As Christmas fast approaches, so does the spirit of giving, one form of which is gift giving. Some people enjoy debating the common courtesies attached to gift giving amongst friends, colleagues, extended family, etc. Others enjoy an even more pointed and polarizing topic: the subject of just how much kids should receive at Christmas. To this, I simply implore people to stop judging others.
If there is one aspect of child gift-giving that I think should be universal, it is the fact that children should be taught and reminded that larger gift requests cannot be made to Santa. Santa is fair and gives one or a few modest gifts to all kids. This is important for making sure that every child enjoys a good Christmas. Moms and dads can buy and give whatever they like, but the expectations from Santa should be minimal, in the spirit of modesty and respect, and the spirit of the merry season.
With that out of the way, I can now be more blunt: No parent should be judging any other parent on how much or how little they purchase for their kids in Christmas gifts! Parents who spend very little often can’t afford much more. I have seen firsthand that the kids of those parents are often the happiest and most respectful. Isn’t it wonderful to see how innately good children are before society takes its toll? Kids who know their parents are struggling financially, especially when they reach the age when they have both knowledge and empathy, tend to simply be grateful for what they get.
Parents who spend way too much on Christmas may invariably be spoiling their children, I don’t doubt that. There are certainly parents who go overboard just because they want to, and whether it makes their kids worse off I suppose is different in each individual circumstance. Another possible scenario is the case of me and my upbringing.
We were poor, not to the extent of poverty but to the extent that vacations were all within driving distance, meals were cheap, eating out was rare, and we did all of our own car repairs and house repairs. We went from paycheque to paycheque, and luckily the paycheque was always just enough. There certainly wasn’t enough money for us to have things purchased for us randomly. Toys and games, gadgets and devices came at Christmas and birthdays only. The experience, however, was magical. We would typically have an average of 8-10 toys or games to open each year, in addition to some small novelty items or candies in our stockings. Bearing in mind that these gifts were mostly inexpensive and would need to last us a full year of entertaining ourselves, it was still a lot.
I used to tell kids at school only about my favourite toy that I received, and not mention the other stuff. When my friends visited, there was no need to tell them I got all of my latest things at Christmas time. According to convention, it’s completely normal to receive a few items at Christmas, and have a few surprise or “just because” items throughout the year. To receive your whole year’s worth of spoiling in a single day, however, was just plain taboo. I therefore chose to hide it. I didn’t want other kids to think that I was bragging, even though only once a year did I have new possessions to brag about.
There is a lesson here. It’s easy to judge others. The problem with judging is that no one who judges ever has the full story. It would be easy to look at a 10 year old me receiving eight Christmas gifts and say “wow, he must be a spoiled brat!” Was I though? I appreciated it each and every Christmas and knew what a big deal it was to receive what we did. I also never complained about receiving nothing the rest of the year. I actually preferred the anticipation and surprise of waiting for the one big day.
The lesson is: stop shoving your nose into other people’s business! We teach kids to keep their hands to themselves. It’s about time we start teaching adults a new concept – “keep your nose to yourself”. It is not our place to judge when we don’t have the full picture. We do not have the right to criticize others for what we don’t understand. People are allowed to be different and have different practices and opinions. Many of us follow this basic rule, but when the subject of Christmas gifts rolls around, we tend to be a bit more harsh. In a word… stop!
I will end on a different note. Regardless of gift giving philosophies – which differ in each family, and there is nothing wrong with that – one universal ideal should be that Christmas not focus solely on gifts. We’ve all heard kids sheepishly add a few notes about “family” and “love” and “giving” before finally saying “presents”, when asked what they love most about Christmas. Gifts are fun, and there’s no need to be a grouch just because kids find joy in a guilty pleasure. We all have our own guilty pleasures as adults, do we not? Stop making kids feel guilty for theirs.
That said, spend time as a family over Christmas. It’s okay to enjoy gifts, but everyone should be immersed in the enjoyment of good food and good company over the holiday season as well. In summary: teach good morals, and mind your own business.