I read KJ Dell’Antonia piece _Will There be ‘Too Much Stuff’ Under Your Tree_ a few weeks ago and quickly Tweeted a resounding “NO WAY”.
It is tempting to buy stacks of gifts because they are so much less expensive (this neat graphic via Get Rich Slowly helps illustrate the costs of Christmas nicely) and the “well, what’s one more thing really?” mindset feels so pervasive. But my husband and I are making a concerted effort to not get into the habit of over-the-top gift giving, even while Elisabeth is little. For two main reasons:
1) Mega gift giving feels like too much of a competition that no one can win, least of all my daughter. My husband and I want Elisabeth engaged and interested in what she receives as gifts, not bored and unaffected.
2) The cultivation of attitudes of gratitude and generosity are important values to us. The more stuff under the tree, the less likely, it seems to me, that there will be a connection to who gave the gift, how the gift was chosen, the thought behind the gift.
Both of these go back to my belief that more isn’t better. It’s Barry Schwartz’s Paradox of Choice theory ringing true again: the more choice we have, the unhappier we are.
To sandbag our small daughter against the tide of consumption that is so much a part of our daily world, we agreed that for Christmas we would do one “big” thing (this year it’s a used rocking horse that I found via Durham Mom’s Club which cost me $20!) and some smaller items. Admittedly, I did get carried away with books as some of our smaller items. Elisabeth is at the point where she’s interested in longer books (Mike Mulligan and the faithful Mary Ann for example) so I splurged for a few in that same genre. But aside from a small baby doll that we bought at Morgan Imports (a steal at $4.49), there are no other toys. Elisabeth has sidewalk chalk in her stocking, a wrapped replica of Major Bull nestled in there next to the baby doll and a copy of_Sheep in a Jeep_. That’s it.
It’s still a bit hard for me, not to see oceans of brightly wrapped packages under a massive Christmas tree. I LOVE buying gifts! I’m also the oldest of four and when we grew up, there were stacks of presents under the tree. But there were six of us. Today my family is three. Besides the numbers difference, I wonder if this memory of so many gifts is just another way that our age tricks us? Everything is larger, more wonderful when you are small and confident in Santa.
And maybe that’s the real crux of it. Everything is already wonderful when you’re new in the world. Or it should be anyway. A spool of silky ribbon, unattached to a present, is an amazing gift. I think that’s what I want to feed Elisabeth as long as I can: the gift of wonder. I don’t want her as a three year old to be uninterested in toys, asking only for iTunes gift cards. Let me (try) spare Elisabeth the ennui that comes from quantity. Instead, I’ll focus on keeping it small, but still bright, to hold onto the magic as long as we can.
A few nice ideas about how to reign in the holiday gift giving extravaganza are here.
How do you handle gift giving in your family? And how do you get others to respect that? Leave me a comment below. Safe, happy holidays to all. Thank you for reading.