As parents living in the wealthiest nation in the world, Christmas is often an exciting time for us. Even in the difficult economic times we are living in, most of us can afford to buy our children Christmas presents…and it is truly a joy to watch our children open their gifts! Even if it takes budgeting and financial finagling, most of our children will have multiple presents under the tree come Christmas morning.
As I was thinking about Operation Christmas Child and how 100 million children will receive a Christmas gift this year (perhaps the only one in their short lifetime) and how the shopping season (Black Friday) is just beginning for us, I was humbled. Once again, I am reminded how much we have…and saddened by how much we hoard.
A thought occurred to me this last week that I’ve been discussing with my husband: Just because we can afford (or find a way to afford) to buy our children excessive and extravagant gifts this Christmas doesn’t mean we should.
I love to give gifts to my children more than anyone, but I fear that we must be careful not to make presents and “things” idols in the hearts of our children (just as we have to be careful of this in our own hearts). Our children should not expect to receive everything on their Christmas lists, especially since the gifts get much more expensive as our kids get older. Plus, if we set the precedent of 13 gifts per child, that is what they will come to expect in the years to come. When trying to raise children who are appreciative of the things they have been given and don’t feel entitled to more, I feel like Christmastime is like walking a tight rope.
This is hard …really hard. Having an overabundance of toys is certainly a “first world problem”, but wanting to give good things to our children is something that I believe is universal for all parents. Even our Heavenly Father wants to give us good gifts (Matthew 7:11).
Finding the “happy medium” between the joy of giving to our children and the determination not to raise spoiled and entitled children is difficult. In an effort to help our children draw yet again to the story of Jesus’ birth, we’ll be giving our children three gifts from us this year…one of them being a new Bible (in addition to a few stocking stuffer “necessities” like underwear and socks). We did this last year and it felt right and not overly excessive. After all, Jesus received 3 gifts! I’ve also heard of people buying 4 gifts: “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.” That seems like a practical approach to Christmas while still giving good gifts as well. :)
I certainly don’t have all the answers regarding this issue. I would love to hear from you. How do you balance this in your home?