Thursday, December 1, 2011

The First Rant of Christmas

"I want the world. I want the whole world." -Veruca Salt

I read a news story today that said half of Americans fear they can't afford Christmas. That's sad and unfortunate. We are still living in tough economic times, despite reports of stellar Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. But on the other hand, the top gift requested by children aged 6 to 12 is an iPad. Maybe I'm being old-fashioned, but I also find that sad and unfortunate.

Let's be clear: This is MY toy
As the dad of a 4 year-old girl, I  hope we're not staring at the ghost of Christmas future here. In just two short years, will the Peanut really be requesting high-priced electronic gadgets from Santa? Ya know what? If she does, she's going to be sorely disappointed. And if she insists, I might just smack her with MY iPad. (That's not true. I'd never do anything to hurt my precious... iPad.)

Why would the Peanut, or any child who is not at least in high school, need an iPad of their own? Peanut has a folder full of apps, games, and books on mine. She plays with it regularly. However, she knows it's MINE. She ASKS to play with it every time. In fact, she even asks, "Daddy may I play with YOUR iPad?" This teaches her sharing, cooperation, responsibility, and respect. Very important lessons for any child, especially an only child.



A childless friend of mine scoffed at my anger over this issue. He says this is the age we live in. He's right. We live in an age of entitlement where children expect $600 Apple products under the tree on Christmas morning because they have parents who can't say no, or because one of their classmates has one. This reminds me of the people I ranted about recently who spend tens of thousands of dollars on boutique daycares for their toddlers then complain about it. (You can read that rant here.)

At the risk of turning this into a "true meaning of Christmas" post, how about we just start by lowering expectations? How about we stop handing kids toy store magazines and asking them to tell us what they want, then being surprised when they bookmark everything on every page? How about we try thinking of what our kids might like, shopping for them, and teaching them to appreciate what they get?

Last time I checked, Santa only comes to your house and leaves you presents if you're nice. Expecting, demanding, and coveting isn't nice.
Peanut got this tent one year,
even though she didn't ask for it.

Half of Americans say they can't afford Christmas. And while I'm sure a lot of them are really struggling in what is still a down economy, I wonder how many are setting the bar too high. Or trying to keep the bar high.

My wife and I keep saying we haven't thought of a signature gift for the Peanut yet. You know, "the big one." But why do we need a big gift? We budget. We save. We spend what we want on whom we choose.

And on Christmas morning, I am sure the Peanut is going to be excited to see whatever she gets. No matter how big the box, or which logo is on it. She'd better.

25 comments:

  1. If your peanut is like our boys at all, all she will want to do is open things. It won't matter whats in it, just the opening of the box is the joy. I just laugh when my guys ask if we are getting an ipad or anything.

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  2. True, Bob. She does loves the opening. And she really does get very excited about every gift she receives. Even clothing. She makes it a lot of fun.

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  3. Amen!! I REFUSE to buy those expensive gifts. I make my girls pay for them themselves with the Christmas money they receive. I believe this makes them appreciate it more and respect it more. I have a limit of $250 for each of my girls who are 11 and 14. They can use that limit for one big gift or they can get a few different things, its their choice.

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  4. My kids love opening, but the little brats are spoiled rotten with Hannukah too. We do get them a BIG gift for them to open last on Christmas. It's hard to decide what that gift is going to be. This year the older one wants an iPod touch, a little more reasonable than an iPad but we just got him a DS last year, I can't justify the expense... Especially if he did get one, we would probably never see him again. We've created monsters with our kids, and it's time to tone it down a little. I just hope it's not too late.

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  5. When my boys (8 & 11) ask for similar things like that, I just laugh it off and tell them to keep dreaming. Even my 20yo didn't get a cell phone until she was 15. Paying for the Yukon XL to go buy them anything at all takes priority over little children having an electronic anything that they don't even need. ;)

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  6. I read a great article on Wired the other day about 5 essential toys for kids: Stick, Box, String, Cardboard Tube, and Dirt. And really, what else does a child need? :)

    Seriously though, the bar is set so high, and we're always trying to keep up with those who have more. I'm trying to keep things simple with my kids when it comes to presents.

    Happy #CommentDay!

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  7. Couldn't agree more! My daughter is 11 and she wants not only an iPad but a iphone as well! Who is an 11 year old gonna call?

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  8. Great post. To my eyes (and I have a 16 year old) the problem is not "want." We all want stuff we don't have. The problem is "expect." When we teach children that they get everything they expect, we are setting them up for huge disappointments in life. My 2 cents. Thanks for participating in #CommentDay, and Merry Christmas!

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  9. I agree totally. We've gotten away from the joy of it all. Besides, when they get tons of stuff, it's "stuff" overload. Something always gets forgotten about. We set a money cap on our 3 boys (4, 8, 12). They know they aren't getting cell phones, Ipads, iphones, 3ds, or anything else of the sort. Heck I was 22 before I got a cell phone, they can too.

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  10. Well said. My son has been very happy with Lego sets every year. Actually I think we are the ones who pushed him more towards techology based gifts this year since he is 13 and starting highschool next year, but even then it will only be an iPod. Even I don't have an iPad yet...lol. Great article!

