I know that gift giving to kids at Christmas is a highly personal issue and every family has to find the right balance that works for them. I would like to offer a point of view in defense of the idea that it is perfectly fine to spoil kids at Christmas.
Every year, from the first moment it is socially acceptable to blast Irving Berlin and drink peppermint milkshakes, until the dishes are washed after the Christmas Day dinner, I seem to operate in a state of giddy hopefulness. I suspect I am not the only person on this planet who loves Christmas. There are just so many things that are magical about this time of year. For me, I think my childhood memories and our family traditions are what made it so special.
Why I Plan to Spoil My Daughter This Christmas!
Growing up as a kid in the 70’s and 80’s, we always celebrated Christmas a particular way. Every December my Dad would haul the decorations out of the attic and set up the tree (we were strictly artificial tree thank you very much). Then, the family would crank up the Christmas carols and deck the halls! Most of our ornaments were handmade. About a week before the big day, we would help Mom make the same three or four types of Christmas cookies- Peanut Blossoms, Cherry Delights (my favorite to this day), Snowballs, and Rice Krispy Treats with fudge in the middle. On Christmas Eve we would meet our cousins’ family at Red Lobster, where Grammie would treat us to a once a year feast. Before bed, milk and cookies were set out, and I could never fall asleep due to the overwhelming excitement of what I knew would be taking place the next morning.
True to form, every Christmas morning we would wake up and sit on the stairs while Dad checked to see if Santa had actually visited our house (this tradition persisted even after we were all grown and married). After presents were exchanged, we would visit my other grandmother before heading up to my cousins’ house in the mountains, where we would eat Christmas dinner and go snowmobiling all day long. In my memories, Christmas was perfect.
I don’t ever recall having a sense of entitlement regarding the items on my Christmas wish list. I am sure at some point in time I was probably disappointed that something I wanted was not to be found under the tree. However, as much as their budget would allow, my parents spoiled us on Christmas morning. Star Wars, Barbie, Cabbage Patch Dolls, Strawberry Shortcake, racetracks, clothes, tapes (oh yeah, we were old school… this was in a time before CDs), games of all sorts. There was even one year my Dad spent the entire month of December building a model train room in the basement. We got spoiled for Christmas and I don’t think my parents ever apologized to anyone for it.
How Our Quest to Ensure Our Kids Are Not Spoiled and Entitled is Spoiling the Christmas Spirit
Fast forward to 2014, and my daughter is 2 years old. How should my husband and I celebrate Christmas with Sweet Pea? Should we spoil her with abandon? Should we follow the ‘4-gift’ rule? Maybe we should have Sweet Pea give half of her gifts to charity. Well, something must have happened between 1984 and 2014, because I feel like as a Mom, I am being bombarded with finger wagging warnings that if Sweet Pea is spoiled, she will in turn grow up to be a spoiled kid.. and a spoiled and self-centered adult. After all, we should remember the ‘Reason for the Season,’ right? There are a number of reasons I have a problem with this:
- What if I am conflicted about the ‘Reason for the Season?’ Please do not misunderstand. I am not saying that I am not in favor of keeping Christ in Christmas. What I mean is that many people celebrate Christmas more as a Santa holiday than a ‘Baby in a Manger’ holiday. A lot of faith-filled Christmas-celebrators are just uncomfortable linking December 25th to the birth of our Savior. I mean, Jesus probably was not born in December, right? And, the notion of a Christmas tree is actually pagan… right? The thing is, even though my Dad was a minister, we never really celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday. It was always Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Does that mean the Christmas spirit looses its meaning? I don’t think so… but I do think the reason for the season is not exclusively about the birth of Jesus.
- I am in the mood to celebrate! I was just shy of my 40th birthday when Sweet Pea was born. I did not choose to have my first (and probably only) child at an ‘advanced maternal age.’ For most of the last decade, I desperately wanted to celebrate Christmas through the eyes of my child. I dreamed of starting our own family traditions– making crafts, reading Christmas books, baking cookies, all of it. However, for many years the best I could get was borrowing someone else’s kids for an afternoon or evening. Even after Sweet Pea was born, I kind of felt like I was watching Christmas from the sidelines. Sweet Pea was not old enough to really get into the season. That is certainly not the case this year. From the moment we walked into Hobby Lobby and she was mesmerized by the Christmas decorations, I knew this year would be different. I knew this year she would get it and I could not be more thrilled. I am a Mommy and I get to spoil my daughter for Christmas!!! I am in the mood to celebrate! I am determined to make an impression on Sweet Pea this year so that by January, Sweet Pea will have an overwhelming amount of evidence pointing to one conclusion- Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year!
- I get it. You are trying to teach your kids a lesson. Materialism is bad. Your kids are ungrateful. You are trying to save me from the pain of course correcting an attitude of entitlement. Well, I am not there yet. Sweet Pea is 2 years old. In a few years, if I notice the unmistakable signs of an ungrateful and entitled child, I am sure I will follow in your footsteps. But that is not this year. That is not now. And if I am going to be honest, I am not sure enacting a minimalist Christmas will ever be on my menu of acceptable parenting options. I was spoiled on Christmas when I was a kid. I was also spoiled on my birthday. However, that was it. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were very generous with me and my siblings throughout the year. However, the giving was never a one-way street. They taught us how to serve, how to give. My parents taught us the value of hard work (I have had a job since I was 12 years old), and gave us the tools to accomplish anything we set our minds to achieve.
Grateful Children Can Still Get ‘Spoiled’ On Christmas
As parents, if my husband and I fail to teach Sweet Pea how to be gracious, generous, hardworking, service-oriented, and loving throughout the year, then forcing a minimalist Christmas will not be enough to correct her unwanted attitudes. Conversely, if we are faithful to instill the foundation of a moral character in our daughter, spoiling her one day a year will not jeopardize that foundation.
No, in that case, spoiling our daughter on Christmas would be part of the celebration. Spoiling our daughter on Christmas would be part of the magic… and really, isn’t the magic what Christmas is all about?
Thanks for reading and I hope you and your family are having a very magical holiday season!