18 responses to “Gearing Up for Gift Giving: Do You “Owe” Your Kids a Holiday Bonanza?”

  1. Rae @ Motherhood Handmade

    Great post. I like the “want-need-wear-read” way of going about things, but have also held in reserve a “if three gifts was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for you” to use if needed. I want Christmas to feel magical, not material.

  2. Jennifer Fink

    Great post, Denise, and something I think about every year. I have 4 kids and a limited income; I have to be careful about what I buy. But I’m also very cognizant of the fact that I’m not the only one buying my kids gifts. They get gifts from their dad, their grandparents (both sides), godparents, other extended relatives, etc. Heck, I could buy my kids absolutely NOTHING, and they would still have quite a haul by the end of Dec. So do I feel I owe them? No. I try to give them meaningful things — something simple that they want, or something that supports one of their interests. And books, b/c I love books (and Scholastic warehouse sales are AWESOME). I might have overdone it on the books in the past, though, b/c my #2 son told me this year: “No more books!” ;)

  3. Kim

    Denise,
    I am looked as a horrible parent when I tell people we did not get our child anything for her first Christmas. She was nearly 8 months old. Nothing to open, no card, no stocking. I think she might have been 2 when she actually got presents from us. Yes Grandparents were a different story. Her sister, 3 yrs younger was the same but got token items from Santa once he showed up at our place. No, I don’t believe I “owe” my children anything gift related or vacation related. We do not buy a lot for our children outside of Christmas and birthdays. They don’t get a lot of random “wants” outside of those days. So for us Christmas is a little special. I will try and get one or two brand name items from their want list. There are lots of practical “needs” under the tree vs “wants.” There was a year when money was tight and I got them dishes. I swear to you. We needed some new dishes and I found some Mickey & Minnie art sketched plates and bowls. We are a Disney crazy family. I wrapped them up and each kid got a set. They loved them!

    My 11 yrs old’s want that’s not happening
    Hedge Hog (yes alive, um, no)

    My 14 year old’s want that’s not happening
    Polaroid camera (um, no)

  4. Jackie

    Interesting post. Wish I had read it 18 years ago! You and the commenters are lucky that you have gift giving families. My children get one gift each from my side of the family (I come from a family of 14, so we have always drawn names for a gift exchange) and my husband’s side gave a gift only if we traveled across the country at Christmas…shipping is too expensive. So the gifts we give are the only ones they get. Period. And maybe we tried to make up for the grandmas that didn’t get them anything. Now that they are older (9, 16 & 18) it is difficult to back away from the history we have created. The older 2 get that we have a budget and the things they want sometimes exceed that and they will contribute part of the cost. My little one still has Santa to help her out :)

  5. StephJ

    Denise, as usual I completely agree! We didn’t give our oldest DD gifts for her birthday or Christmas until she was 2. We did give gifts to her younger sisters before that age, though, because she wanted to open them FOR her, KWIM? Our kids get one gift from Santa, a stocking which is reasonable (one small toy, bubble bath, an orange and some chocolate and/or candy) and one gift from us. We realized that was enough because they get gifts from grandparents and aunties as well. In fact, we sometimes have a hard time thinking of things to suggest for them because we don’t really think they need any more “stuff”! Thank you for once again being the voice of reason!

  6. Suzita @ playfightrepeat.com

    It’s so interesting to think about where we even get the notion that we owe our kids certain events and experiences (Disneyland, beautiful Christmas experiences, ski trips…) It feels like these messages come from all over not just one source, and they kind of creep into our parenting worldview silently. You don’t realize they have been planted in your mind until they are already growing and take some energy to be removed.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  7. Kayris

    Ours did get a few gifts as infants, but it was stuff that they actually needed. My daughter, whi just turned 6, was a month old on her first Christmas. I bought her a tint red velour sleeper embroidered with “Baby’s First Christmas.” And it’s in her memory box. And I think I bought a baby book that year too and that was it.

    We have a huge family that always buys for the kids, and I try to give them practical ideas. My daughter legitimately needs new snow boots. And a lot of the things they are getting, or that I have suggested to family, are sports related. The 6 year old is getting ice skates to replace the ones she outgrew, and the 8 year old is getting a flag football set and rollerblades to replace the skates he outgrew. MIL always gives them money, which I plan to use towards the next round of swim lessons.

    If I owe my kids anything, it is to be raised in a loving and respectful environment, to keep them safe and healthy and to be the best mom I can be. That doesn’t include dropping loads of money on gifts.

  8. Sally

    Gee, it never occurred to me to even use the word “owe” in reference to my kids. Certainly not in terms of anything material. I too never bought my kids presents until they were old enough to ask for one. My kids have a set of grandparents that load on piles of presents, so they never even noticed. Now they notice, so I get them something, but it is usually something small, like a game (something I can play with them – that is their present too!). They actually complain sometimes (along the lines of, “that’s all?”) to which I just say, “yup” or “that and the birthday cake and the party I threw you and my unconditional love!!!! (followed by a big hug, which these days send them running off to play).

