With Christmas looming ever-closer, the gift craze has taken hold over my two oldest children. Catalogs are arriving in the mail every day, causing them to fight over who gets to look at which one first (seriously, they’re toy catalogs, they’re pretty much all the same). While I try to steer them away from obsessing over what they’re going to get for Christmas, it’s hard to accomplish when there are constantly people asking them what they want for Christmas.
Grandparents love to bring over even more catalogs and take them window shopping, hoping to get some clue of what they might want for Christmas. “What about this?” they ask. Yes. “Or this?” Yes. “Maybe this?” Yes. They want it all. While I understand their desire to get the grandkids something they will truly love and cherish, directing my kids’ attention towards all the things they don’t have is driving me crazy.
I am bombarded daily by a long list of wants that make me cringe. My kids have so much. They are so incredibly privileged, but now all they can see is all the things they don’t have. They don’t have a $400 power wheels Ford F150. They don’t have a three foot tall castle for their ever-growing My Little Pony collection. They don’t have a big enough trampoline. They don’t have a cool enough guitar. They don’t have this and they don’t have that. They are circling things on every page of every catalog, convinced that these toys are the key to their everlasting happiness. It makes me want to pull my hair out because they do have enough. They have more than enough. All the trinkets and toys in the world won’t make a bit of difference in the quality of their life. They have abundant love and food and shelter and education, not to mention the plethora of toys, many of which they don’t even play with. They already have it good, and I’m not sure how to make them see that.
I don’t want to yell at them about how there are children who don’t get any presents or don’t have enough food to eat. I want their empathy and giving to be a separate part of their lives that comes from a place of kindness and love. I don’t want to bring them sorrow by throwing poverty and suffering in the face of their joy. I have no desire to make them feel guilty for the life they have by contrasting it against those less fortunate; I simply want them to appreciate it.
And the truth is, it’s a lot harder to get a three and five year-old to appreciate their life when the adults they love are constantly showing them all the cool things they don’t have. There are so many ways to get good gifts without filling their hearts with obsessive desire. Ask them about their interests and find a related gift. Gift them an experience or trip with you. Ask their mom what they want, because trust me, I’ve got lists a mile long from the “I want” frenzy.
But please, stop asking my kids what they want, before it takes over their lives.