I look forward to the holidays…the good will, parties, food, shopping….and family togetherness. As I’ve said in previous posts, I love buying gifts, so although Hannukah started early this year (December 8th) I was ready with an arsenal of presents for the kids.
We’ve had some bad experiences in the past where my boys (ages 7, 9, and 12) were less than delighted with the content or quantity of gifts. After all the worrying whether I bought enough gifts or too many, after all the planning, shopping and wrapping, I had a cranky reaction to my children’s lack of gratitude.
Searching for a solution, I found an article that suggested theme nights for Hannukah. For the last few years, each night had a theme: games, books, clothes, sports, movies… two charity nights, and one family night where we celebrate with friends and relatives.
The plan has worked fairly well because the kids know exactly what they’re getting each night, so there aren’t groans when they open the less sexy presents, like books and sweaters.
On the two charity nights we take the money we would have spent on presents and do something philanthropic. One year we bought $100 worth of groceries to donate to a food pantry. This year we volunteered through a local church to buy presents for a family who can’t afford them.
Last night was good deed night so we headed to Target with another family to buy gifts for a single mom and her three kids. As I stared wide-mouthed and overwhelmed by all the different types of dolls in the toy aisle (remember I’m the mom of 3 boys,) my kids ran around the store like lunatics with their friends.
I understand how difficult it is for a kid to be in the toy department purchasing gifts for someone else. I reminded them of why we were there and all the stuff they had already received and more that was waiting for them at home. I told them how lucky we are to have so many privileges.
But they still wanted a new basketball.
Despite all the forethought and managed expectations, my kids can frustrate me. As soon as we light the candles and say our prayer, they make a dash for the booty bench in our hallway. They circle the gifts like vultures, deciding which prey to attack first.
They tear into the beautifully wrapped boxes with little regard for decorations or cards. While most of the gifts go over well, there is always someone who crinkles his nose, and another who keeps asking for more.
“That’s it?!” one says, standing in a pile of shredded wrapping paper.
“How many did he get?”asks another, nodding at his brother, who’s hovering over something good.
“What theme is tomorrow? Do you think we’ll get an Xbox game tomorrow?” they cry hopefully.
And just like that, everything they opened becomes old news, and my holiday spirit is crushed.
I know once they get older, it will get easier. They will become more grateful with maturity. They will appreciate the cost of things over the amount of boxes they get to open.
In fairness, each year has improved. 12-year-old Jacob has wised up and tonight actually opened his loot, shouted with joy, and offered hugs and thanks. Tonight, of course, they got sports balls and Xbox games.
We’ll see how clothing night goes tomorrow.
They might not be as humbled as I am to buy gifts for a struggling family, but if we continue to do things for others, it will become part of our holiday traditions, and hopefully part of their consciousness.
I know intellectually that their behavior is normal and age appropriate, but I can’t help wishing they could be more appreciative and as interested in giving as receiving.
Maybe it’s more realistic to eagerly await the day when their disappointment doesn’t become mine. They’re kids, and the beauty of them is they haven’t yet learned to hide their truths. If I can accept their honest reaction to all presents without taking it personally, that will be a gift to myself.
Thanks to all for your supportive comments. Nice to know we are all in the same boat no matter what we celebrate. Next year I think I’m going to make them do 8 good deeds before they can open any presents and then open them all in one night so there aren’t several nights of disappointment. We’ll see how that goes. Happy holidays!
o I needed this article- my girls-13 and 10- were so blah and unappreciative yesterday morning that I vowed next year they would get gift cards and could buy what they wanted. I told them how their reactions had really hurt me and they tried to compensate with a few half-hearted “thank yous” However, I feel like it was too little too late. It seems like this is how birthdays are becoming also.
I LOVE this article, Brooke! It completely summarizes my struggles with the holidays too. My heart is happy just seeing the lights and singing carols…but for my girls it’s all about what they’re going to get in those packages. And when the opening is over there’s always this vibe of “well, there was that one other thing you forgot, mom”. You’re doing a great job at setting the tone for them with charity and festivity…hopefully when all of these kids get older they’ll look back and “get it” 🙂 Thank you for all of your stories!!!!!!!
I did that only once……I made a comment about a hat/scarf set that I didn’t like or want for Xmas. Because of my attitude and lack of appreciation, I didn’t get to have a birthday party that year. It killed me come Feb when Xmas had long been forgotten and I could not have the annual slumber party w/my gals. Like I said…..I only did that once and I learned my lesson !!
I agree Brooke…they will get it as they get older and we just have to be patient. We’re just planting the seeds. I remember when I was a kid and my parents did this kind of thing with a group called Focus Hope in Detroit. It made me feel weird and uncomfortable when I was a kid but now I understand it. Happy Hanukkah! You’re doing a great job.