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When is enough really enough around the holidays?

When is enough enoughLast year, was the first year that my son really “got” Christmas. By that, I mean he was standing next to my bed at 4:00 in the morning asking if we could go and see Santa delivered what he asked for (it was a modest request of bath toys and cars, which Santa did fulfill).
As it was the first year…I would also like to admit, we went overboard. My husband and I both come from extremely modest backgrounds, and our parents are very practical and reasonable people. We were talking last year in preparation for Christmas, and I don’t know which one of us said it…but we decided that we should “blow our son’s mind” for Christmas, and try to find a ton of things that he would like. We went bonkers (a bounce house set up outside may or may not have been included in this process)…we kept saying to each other that we could not WAIT to see his reaction. We did not have a Christmas like that which we could remember, so we seriously could not wait.
Christmas morning came, and he opened up one present…the bath toys, and was thrilled. He opened up the next present…cars, and was ecstatic, and got right to playing. We kept telling him about the rest of the presents, we would encourage him to look at them, and he finally said to us, at the wise age of 3…”but I didn’t ask for anything else, why would Santa bring me all of that?”  As the credit card bills appeared in January, and some of the toys sat collecting dust, my husband and I wondered, just why exactly DID Santa do that? This was not a mommy brain moment, but more of a mommy/daddy lapse in judgement.
All over, we see people buying, buying, and buying. Pictures of Black Friday Shopping Mobs, people filling up their shopping carts to the is a great feeling to give someone a gift they love, but, when is enough really enough?  With last year’s big lesson learned for us, we are scaling back big time this year. My son’s list for Santa was limited again this year…Rex from Toy Story and superhero toys…he also made up a list for his sister…a cradle for her dolls and superhero toys. (yes, I find the second one a bit suspicious as well).  They will receive a couple of extras including a picture book that I am pulling together with millions of pictures that I take for my son,  a baby doll blanket that I am crocheting for my daughter, and tickets to a local event that we will go to as a family.
We are fortunate to have the choice whether we should go a little overboard or not, we know that this is not the same for everyone. We are incorporating “doing good for others” into our mantra every day. The toy that may bring my son a couple of minutes of joy would bring another child endless hours of fun and entertainment. We are focusing on the fun that Christmas brings – driving around to see all the beautiful lights, going to the town tree lighting, reading the cards that come in the mail (and no, my card is still not done yet), and visiting with family and friends. Not to sound hokey – but we are trying to focus on the “Reason for the Season” and not getting too caught up in the commercial aspects. We are going to do our best to remember others and focus more on the intangibles.
This year my family is saying, we are enough for the Holidays, and enjoying all that we can…while remaining reasonable and practical parents.
What do you think about Christmas with kids? Do you tend to go overboard, or are you good at restraining yourselves? How do you bring forward the “reason for the season” in your house?
Trina - November 28, 2012 - 9:03 pm

That was a beautiful lesson learned. I know I may do the same thing when our daughter first gets what Xmas is. But hopefully we can teach her about giving part of the holidays as well.

Ellie {Musing Momma} - November 28, 2012 - 9:41 pm

I love this post and I love your son’s reaction! I think we went really overboard when my oldest was little, too. It is just so easy to do (if, financially, you can). My husband and I weren’t very coordinated with our shopping so between the two of us we’d end up with so many gifts for him.

Now with 2 kids and with the boys getting a little older, I’ve had that same desire to scale back. We’ll get the boys a couple of Santa gifts and maybe 3 gifts from momma/daddy. That should be plenty! Last year we set a 3 gift limit when they made Christmas lists and we’re doing that again this year – that way they focus on what they would like most and we have some leeway to pick out things they didn’t request but would enjoy. Like you, we’ll be focusing on fun activities and helping others between now and Christmas. I hope your son gets his superhero toys! :)

Justine - November 28, 2012 - 9:59 pm

Another great post! We usually get one or two things for the kids … one from “Santa” and one from us. We are lucky that our son doesn’t ask for more … he’s in first grade, and surrounded by other children who are much more materialistic. I like to believe that we laid a good foundation early, and we try to nurture his generous nature!

Mel K. - November 28, 2012 - 10:06 pm

Excellent topic! We are also looking to find the right balance for our 5yo, especially when we factor in gifts from grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc., as well as what we give our nieces and nephews. In the past, we’ve definitely bought things just for the sake of giving more “stuff.” Really trying to move away from that for a variety of reasons. Thanks for another encouraging post!

Mel K. - November 28, 2012 - 10:12 pm

Also – a little tradition that we’ve carried on from my parents that might help with the 4am excitement. Santa left a small stocking on our bedroom door, with a couple Hershey’s Kisses and a small toy or game. We could open that whenever we woke up but we couldn’t go into the living room until my parents have the OK. The toy/game was always something that they hoped would keep us occupied for a little while to buy them a few more minutes of precious sleep after hours spent assembling toys on Christmas Eve!

admin - November 29, 2012 - 7:05 am

Oh Mel, I LOVE that!!! How fun! This past year, we were all napping at 10 am, we were passed out from the excitement :) That might help at least my husband and I!!

Jeanne - November 29, 2012 - 9:00 am

Love this post! My husband also went overboard with the kids when they were small. In fact, he still does and they are in their 20s. They use to quickly tear open each gift and toss it aside without even knowing who gave it to them. One year I made them take their time, know who it was from and enjoy it for a few minutes before opening the next. I’m happy to say they still do that to this day!

Capri + 3--Theresa - November 29, 2012 - 10:33 am

That was a great post. I love the story of going overboard and your son being underwhelmed. Ours are too little to really get it and since we have four, we do not go way overboard. It will be interesting to see what kind of lists they come up with when they understand that they can ask for things.

jamie@[kreyv] - December 1, 2012 - 8:19 am

Great post! I completely agree with you. It is so easy to go overboard, because it is so much fun to buy for our children…but it’s so not necessary! My now three year old did the same thing last year–opening a couple of toys and was a little overwhelmed by the rest. I got all of my Christmas done in October, and then I just delete every email that comes to me. At some point, I just had to say, “I am done.” Something we do to remember the reason for the season is let our daughter play with her own Nativity. (The Fisher Price Little People Nativity is adorable!) She can then learn the story and the characters, and we can talk about it. We also skip buying gifts for our extended family and instead choose a family in need to make an anonymous donation to.

Sorry for the long comment! Thanks for sharing! Visiting from SITS.

admin - December 3, 2012 - 7:54 am

I am so so glad to hear we are not the only ones who have made this parenting faux pas….it is SO hard to not get caught up around the holidays. It sounds like so many of us have “made it right” though :)

Deb - December 11, 2012 - 2:26 am

Love this post. It’s just as I imagine it would happen.

My own family goes completely overboard; it’s even worse now that there are grandchildren in the mix. My parents came from modest backgrounds and I think they had the same idea/feeling as you and your husband.

Me? I’m planning to wrap my son’s favorite toys and books up and let him get excited when he sees them again!

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