In our local support group this week we happened on a ripe topic. (And when I say we “happened” on it, I mean that literally. Sometimes I have no idea where God will lead us until we get there!) We fell into talking about Christmases past and to come. In particular, what we had all spent on our kids and families last Christmas. Many were not proud!
One couple said they fought so badly she asked to be let out of the car on the way to a family gathering. She just sat at a gas station until he and the kids were through and came back to get her! They both seemed unhappy about that event.
Another guy told of how his family tradition was to just buy for the kids and maybe a gift or two for another family member; however, his new wife’s family tradition involved expensive gifts for each member of a large family. They also held Christmas gatherings and dinners at several houses … where more gifts were exchanged! He still sounded stunned by it all.
How many gifts did they give out? “Way too many,” seemed to be the consensus. One couple looked at each other, counting to themselves and came up with “50 or 55” gifts per child! Good grief!
Why do we do this? Most said they just got carried away with sales and last minute ideas. But one dad admitted that part of his over-gifting was to make up to his kids for their not having such a great life since their parents’ divorce and Dad’s remarriage. Most of the others either nodded agreement or just stared at their hands.
So I asked them, What do you think is a proper number of gifts for a child to receive for Christmas. Not your child, but an average child from an average family in our socio-economic neighborhood. … No one volunteered for what sounded like a trap, so I went around the table and ask each person. The general average seemed to be four or five gifts per child was fair.
Why numbers of gifts per child instead of amount spent, one mom asked. Because most pre-teen kids seem to be more interested in how many packages they have to open and the gifts they walk away with, than how many dollars each item cost.
One dad said they’d settled the issue last year by reading the Christmas story, then pointing out that since Baby Jesus (whose birthday this is supposed to be about) only received three gifts, wasn’t it fair to limit the kids to only three gifts? Nice idea!
We wound up all agreeing that it might be a good idea to set goals or budgets for this year’s holidays. Our homework for the next week will be for each couple to come back with their set plan. It can include only the kids, or be for the kids and all the adults. It can be about numbers of gifts, or about budgeted dollars, or both.
I’d like to propose this same project for your family. Sit down together, you and your sweetie, and decide now – while it’s still hot and very non-Christmas-y – what your goal (or your limit if you’re more comfortable with that measure) will be for your family this year. Write it down and keep it where you can find it again around the middle of November. And then see what you think of it come January.
Please write me and let me share with our other families your ideas. I know they will appreciate hearing from you – we all need to share ideas, don’t we?
Oh, and … Merry Christmas!
STEP coach Bob