Are gift-giving parents out of control?
All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth and a Ferrari
If giving is better than receiving, when is it inappropriate to give? This is the season of giving. Will all kinds of gifts rain down on our children, or is this time of year a teachable moment that will last throughout this season and beyond? Gifts, gifts, and more gifts create more, more and more clutter, and worse, lessons are lost for recipients. No, you cannot have a Ferrari. You have to wait until age 16.
Unfortunately for recipients, gifts can flow throughout the year as prizes or rewards that are not deserved. Donors know who you are. Taking out the trash, making the bed, brushing your teeth, getting good grades, being nice to your sister, or setting the table are NOT occasions worthy of gifts. Stop! There are special events each year that warrant giving gifts, but the keyword is moderation, even if you can afford the Ferrari.
Just because your ninth grader wants a $ 400 Gucci belt doesn’t mean he’ll get it. The latest iPhone? Forget it my friend. And I can’t believe what my grandson wanted for Christmas. I’ve never actually heard of it, but it’s all the rage at his high school in Connecticut, and the kids are paying a lot of money for it.
It’s a shirt called Suprema. Kids will pay several hundred dollars for the privilege of wearing a shirt that doesn’t even have Mickey Mantle’s name on the back. And according to my grandson, the prices can reach a thousand dollars. MY GOD.
Even if you can afford elaborate gifts, don’t. If the begging persists, my standard responses would be as follows:
• Use the money you have saved.
• Wait until you’ve saved enough.
• Maybe when he graduates from college.
• Yeah right. Not this year.
• Ask your grandmother.
• Do you need more Legos? You have enough to open your own Legoland. How about some Lincoln Logs?
Here is a lesson on how to give. Depending on their age, buy your children a few gifts, each of which is intended for a child or family in need. Then, with your children accompanying you, give the gifts to the family or the organization that will distribute them. No, you can’t sit on my lap while I’m driving.
For example, Toys for Tots, sponsored by the United States Marine Corps, will appreciate your contributions, as will the local center for the homeless. If your children are old enough to have their own money, allow them the freedom to buy gifts and decide on recipients in need. Remember, they are not the ones in need. If so, ignore this paragraph.
Many houses of worship have ministries that reach out to the local community to serve the less fortunate. Giving is not limited to tangible gifts, but also includes giving the gift of your time to local organizations that serve the community. Time is the same as money.
Get rid of clutter and feel good about it
Do you have a garage or attic full of “things” that you or your children are not using? Don’t wait until that time of year to give gifts to get rid of it. As a family, pick it up, pack the car, and drive to the appropriate donation centers. Now doesn’t it feel good? And the neighbors will stop talking about you.
I was struck by a recent article in the New York Post. Naomi Schaefer Riley’s “Present Tense” references bestselling author Marie Kondo, who wrote The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Tidying and Organizing. Ms. Kondo emphasizes a “minimalist” lifestyle. It sounds like a good idea, but my emphasis is less on clutter and more on establishing a culture in every home that practices the three K’s: Karing, Kompassion, and Kindness. Please mark it but spell it correctly.
During my childhood in ancient times, I didn’t expect much, my parents couldn’t afford a lot, and I didn’t get much when it came to gift-giving season or, really, the whole year. All I ever wanted to survive in my neighborhood were four things that would make me the happiest kid on the block: a bicycle, a baseball glove, a baseball, and a pink Spalding. We used that pink rubber ball to play hunched ball and stick.
As a father and grandfather, I did the same and never lavished expensive gifts on my children and grandchildren. He usually gave them books, money, and good advice on the importance of reading and making their own decisions.
Yes, but it’s 2017
This “me first” generation is looking for the latest electronics, motorized toys, designer clothing and, God help us, video games. Don’t give in: Instead, give to those in your community who need food, clothes, books, a bicycle, and maybe a baseball glove.