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.