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Friday, December 20, 2013

The gifts that I am REALLY giving to my children this Christmas

If the advertisements on TV are any indicator of how Christmas morning will go in homes across America, many kids will be unwrapping iPhones, iPads, Wii game consoles, and Kindle Fires.

My kids won't be finding any of those under our tree. But they will receive several very nice gifts from their dad and I. As you know, this year is a tight year for us, financially. However, we've never been ones to buy over-the-top luxury gifts for our kids in past years, anyway.

Some of our "biggest" gifts that we gave to our kids in past years, included an easel for one daughter, a musical instrument for the other, and an Erector set for our son. We chose gifts that we felt they could use to continue pursuing their individual interests, and still provide years of enjoyment. It's not because we're cheap. It's because we think about which gifts could foster development in our kids' lives the most, without putting us into a financial hole.

But, you know, the equipment and playthings were really just tokens. The real gifts that we're giving to our kids this year are two parents who won't be stressed out in January when the bills roll in.

We're giving our daughters an education at the university that they chose. By giving them this education, we are also giving our daughters hope for their future careers.

We're giving our son the peace of mind that his parents are saving enough money for retirement, so that he won't have to support us in our later years. This is a gift of freedom, really. Our son won't need to choose the most lucrative career path for our sake, but can choose that which brings him greatest joy.

We're giving the entire family a savings' cushion, so that we can handle any misfortune that may happen in the coming year.

We're giving our children a fully-paid for home with heat, plenty of food, and family harmony.

We're giving all three of our kids living examples of how to be good stewards of their resources. Those are the real gifts our kids will receive at Christmas, and throughout the year.

Will my children be hindered in any way by not receiving iPhones, iPads, Wii consoles or the like? Not one bit. In fact, I think they will be better off, for the more modest gifts that we did choose. We put real thought into each gift. We chose items that filled needs for each child. I'd never send one of my daughters off to university with a new IPhone, but no decent coat to wear, or off in canvas sneakers to tromp through cold, wet grass, instead of good new boots. Gadgety electronic devices are fun, and we certainly like fun, too. But sometimes, I think parents have to be just that, the parents, and choose gifts that meet needs before wants.

Our Christmas morning will be full of the fun and excitement of giving and receiving gifts. I don't even feel sad or guilty that we're not buying more extravagant gifts. I feel like we've chosen some of the most appropriate gifts that our kids could receive, and that is a very satisfying feeling. When you know that you're doing the right thing, you can stand tall and have peace over your choice.


  1. What a lovely post :) Today my mum and I were talking about the ads we've seen for presents - some of them advertise things as gifts that are $300-400! Or stocking stuffers that are over $100. It just seemed crazy to us that anyone would spend that much on gifts!

    The scary thing about iphones (here at least) is you can walk out of the shop with one without paying a cent upfront, but then you're locked into a two year contract. And I'm sure people buy them as gifts without thinking that through.

    1. Hi Liz,
      Smart phones have been given away here, too, but with long and very expensive contracts.
      I've told my kids that when I was their age, I received some candy, some sugarless gum, a couple of pieces of fruit and just a couple of very small gift items, in my stocking. Something strange has happened in the last 20 years and gift giving has just exploded into this really extravagant thing,
      Have a lovely Christmas!

  2. You mirror my sentiments exactly. And I think I've ended up with kids who are smart with their money and really appreciate the stability that we've been able to provide for them. That's not to say that we don't have our temptations and weaknesses like everyone else, but we've all been happy with our choices over the years.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I have long suspected that you raised your sons in similar ways to how we raised our kids. We're just sensible people.
      I believe it is a healthier way to raise kids. And it's not like we haven't provided any expensive equipment for our kids. We've provided what they needed, when they needed it. When each of our kids began university, it was important that they have cell phones, so we bought pre-paid ones. And they each needed laptops, so we provided one for each of them. But not until university work began, as they could use family computers at home and the computer lab at school, all through high school.

  3. Thank you for this. I need a pat on the back occasionally as my (12 year old) son rants about being the only one in his class without an iPhone / iPad - and apparently he's "less than human" because he doesn't have an xBox.

