There’s a mom of three who makes headlines practically every year for piling up Christmas presents under her tree. Or, I suppose I should say around her tree, since there are far too many gifts to actually fit beneath it.
Here’s her haul this year:
As you might imagine, people have plenty of thoughts which typically range from “leave her alone” to “how disgustingly materialistic can one be?”
My first thought is that I would hate to wrap that many presents. Other folks look the gifts galore and get nauseous or angry.
It seems that even at Christmastime, we can’t agree on how we live our lives. How much is too much, anyway? And how do you decide on a budget for your family?
We don’t ask or answer such questions in school. And I doubt most parents today are teaching their kids the ropes. Most of us seem to either match our experiences growing up, or we try to “do better.”
In fact, a very unscientific survey from The Today Show confirmed what most of us seem to already know: generally, we want to give our kids more for Christmas than whatever we had growing up.
I grew up very, very poor. Ours was a single mom household with two kids and our mom never earned a paycheck. We survived on welfare and various government subsidies like Section 8 Housing.
Despite what some of you have heard about people on welfare, it was not a good life. We did not eat steak and lobster. Instead, we ate a lot of Hamburger Helper, canned tuna, pancakes, and pasta with ketchup.
And I have never wanted to give my daughter that childhood.
Our mother never spoke to me and my sister about money, except to make it clear that there was never enough. I know she did her best at Christmas, but my holiday memories rarely involve the gifts.
Mom’s focus each winter was on cooking and baking holiday food, something she seemed to believe made Christmas that much better. The truth is that I never cared much about the food at all. I suppose I didn’t like skimping extra tight on groceries for three months every year so our mom could stockpile special ingredients for Christmas.
She planned ahead for Christmas when it came to the food, though, and perhaps that habit encouraged me to buy Christmas gifts for my daughter three to six months in advance. I do it early to avoid some unforeseeable financial crisis from wiping out my ability to buy gifts at all.
The budget is still up to me, however, and that’s what makes me think about that mom in the UK with her enormous pile of presents. Every year I wonder how anyone honestly knows the line between acceptable and excessive.
Personally, I don’t have a lot of rules and the gifts for my daughter vary a lot each year depending upon how my work is going. This year, most of her gifts are LOL or Frozen toys, but there are also some practical items and books.
I’m aware that a whole fleet of presents could be overkill for any kid, like too many sweets. Most kids are going to get bored opening “too many” gifts. And let’s not forget we still have to find the space to keep all of the new stuff tidy.
Even so, I find it very hard to know where the proper lines are. And from what I gather, nobody really knows. Whether we have a small or big income, we’re all just feeling our ways around the whole idea of a Christmas budget.
And even when we wish to do more, who’s to say we haven’t done too much already?
When I asked my mother whether she wants me to pick her up on Christmas Eve day, or actual Christmas day, she didn’t have a preference, but she asked me what I was doing for food on those days.
We’ve never discussed Christmas budgets, but she carries the assumption that I am going to do something “special” for all of the holiday meals.
As the single mother of a five year old who eats like a picky five year old, traditional Christmas dinners aren’t really at the top of my list. If I make anything, it’s going to be sausage balls, which is something I’ve only picked up since living in the south.
This year, though, I’ve got the excuse of dental work and my own soft foods diet to push the expectations down low. Apparently, working full-time and raising a kid who isn’t into Christmas cooking wasn’t enough.
Everybody has their non-negotiables for Christmas. The food is important to my mother. Having something under the tree for my kid is important to me.
I have a feeling that every year will be a little bit different since my daughter and I are only beginning to build our holiday traditions. The most important part in all of this is that I actually consider what I’m doing and keep asking myself these questions about what matters.
The last thing I want to do is to simply go through the motions and do meaningless things because I feel like I must. And as much as I want to give my daughter a better Christmas than any of mine, I also don’t want to lose sleep over the whole thing.
Some of us have so much anxiety about spending and trying to keep up. It’s not a particularly merry Christmas if any of us feel forced into certain celebrations, don’t you think?
How do you decide what’s reasonable or overboard for yourself?