Holidays tend to be a time when parents closely examine what kind of parents they want to be and what values they want to teach their children. I think this is never more true than during Christmas time.
These are just some of the questions that have gone through my head during the holiday season:
- What do I want to teach my kids about the meaning of Christmas?
- Are we giving gifts? How many gifts? How many is too many?
- How much should I spend? Should I spend the same amount on each child?
- By giving gift after gift, am I unintentionally teaching my children consumerism and selfishness?
- How can I be intentional about teaching generosity and selflessness?
Gift-giving has been the topic of many conversations with other parents. Some of them only do one gift per child. Others, have no limits whatsoever. Another friend decided they will only give homemade gifts this year. Still, others do no gifts at all; instead, they spend their holiday serving the homeless at a shelter.
My husband, Dan, and I have been all over the spectrum. Years ago, we didn't put much thought to gifts. Sometimes, we bought toys; other times we gave clothes. But, we didn't have a hard and fast rule about how many was enough. Now that we have three kids, and we're searching for ways to stretch our dollars a bit farther, we've had to reevaluate the way we think about gift-giving.
As our kids get older, they become more aware of what's happening. Last Christmas, when Max had opened all his gifts, he declared, "I want MORE presents!" In that moment, I realized that we needed a change. Christmas shouldn't be about the gifts. I want my children to know that the reason for the season is not simply to gain possessions. So, after some discussion, Dan and I decided to follow this simple rhyme:
Something they want;
Something they need;
Something to share;
Something to read.
"Something they want," "Something they need," and "Something to read" all seem fairly self-explanatory. These usually end up being a toy, some clothes and a book, respectively. "Something to share" is actually our family's addition to this rhyme. I've heard this line as "Something to wear," but usually for us, "Something they need" and "Something to wear" are the same. So, we decided to change "wear" to "share" in order to teach our kids about giving to people in need. Even the youngest among us can "share" their time, talents, and treasure. We'll help our kids choose what they'd like to "share" and with whom. Our only rule is that it needs to be someone outside our family.
By following this rhyme, Dan and I can spend as much or as little as we'd like on each gift. The kids each get three presents to open - the same number the Wise Men brought all those years ago. And we'll be able to teach our kids about the true meaning of Christmas without all the consumerism. For our family, it's the perfect holiday solution!