    And i never got my kids a store bought cards. I dont even get other kids store bought cards. I think it is a waste (of money and paper). Kids are not interested in the card. It’s either a homemade one or I just write the name on the wrapping paper.

    Oh and the Santa thing. That gets me a little crazy because I often spend more money on that (particularly stocking stuffers) than on the present I get credit for :)

    Nice post D!

  9. Kayris

    I forgot to say…

    …when I was growing up, “Santa” got us one gift and everything else was from mom and dad.

    My husband’s family did the “everything is from Santa” thing. We have opted to go with what my family did, because we want credit! Why should some fat man at the North Pole get all the kudos when it’s actually mom and dad putting in the money and the effort?

    1. Briana

      I just had to reply to this because I’ve been hearing this argument a lot lately, that parents want credit for the presents instead of Santa. My question is basically “why”? Does it benefit the child to know who paid for their presents? (Or is it for the benefit of the parents??)

      Thinking back to my own childhood, the concept of money and that my presents cost money didn’t enter my young, innocent mind on Christmas morning. In fact, as I grew older and I began to understand the cost of items, receiving expensive presents from my parents sometimes gave me a guilt trip (especially if I didn’t like the present, if I couldn’t reciprocate, etc.)

      So it makes me wonder if enforcing “I BOUGHT this for you” to our children even more is really a good idea. I’m curious what others think too… Is it beneficial to make sure children know who paid for their presents?

      1. Kayris

        It’s not about the money or who paid for the presents. Especially as we don’t do expensive gifts. It’s about understanding the reason and actions behind gift giving–the effort, the thoughtfulness, the intention behind the gift. It’s about teaching my children that Christmas gifts are not about writing a list of things that they want and then seeing them (or some of them) appear under the tree overnight. It’s about getting to know the people we give gifts to and understanding them. For example, we give something small to the crossing guard at school. Last year, my son remembered that the guard told him one day that she doesn’t like winter because her fingers get cold and stiff and painful. So he picked out a warm pair of gloves and a package of reusable handwarmers to give her. She still talks about it and showed him this week that she was using the handwarmers.

        Another year, we went to the used book sale shelf at the library and picked out a pile to give to my husband’s grandmother, who is really old and doesn’t really need anything, but she stays in a lot and likes to read. We packaged the books (3 hardbacks for 1 dollar) with her favorite brand of hot chocolate and a soft blanket. He’s definitely gotten the idea that a gift doesn’t have to be brand new or expensive to mean something.

        So when I say “credit” I don’t mean anything to do with money. It means that getting a gift goes far beyond saying “I want this” and then getting it.

  10. Tragic Sandwich

    Baguette is two and a half, and does not understand gifts and unwrapping and all that. It’s still going to happen, but I find myself constantly reminding the rest of the family that she probably just won’t be that into it, and that they need to focus on the fact that she will, later, play with their gifts.

    1. kim

      OMG I stared blankly at the name “Baguette” and thought, oh my! Then I saw the poster’s name was Tragic Sandwich. Not that there is anything wrong with the name Baguette except ya, I’ll admit I would totally make fun of you behind your back.
      What? At least I’m honest! ;)
      Last year I put sparkly curly ribbon in a shiny bag for my niece, 9 mo. old. That gift WAS for her. The next one was for her parents … something to dress her in. ;)

  11. JK

    In our house the entire season is celebrated, not just the day of, so gifts are only one piece of a very big puzzle. There are Christmas movie marathons, driving around looking at Christmas lights, decorating, baking, building graham cracker houses, Christmas music, dinner with friends, wrapping, shopping, school and neighborhood parties, and an overnight trip to a large Christmas light display. I do think we “owe” our children a wonderful holiday, I just don’t think material goods are the way to do that. Most of what we do that makes this time of year so special is free or cheap. In our family, Christmas is 4-6 week affair, not one day, so the focus is more on the activities than the presents.

  12. Rachel

    I think this is maybe the last holiday season we’ll have with zero expectations. My little guy is 4 1/2, so maybe on track with yours who first asked for something at 5. This year he wrote a letter to the North Pole. “Dear Santa, Do you like trains?” When people ask him what he wants he gives a blank look. Not that he won’t get gifts — like you I’m lucky to have grandparents (also aunts/uncles) that give gifts, nothing too crazy. But we haven’t bought him anything yet for any holidays or birthdays. I do like your point though that I hadn’t considered, that kids do deserve that joy of anticipation.

  13. Kim White

    Just happened across your book in the bookstore. The title caught my eye because I am a “mean” mommy at heart, but I feel pressure. I get looks from my adoring mother cohorts. I feel judged because for years my boys played with sticks. My friends laugh at me. I caved to some of the pressure, bought toys, and those toys have been given away en masse because no one ever played with them. I love your approach to Christmas, and here again, we’re seen as the scrooges of the family. We send out email reminders to grandparents…”only two gifts please.” My husband pointed out that they have three sets of grandparents so they’ll be piled under gifts. Guess there’s always room for more downsizing. Thanks for confirming for me that I’m not actually mean–just rooted in what’s reasonable.