Thank you, New Yorker magazine!
The word came down from on high this year: just one small gift is expected for our granddaughter. And keep away from anything pink and plastic. (“On high” is the main house where our little darling resides, and her mother gave us the word).
Speaking as a grandparent, it’s easy and fun for us to stroll the aisles at the toy store, picking out expensive and adorable toys to give DGD. And it’s wonderful to watch her little face light up as she rips off the wrapping.
But then what?
We’ve seen it many times. Scenes around the Christmas tree where the parents (or more usually, the grandparents) have bought out the store, wrapped them up and given a mountain of gifts to children barely able to say their address. The tykes are overwhelmed with the amount of toys. They don’t know which they want to play with first, and which will be discarded or broken within a month.
I’ve heard the excuses “We don’t have the chance to spend more time with the kids so we want to make sure they remember us.” “I never had a lot of toys when I was a kid, and my grand-kids will never want for any!” Or the ridiculous “But all their friends have them, I don’t want them to feel deprived!”
No, no, no, and no.
You may be giving objects, but you are teaching them all the wrong lessons.
It’s hard to find data on the effect of too many Christmas presents on the young mind. Not a lot of parents want to sign up for lab tests to determine that they are, indeed, ruining their children’s lives. All we can do is look back on the presents we received when we were children.
Remember them? I bet you don’t. Oh, maybe that one year you got the exact present you wanted. But all the other Christmases? I’m betting you remember that game of snap you played with your grandmother; building a tower with your Dad with that Erector set; singing the old songs with the old folks, someone at the piano and the rest gathered around. I remember the smell of new books, not the books themselves. (I love books.)
We recall those goofy traditions, like everyone sitting around the tree in their pyjamas (no opening presents until Mom and Dad have their coffees in their hands) or taking a walk around the neighbourhood while the turkey roasts.
Build your own traditions. Make your own memories. The nicest things we get at Christmas don’t come from stores.
I love it! We’ve been working on convincing our extended families that less is more too. We’re opting more for experiences or things that we really need. What do I remember most? Things like the Christmas when my dad’s hired help and his family joined us for Christmas dinner because they didn’t have family near, the year my mom taught me how to spin on her spinning wheel…. memories that will never disappear. I recently learned something from Kevin’s late granny this week too – for his second birthday she did a painting for him and it’s one of his most prized possessions. I don’t imagine many 2 year-olds get gifts like that these days but imagine in more granny’s gave expressions of themselves like that!