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  11. My boyfriend’s little brother is 7 and he likes anything that comes in a huge box with bright colours and jazzy writing… I could give him an old budwizer crate box and he’d be happy. I don’t understand kids who wants ipods, phone ipads…what do they needs them for, not one of their own anyway especially if they have the use of their parents like peanut. It’s the fucking media screwing round and making kids grow up to fast if you ask me. I completely agree with the bar being set too high, parents need to teach their kids that presents are a privilege not a right and they will learn to appreciate stuff, like I’m sure peanut does x

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  12. Agreed:) we have been teaching giving instead of receiving. We write out lists and shop for toy drives, volunteer at food banks, serve meals at shelters... The kids do get things, but its more what they NEED, socks, shoes... You know basics. They get one big gift, and even then they don't expect it, but they are thankful for it.

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  13. We give our kids one gift. Last year it was a Bob the Builder guitar and a set of stacking boxes that make a doll house. Now, the grandparents (and we have three sets) compete to see who can drive me the most crazy with lots of gifts. And it does drive me crazy.

    We have the kiddie computers and a child's eReader. We also have a digital camera that ended up broken on the first day (or maybe the batteries ran out and I "forgot" to switch them). None of those gifts is as popular as dumping out the stuffed animals and throwing them around or making a four-course meal on their play kitchen.

    I'm holding off on getting a fancy phone for myself, you know my kid's not getting any kind of i-anything for a long time.

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  14. I think you read my mind. It kills me to think of children wanting, expecting, and actually getting these super expensive gifts. They will never learn the value of earning anything. We used to overload our oldest with gifts and started cutting back a few years ago. The first year it was "is that it?" I got a migraine. Ever since it's gotten better, but the expectation has to be lower. Children should be happy they get anything and appreciate it.

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  15. I echoe your sentiments. I find that my kids will play more with wooden puzzles, stuffed toys, and playdoh than electronics (with the exception of my laptop which they ask for permission to use). Thus, I do not ask what they want for Christmas; I just pay attention to how they spend their playtime.

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  16. Great rant. Fully agree and will follow suit. My nephews are lucky if they get anything. Little jerks. ;).

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  17. No way are our boys getting an Ipad; heck, I don't even have one! They have a computer, our old one and it has a password so they have to ask if they want to use it. They'll be getting a few things, including a Brain Box to play with and a chefs accessory set.

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  18. TOTALLY agree!! This is my first Christmas with a child, but we already know that when he is older and the time comes he won't get getting iPads and things like that! Good grief.

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  19. Completely agree with you, I'm glad some parents have sense! I would get one thing I asked for when I was little which was a 'big' present at £20-£30, and the rest were surprises! There is nothing better than surprises at Christmas and being grateful for each. I hope your little one learns this and is thankful to be so lucky as to get presents.

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  20. Hahahahahahahahaha "I would never hurt my precious... iPad" classic!

    I totally agree about crazy parents who can't tell their kids no. As a teacher, I saw this all. the. time. Ug! But what do you do when they ask Santa? How do you explain why they can't have it if Santa can do anything???

    Great post!
    Jamie
    For Love of Cupcakes

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  21. Dear Daddy Knows Less. You make such good points in this post. I agree, so many parents do their children a disservice by giving them things rather than teaching them the value of appreciation and of waiting until the appropriate time to get something. However, one glaring consideration is missing here. It's not just parents, even at four years old, who inject children with such inappropriate expectations. It's peers and the ugly pressure they put on even tots. At four, already, our little girl is seeing what other children have. You can say, " well all a parent needs to do is explain, you can't expect everything others have." Or, It's not good for parents to just give you things and try to, earnestly, explain good values. That still leaves your child exposed to the grim facets of peer bullying. I founded "YouthVoice" which trains teens to counsel peers on topics like bullying, depression, addictions, etc. Right now, we're completely focused on bullying which has caused more than 65 teens in the US to commit suicide just since 2009. Please don't think it doesn't apply to your child. Just the tilt of a lip or a grimace from a peer to your child can begin the self doubt and "I'm not good enough" syndrome. The answer isn't just "be close to your kids so you can ward off the power of peers." You can't. And as your daughter grows up, you'll have less and less influence. So, while I commend you for your thoughts and totally agree with you on everything you said, we must also consider where the expectations are coming from and why...then address them. Check out www.facebook.com/youthvoicetv. No need for you to patronize us. It just may enlighten you. Thanks. And keep up the thoughts and the humor! ( "..my precious...iPad." ) Very funny. :))

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  22. @Christio: Thanks for reading and for your comment. Yes, peers are a big influence as well. We do see this with Peanut already. She recently demanded my wife dress her in black jeans one morning because her friend wears them. Didn't matter that Peanut doesn't own any jeans, let alone black one. Nor does she like wearing jeans. I was actually going to write a post about it eventually. See my "Am I Smarter Than a Pre-Ker?" post for one example. I will gladly check out your link. -DKL

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  23. I fully agree with this article. My sister spoils the hell out of her two boys (7 & 16) These boys are so ungrateful, and the 16 yr old is beyond lazy with terrible grades. For X-mas they are getting the 16 yr old and Ipad, but I didnt mention that the kids also has a 47 in flat screen, smartphone, all the playstation systems, Wii, laptop, Ipod, and so much more. It makes me so mad because my nephew sad to say, doesnt deserve any of it. My sister can barely make ends meat, but is willing to buy her kids all this stuff just because "he wants it". I'm 26 years old and I dont even have a cell phone. Is it me or does something seem a little off with this situation?

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  24. Great post.
    I'm in your camp. Kids keep upping the expectations it seems.
    That said, we always broke out the Sears and Penny's catalogues pre-Christmas and marked them up.
    Thanks for sharing this rant.
    Todd
    @tojosan

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  25. Kids also love Christmas due to gifts they receive.

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