Earlier today I shared a picture of Marit’s Christmas list on the NYAM Facebook page.
I thought it was so cute, and I was really happy to see how reasonable it was.
A reader left a comment asking how I get the kids to limit the amount of stuff they put on their list because one of her kids had a list that was pretty extensive.
Before I go any further I just want to mention two things:
First, I know Christmas isn’t about gifts. I know the true meaning of Christmas has gotten totally twisted around for a lot of people.
This isn’t really about that.
Second, I’ve already deleted some super judgey comments on the post in response to this reader’s question, and I’m going to keep deleting them. I completely understand how easy it is to go a little crazy on Christmas.
When I was a kid we didn’t have much money, but my parents always gave us lots of presents on Christmas.
So I didn’t grow up with any sort of gift limit or rule.
I used to go overboard on Christmas.
I was forced to stop doing that about 8 years ago when we were really struggling financially.
I remember feeling so horrible.
I remember not wanting the kids to be disappointed.
I remember dreading telling them that Santa was cutting back on the gifts that year.
I remember thinking this was the end of the world.
Getting divorced has really shone a spotlight on my aversion to disappointing the kids.
They’ve dealt with so much in the last couple years that I just hate to add more disappointment to the pile.
Here is what I know.
I know kids are resilient.
I know I still have a tendency to make disappointing them into a bigger deal than it is.
I know I’ve blown things out of proportion and I’ve worried endlessly about how the kids would react to being disappointed (at all times of the year – not just on Christmas).
I know everything I’ve freaked out about before has never actually scarred or traumatized my kids.
And I know my kids need to practice experiencing disappointment.
Because it’s gonna happen to them a lot over the course of their lifetime.
My kids have definitely been disappointed many times in their lives. But they’ve gotten over it. And they are still happy and healthy.
I don’t remember how long ago it was when I started moving in the direction of the Four Gift Rule, but it was many years ago.
I was so worried about how the kids would react to getting a lot less Christmas presents than they had the year before.
The kids were fine.
In fact, if I asked them to tell me what they got for Christmas in 2012 or 2013 or 2014 or 2015 or most any other year, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t remember most of it.
I mean do you?
Do you have Christmas memories of the stuff you didn’t get?
What I do remember are a couple gifts I REALLY loved.
I remember my brother and I getting an Atari when I was about 10.
That was the BEST PRESENT EVER.
I remember about six or seven years ago my parents got me the entire DVD set – all 9 seasons – of Little House on the Prairie.
That’s one of my favorite gifts of all time.
But when I look back on my childhood (and my life) I don’t remember too many disappointments.
I remember the good stuff.
I think that’s how our brains work.
It’s how you end up getting back together with an ex. You somehow forget all the bullshit you went through and you only remember the good times.
(Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten all the bullshit I went through in my marriage. 😂)
Anyway the point is that I get how easy it can be to not want to disappoint your kids.
I have had to remind myself of this many, many times in the last couple months. And it has nothing to do with Christmas presents.
I do my kids a disservice by trying to shield them from disappointment at all costs.
They need lots of practice dealing with disappointment because life is full of it!
So this is what I’m reminding myself of all the time these days.
We didn’t go on a vacation to North Carolina last summer.
My kids love going to NC.
I did not want to tell them we couldn’t afford to go last year.
Like I REALLY did not want to tell them.
They were definitely bummed.
But you know what?
They are fine right now!
They aren’t in therapy or addicted to drugs because we didn’t go on a vacation last year.
They haven’t stopped speaking to me or trusting me or liking me because we didn’t go on vacation last year.
Not going on vacation last summer is a total non issue today.
None of the kids talk about how they have shitty memories from last summer because they didn’t go on vacation.
They talk about the awesome memories they have from the years they did go on vacation.
Our Christmas this year is going to be very simple and very pared down. Money is tight.
There won’t be any big surprises.
But here is the other thing about limiting the number of gifts I get the kids…
The more gifts my kids received, the less they appreciated them.
It was like they were just ripping shit open to see what was inside and then they were on to the next thing!
The less gifts my kids receive, the more grateful they are for what they have.
I wish I would have realized this sooner.
If you are freaking out because you can’t give your kids a Christmas like they’ve had in the past, stop putting yourself through that.
Your kids are going to be okay.
They won’t be screwed up for the rest of their lives.
They won’t stop loving you.
And five years from now, they won’t be talking about how 2022 was the Shittiest Christmas Ever.
They’ll be talking about the good stuff.