By Vicki Little
“Should I really get this?” This thought has crossed my mind more than once as I stress over how we can possibly afford the hottest new game console, given the extra expenses we have incurred this past year. Granted, my son really wants the Playstation 4, but considering his addiction to technology, I would say he is far from needing it. Even after admitting this, it still hurts me a bit to walk away from the aisle, wondering how sad he will be when he opens his gifts and it isn’t there. Will he think he wasn’t good enough for Santa to bring it? Will he be sad on the inside while smiling on the outside — putting on a brave face while secretly labeling this as the WORST Christmas ever in his mental journal? When this feeling has hit me in years past, I usually end up getting a ridiculous amount of small items (a.k.a Dollar Store items that are nothing more than junk) so they keep unwrapping gifts to the point of boredom. But guess what? Then they sit there and stare at all that junk they really don’t even want and throw it in their room, where I will step on it in a week and toss out later. It would be better to save my feet and throw the dollar in the trash from the beginning.
Recently, in a completely unrelated conversation, my mom advised me to “just be the mom and do it” — meaning stop listening to your “mommy guilt, ” start thinking with your head, and do the hard stuff that is in your job description to do. This works in the case of gifts. As much as I want to give my children anything and everything their hearts desire, the reality is this may cause them to take for granted the things they do have. Their rooms are filled with stuff — including stuff they have played with only once or twice (if that). I don’t want them to start expecting the items on their Christmas lists will be crossed off by a dutiful Santa. I don’t want them to start thinking more about the gifts they will receive than the ones they will give. I want to find a balance.
The “want, need, wear, and will read” theory of gift-giving has been around for a while, and instead of waning away, it has been increasing in popularity. I figured it was time for me to look at it a bit more seriously since it has stood the test of time. The premise seems nice, getting kids something that they want, something that they need, something to wear, and something to read. It covers all the bases, and it keeps me from putting unnecessary items on credit. And in doing so, the kids may grumble, but — like most wins in parenting — it’s inevitable they will learn a few things along the way.
1. They will learn to “shop” wisely. This year, as my daughter was marking off the entire Shopkins page on the Toys”R”Us wish book, I told her that if she asked for too many things, good old Saint Nick won’t know which ones she REALLY wants. I suggested to each of my children to compare the items they want and then pick six things to put on their lists — two expensive items, two less-expensive ones, and two inexpensive items. They won’t get all six, but I will know for sure that I am buying something they truly want.
2. They will have more time to focus on giving. Once they stop focusing on adding more and more to their wish lists, they will have a bit of time to help me find the perfect gifts for their teachers, coaches, and friends. We can sit down and plan our gifts. Both get so excited to find the “perfect” gift. Then they carefully wrap them.
3. They will learn the difference between what they want and what they need. So often this time of year, we hear: “But I need the new Star Wars life-size figure.” It took a few times to go down the list, but eventually they got it. Once they could breathe a sigh of relief knowing I wasn’t thinking about socks and underwear but rather activities and lessons (and accessories for things on their want lists), they started to really think about whether something is a need or a want.
4. They will learn to appreciate what they do receive. I can’t even count the number of items my children have received over the years that have been sidelined, then forgotten. There are times they don’t even remember what it was they wanted in the first place. Once they stop getting everything they want, they will stop expecting everything to appear under the tree. They will be happier about the items they do get to unwrap. And then maybe we will have a little extra time to cuddle up with that new book before we head off to Grandma’s house.
Have you tried gift-giving using the “want, need, wear, read” idea?
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, reading, camping, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.
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