Thursday, December 06, 2007

All I Want for Christmas

"All I want for Christmas is a flat-panel television, a digital camera, $50 running shoes, and a pile of toys."

It sounds like an adult wish list, and a rather ambitious one at that, but this, increasingly, is what kids are asking Santa for. And Santa is obliging.

On a message board I frequent, a woman mentioned that she is buying her young children, among other pricey gifts, their own flat-panel HD television sets. Someone mentioned that this seemed excessive, and she responded that this was the first Christmas her family could afford more extravagant gifts, so they are hopping feet first on the spend-spend-spend train with one way tickets to Debtville.

She didn't put it in those exact words, but shockingly close.

My problems with this are many. Here's a few:

  • She obviously feels guilty that her young children enjoyed simpler holidays in the past when 'simple' should be one of the major goals. Thank you, Corporate America. Your work here is done.
  • Electronics are not appropriate gifts for children. Children have no business watching TV often enough to have use for their own set. Even if they are using them for video games--no, especially if they are using them for video games! If parents decides to overdo presents one year, more power to them. They could buy one of those nifty wooden swing sets, or a Brio train set, or any of the thousands of really nice educational and earth-savvy toys.
  • As soon as her family has extra money, it goes to consumer electronics. As opposed to: savings, college funds, charities, investments, or wiser purchases that will be useful and useable in five years.
  • Her children will not be thinking about religion, goodwill toward men, or giving to others this season. They will be too busy watching TV. Their parents have left them no alternative.
  • What will happen if they are back to forced frugality next year? The kids will feel deprived.
  • They are probably convinced they can't afford organic produce.
  • If too many people do this, it will become expected, and then children from more responsible families will feel unloved and left-out. Oh, wait, that's already happened.

In essence, they have ruined Christmas, both this year and possibly the next, for their family and every family they know.

Many of us could afford to buy expensive gadgets for each of our children, but know better. Here is a good rule of thumb for buying children's holiday gifts: Buy them something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. For example, a four-year-old girl could receive the Barbie she's asking for, a bike to replace one she is outgrowing, a cute pair of flannel pajamas, and a big stack of books, plus a stocking full of miscellanea. Nowhere does a television fit in.

If you make a pie graph of a child's life, TV should be a marginal, barely visible sliver. The rest could be eating, sleeping, playing, learning, socializing. The bigger that television section gets, the smaller everything else gets. So even if a parent thought (despite scientific evidence to the contrary) that their children's minds and bodies would not be adversely affected by sitting in front of a flickering screen, they would have to consider that they are taking valuable hours away from the things that really matter.

3 comments:

a said...

Hey Emily aka Sage Mommy. I think what you have mind is right. The holidays shouldn't be about who got the most expensive gifts or latest gadget. I know for me it's about sharing a good time between my family and friends. I grew up in the most humble of circumstances, I had such a good time, I didn't even know I was poor until all my friends told me I was. So, I really know happiness is not dependent on material wealth. I am huge fan of watching old classic cartoons that use to come on t.v. every year, and listening to those classic holiday songs. This holiday season I took a job promoting some of my family’s favorite classics that have been compiled into a special gift set called: The ORIGINAL CHRISTMAS CLASSICS. It’s a limited edition DVD box which includes: "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", "Frosty the Snowman", and "Santa Clause is Coming to Town". You can get the set anywhere they sell DVDs or at http://www.christmasclassics.tv. Oh, and it includes a bonus music CD, we play it at my office and it just puts Christmas conviviality into the air. Since, I've been working with them I hear how this was and is the gift that keeps on giving, you can share it with any and everyone.

Tiffany said...

When I was thinking about what to buy for our 2 1/2 year old I quickly put an amount of no more than $100. She does not NEED stuff. That number has actually gone down and I was able to score some free books from paperbackswap.com for her.

My husbands parent spoiled him and his brother as children. At Christmas my husband said they would have toys and presents all over the living room and into the dining room Christmas morning. Now sees that it was huge waste of money - how often do you play with that many toys?

Green Bean said...

I love the four toys idea. I just finished reading the book Raising Kids Who Will Make a Difference where they advocate three gifts: one "heart's desire", one to grow on and one article of clothing. I think that 3 or 4 is more than enough.

As to stockings, I recently blogged about them - I'm planning a piece of fruit, a candy cane, a piece of fair trade chocolate, a small wrapped gift and one small toy. I think that is more than enough. Our kids get too much stuff these days and kids with too much stuff end up bored, ungrateful and without a creative bone in their bodies.