    1. Hi Jessica,
      It's hard, I know. When your kids see what feels like everyone under the sun with an iPhone, it's hard. I'm sure you do this too, I've always pointed out all the wonderful things that we have provided, travel, a good house with a big yard for playing, and now a good university education. You've provided equally wonderful things for your son. He'll see that eventually (and he probably already does a lot of the time).
      I like to remind myself of the ways the I felt "deprived" when I was growing up. My best friend had her own car, an old hand-me-down car, but still I wanted my own, too. My mom was fond of saying, "isn't that nice for her", and "well that's wonderful because now she can give you rides, too". Despite being so "deprived", I turned out okay.
      You're doing a good job! Just keep remembering that!

  4. Well said! It's refreshing to hear a voice of reason in our modern world filled with superficial insanity!

    1. Hi Sharon,
      It really has become insane, hasn't it? I am so tired of ads telling me what I should want for Christmas. If my husband were to buy me what he has seen on TV, it's likely I would receive an OveGlove, a Clap-On, and a Chia Pet.
      But the overall message seems to be, if you really love your family, you will buy XYZ for them. And sadly, a lot of folks don't give what they're buying very much thought. Instead of seeing a need that needs filling, they just buy whatever fun thing the advertisements tell them to buy.
      I would like to think that there are more sensible people out there. They're just not as "loud" as all the insane advertisements.
      Have a wonderful Christmas, Sharon!

  5. I can't tell you what a relief it is to know that there are parents who understand that kids don't need everything that they see advertised. My kids are younger, but I already feel the pressure to buy every gadget and toy for them. Their friends have something, so they want it, too. So, thank you for your insight.

    1. Hi Kath,
      There is a lot of pressure, isn't there? I think that if you've given a lot of thought to what your kids need, you can be confident that you're doing the right thing for them. As parents, we're to provide for our children's needs, and a few of their wants, much like God provides for us.
      It would not make any sense, if we bought expensive playthings for our children and ourselves, but were homeless, or could only afford 1 meal a day, or couldn't heat the house.
      You're putting thought into the gifts for your kids. Only you know what they will truly benefit by receiving. And remember, "less" is often "more". Too much stuff and kids can't appreciate or enjoy any of it. You're doing a good job!

  6. Why, oh why, don't you live near me??? Sometimes I feel like I'm a lone voice crying in the wilderness. (I'd probably hit it off well with any of your regular readers, too, as I think we all have similar values). I strongly suspect that your young adult kids are a joy to be around ... because their parents put more thought into parenting than going after the latest trend. We, as you can guess, also keep our gifts on the modest side and I find great joy in getting the "right" gift for them. For your readers with younger kids--my son still seems to have friends even though the only "techie" thing he has is a digital camera (he's 10). He's to the age where I'd consider a video game, but frankly, they are really expensive and I've yet to hear a mom say, "I wish my son would play more video games!". My daughter has a knock-off American Girl doll and, amazingly, she too has friends. :) I jokingly tell people we are part-Amish but have indoor plumbing when I get "the look" at our lack of tech toys--a little humor goes a long way and gives my kids a tool to respond to their friends. (I have great respect for the Amish but I DO like electricity and gas-powered vehicles!).

    1. Hi Kris,
      I laughed out loud when I read your part-Amish comment. That's a good response! I will remember that one!

      We live in a semi-affluent area, and the kids and adults around here all look at me like I'm from Mars, to not have a smart phone, or to have never bought video consoles. And yet, my kids seem to be well-adjusted, even though they never had these things. And you're right, no parent ever said they wished their kids would talk on their phones more, or play more video games. You'd be hard-pressed to find any world leader who thought an American kid someplace, was deprived because they didn't get every gadget that they wanted.

      You know, these "communities" that spring up in the blog world really help hold me steady. It's not easy to do the right thing for our kids, when so many other parents around us are making different choices for theirs.

  7. Well said!

    I think the thinking has changed that we should only give people what they want, and not what they need for Christmas. In fact a reader on my blog even criticized one of my gifts for that reason, because it was a needed item it shouldn't be a Christmas gift.

    This morning I read an article about Christmas letters from 1915 to the present; it was interesting. Many little girls asked for a (singular) pair of wool stockings. They wanted to be warm each day. I liked that that was a request. One boy asked for a set of paints and some candy and nuts.

