If you’re like me, it’s around this time that you start thinking about what to buy your kids for Christmas. While this should be a joyful and simple task, every year I come up with the same question – what do my kids actually need? Is there anything they’d like that they haven’t already got?
Which begs the question… when did kids become so spoilt?
When I was a kid, you wouldn’t get anything between birthday’s and Christmas, and you wouldn’t dare ask for anything because you knew the answer (NO). Mum and Dad just didn’t seem to have any extra cash hanging around, so we knew that it wasn’t them trying to ruin our lives – it was just that they needed all their money to pay the bills and keep the household running.
Mum and Dad rarely had a night out. I could count on the one hand the amount of times that we had a babysitter. In fact, almost every Saturday night memory I have was sitting on the loungeroom floor (on a table cloth, picnic style, to not drop crumbs) eating homemade pizza and Coles brand ice-cream for dessert. The entertainment was ‘Hey, Hey, It’s Saturday!’, and this was looked forward to every week.
There was no extravagance – no ‘just pop into the coffee club for morning tea and spend $28 on coffee, hot chocolates and cake’. There was no Kmart, offering us things for less than the price that you could make it yourself. (We actually did do a lot of DIY back in the day. You name it, we tried it – pottery, stained glass windows, padded tissue boxes ad photo albums, doily dolls that sit on your bed, fabric painting, bauble making…)
My wardrobe consisted of hand-me-downs from my cousins. Getting a new bag of items was like Christmas to me! If I got new things, it was chosen by Mum and given to me as a gift on my Birthday or Christmas – and I always wore it. It would never even occur to me to say ‘this just isn’t my style’.
We had one TV with four channels, and a VCR. Dad would always get to choose what was on and we would diligently watch it or go to our room and play with something. No devices. No technology. Usually a notebook and some colouring pencils.
I know, I know… ‘Back in my day’ stories make me sound old and righteous, but it wasn’t that long ago really. Kids today would never understand that this was a good childhood! We had fun! We were happy!
The world has changed so much and therefore it would be impossible to parent in the way that my parents did back in the 80s and 90s.
I can accept the ‘stuff’ that has come into my kids’ lives – the technology, the nick knacks and endless disposable (dare I say it….) *crap*. However, the thing that I will always continue to struggle with and strive towards is gratitude.
When children so readily get what they want, they don’t get the satisfaction of delayed gratification.
Remember that experiment with the kids, where they can eat one lolly straight away BUT if they wait for five minutes, they can have two? That takes self-control.
How often do we give our kids opportunities to exercise this?
This issue is much bigger than me. I don’t have the answer, because as much as I dislike it – I also enable it. I watch myself say yes to buying some rubbish at the checkout because it costs $2, then later think ‘why did I buy into that?’ I’m guessing because for that moment I could make my child happy.
I want to teach my kids to wait and enjoy the satisfaction of delayed gratification. I want to make my kids happy without having to buy it or give into something I ethically don’t agree with. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.
This Christmas I’m going to focus on my children giving, rather than receiving. I’m going to point out things they have received in the past that they still use and enjoy, focusing on their gratitude. I’m going to model my own gratitude of non-material things. I’m going to try and remember the true meaning of Christmas and share this with my family.
“In a world that you can be anything, be kind”