important quality about it. I don't want them to think that my love is measureable by how much I spend on them.
My god, what if I have a particularly bad year and can't afford to buy them "anything good?" Does this mean I love them less?
I don't want them to think that all you have to do is ask and you'll get.*** I did not grow up that way. When I was a kid, I'd go back to school in January and listen to my friends rattle off this ridiculously long list of crap they got for Christmas. Did I feel jealous? Heck yes. Did I still feel like my parents loved me? Absolutely. I knew, maybe a bit too clearly, that we were struggling. I knew, because I was a terrible sleeper, that my parents had late night discussions about our scary money situation.
Contrast the possibility of losing your farm, your home, your ponies with jealousy that some chick in your class got a TV for Christmas. F**k the TV. I'll keep my home, thank you. I'll keep my home with my barn cats and my fields, and if it means I have one pair of jeans and one shirt and one dress for Sunday. Priorities.
Maybe it's wrong, but I've raised my kids with the awareness that we are not big spenders, and that we won't be, even if we could. Growing up like that makes you appreciate what you have. I appreciate what I have. I can't believe this is mine. Even if the bank owns it all...I can call it mine.
Even deeper? Yes. Being one of those annoying Christian types, I refuse to turn this into a SPENDFEST. I am not offended that others don't celebrate this event for the same reason I do- I'm totally okay with Christmas being a time of togetherness and love and giving and reflecting- without the religious aspect. It's still good and meaningful! What offends me is this idea that if you don't GET something or BUY something, it's not Christmas. ****
I give gifts to my loved ones because that gift is something I want that person to have. I want to see the expression when the gift is opened.
One of our loved ones went ahead and bought my kids a Playstation for Christmas, without asking first. They mean well and have the best intentions, but I'm in a dilemma. I don't want it. We have two computers, a DVD player, a gameboy, three guitars and a piano. And a Pug. We have enough entertainment. We aren't lacking! I don't need one more thing to nag at my kids to put down and do homework/ have a shower/ take the garbage out/ sweep the floor. We made a decision years ago to be a video game- free house and we were not quiet about it. We let the gameboy in, but that was the limit.
Also, I cannot financially reciprocate this gift.
The whole thing is disturbing to me.
Guess what I'm doing today? Shopping. I've got my music, (the family iPod shuffle, which we all share because we're not forking out for more than one, and which my boy Bucky has loaded up with some soothing Rage Against The Machine) and I've got my list. I'm taking myself out for a $5 lunch. I'm trying to keep my sense of value and meaning in the front of my head, and not let myself get angered by the pressure to express my love by spending money.
*** yeah I know- in the bible it says, ask you you will receive. I just don't think that was meant to be a shopping list.
****I also don't mean to say that anybody who spends lots and gives big lavish presents is wrong, but rather that I can't justify doing it that way.