The holiday season has begun. I know this not because of the Christmas carols that are being played relentlessly or because I flipped over the calendar recently. I know this because my heart is heavy as I struggle with how to strike that balance between gratitude and disappointment, come Christmas morning.
My kids are not greedy. As Sally explains to her brother Charlie Brown: “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.” What they’ve asked for is what many of their friends already possess.
The eldest requested a laptop: “It would be really helpful for homework,” he informs his parents. “And Macs are best,” he quickly adds.
The middle child would like a cell phone upgrade, preferably a smart phone. Note that even her mother does not have an iPhone. Just saying.
The littlest one is requesting some iPod touch device that costs more than I spent on my first stereo system, which included speakers. This is a nine-year-old, mind you.
It’s evident that Apple Computer is the focus of this year’s tween yearnings. But each year has its own fad, each more expensive than the last.
For some of you, this is a simple first world problem, with a simple solution: just say no. Explain that it’s not in our family’s budget to spend that kind of money on Christmas gifts. Explain that the season is not about the acquisition of pricey items. Remind them that most of the world gets by on far less than they do. Encourage them that this is the perfect time of year to focus on the message of Jesus: give what you can to those in need. When all else fails, tell them that, as a kid, you were thrilled to wake up on Christmas morning and find a sweet orange in your stocking and a new pair of pajamas and a board game under the tree. Toss in that those items weren’t even wrapped!
When it’s all over, I will probably choose a course that is not unlike the one outlined above. But that won’t necessarily assuage the Christmas morning disappointment.
Sometimes it feels like we either capitulate with the pricey requests, or we face a sad outcome that morning. Last year, one of my kids requested a video camera, an Under Armour sweatshirt, and a pair of Uggs.
“That’s it mom – just three things!” You do the math on those three items and will understand why we went a different – and, for her, unsatisfying – direction.
It’s hard year-after-year to balance disappointment with gratitude. Especially true when one lives in this particular leafy green suburb. When I think about some of the expenses families today incur and compare them to my parents’ budget, it’s sobering.
When we were kids, “Telecommunications” was not much of a line item in the family budget. No one had data plans, cable, or WiFi. Most families did not pay for school bus transportation, nor did they have to incur hundreds of dollars in sports and activities fees. Sure, some children got music lessons or ice skating lessons. My mother paid something like $15 a month for me to take gymnastics lessons once a week at the local YMCA. Those same lessons today cost a family over $100 a month. It may be an appropriate rate given inflation. But it feels like a lot.
Anyway, my heart is heavy and I’m already dreading this “the most wonderful time of the year.”
Nevertheless, let me raise a glass to us parents finding an appropriate balance and keeping the real meaning of Christmas in our kids’ hearts. Of course, if all goes badly on the morning of the 25th, we can always spike the eggnog.