    It was a good reminder that what I am giving is enough.

    1. Hi Brandy,
      Thank you. You're right, the gift-giving mindset has really changed. What many folks fail to realize is that wants can also be needs.

      I was intrigued by the article you mentioned. I remember in the Little House books, what Laura and Mary were thrilled by, a new cup, new mittens, and a single piece of candy.

      From what I've seen on your blog, I know that your children will be delighted with their gifts. You've put a lot of thought and time into your gifts. And your children seem delightful.

      In my opinion, how happy a child is with his or her gifts says more about the child (and the parenting) than it does about the gift, itself.

      Have a lovely, Christmas, Brandy.

  8. Thank you for that post ... It hits close to home for me: Just learned that one of the relatives is in deep financial trouble. I fear this person's children are going to remember the strife and disruption in their lives more than any of the toys and gadgets they've received.

    1. Hi DW,
      I'm sad for your relatives, and especially their kids, as they must feel powerless. When a family hits hard financial times, the kids fear that their entire world is going to collapse. I am sure that you are a ray of encouragement for them, in this hard time. I'll say a prayer for them.
      Blessings this Christmas to you!

    2. Thanks, Lili ... and blessings to you, too.

  9. Lili
    What a beautiful, and timely post. The past few years have seen some significant changes in our financial and familial situation, but I hold fast to my values, of offering what I can afford. Some years, yes it includes second hand acquired items, home made items, as well as some new-yet purchased with deals. I have a budget and set aside $ every month so that I have the funds come Fall. I am that crazy lady who completes any physical shopping prior to Thanksgiving as I just do not enjoy the rush, crowds, etc. I remain under budget, we will have a nice, family meal that will include a few treats such as shrimp cocktails.
    So what are my kids getting? clothes requested, clothes NEEDED, some personal care items, candy, gum, a new laptop for special needs child, cash etc.

    My students asked me today what I am getting for Christmas. I replied that I don't know. They then asked what I wanted. My response: a nice, family dinner with my children. That really IS all I require. : )
    Merry Christmas!

    1. Hi Carol,
      Your Christmas sounds like the perfect holiday, to me. You and your family will have a lovely time together, your kids will receive gifts that they want and need, and your dinner will be a special one, I am sure.

      Good for you to get all the shopping done so early! I try every year, as I don't relish the thought of going out into the mobs either. I am done now, but still need to pick up everyday necessities.

      Have a wonderful Christmas with your family, Carol!

  10. Hear, hear to your blog post and all the comments above! It's great to feel that there are kindred spirits out there - here, it often feels like we're against the tide when we refuse to get all the latest technological 'kit' for our kids.

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Thank you! I know what you mean. It's not easy finding other families in our area who share some of our values.
      Have a lovely Christmas with your family, Sarah!

  11. What a very nice post, Lili. We do not have any i-pads or i-phones here either. They are out of my budget and I won't go into debt for those things that are not necessary. I did buy some handmade things for my daughter on Etsy. A handmade notebook with her name on the front, a handmade necklace. I bought her the new Harry Potter stamps from the post office too. She is a huge Harry Potter fan and she can either use them or keep them. It's up to her, but these are thoughtful gifts that I know she will love. I didn't even step foot in Walmart this holiday season. Not that I won't go back there, but I didn't want to get caught up in the crowd. We are having a simple Christmas this year and I am looking forward to it. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and a prosperous and blessed New Year.

    1. Hi Belinda,
      The gifts that you bought for your daughter sound like a perfect match for her! She'll love them.
      I've really tried to stay out of the big stores during busy periods. The madhouse feeling just increases my anxiety about everything I have to get done (both for the holidays and regular life). I really don't know how everyone else deals with the crowds and long lines.

      Wishing you and your daughter a blessed Christmas, Belinda!

  12. I have been reading your posts regularly. I need to say that you are doing a fantastic job. Please keep up the great work....

    1. Hi there!
      Thank you, and have a merry Christmas!

      (your comment was edited to remove an in-comment link. you may link to our site through your signature/avatar, but not within the comment itself.)

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