I’m the type of person who has a real problem with clutter. (In fact, I’ve written about it here.) Having a cluttered house doesn’t just irritate me; it makes me feel claustrophobic in my own home. And so with the holidays coming up, I’m already taking steps to clear out space to accommodate the inevitable influx of boxes that’s sure to take over my house.
But while many of us who have kids experience the aforementioned influx, in my house, it’s exacerbated by the fact that my almost 5-year-old son has a late December birthday and my almost 2-year-old twin daughters’ birthday is in January. And no matter how many times I tell people that it’s OK to get the kids a single gift to celebrate both occasions (especially the girls, who are too young to know the difference), they tend to choose not to listen. Their logic is that they don’t want to cheat the kids out of a birthday or holiday gift because of the aforementioned timing, and I appreciate that.
At the same time, there’s only so much new stuff my kids need in the way of toys, clothing, and the like, and there’s only so much room to store it all in my house. That’s why I’m really tempted not to get my kids gifts this year.
But in true Jewish mom form, I’m having guilt about it.
The practical side of me is trying to push that guilt aside and employ the following logic: The kids are going to get utterly showered with gifts no matter what. Anything I get them will most likely get lost in the shuffle, so there’s no sense in spending money on gifts for the sake of handing my kid something from me, right? Aren’t I better off putting that money into their college accounts (or just plain hanging onto it for whatever expenses might arise) and freeing up valuable space in my house in the process?
Part of me thinks this approach is nice and practical. The other part of me thinks I’m being cheap, mean, and just plain not fun. And also, while I know that my children don’t need more gifts, it’s nice to see the looks on their faces when they open a present and get all excited about it.
Right now, I’m actually leaning toward a compromise. We’re planning to do a large family get-together one night of Hanukkah and have my parents come by another night during the week. At the family get-together, my kids are bound to get a dozen or more presents, and when my parents come over, I know they’ll spoil them some more. My husband and I will therefore get our son a few small gifts (think books and sticker sheets) so that he has presents to open on the nights we’re lighting candles alone. We’ll also wrap up some of my son’s old toys for the girls—ones we were planning to give them to use anyway—so that it looks like they’re getting presents as well. (Again, maybe I’m being cheap, but I figure the girls will be excited just to open up a box and play with the wrapping paper, and there’s no point in spending money on different versions of things we already have.)
As far as birthday gifts go, I’m planning to get my son tickets for a fun outing and a picture frame to put in his room. I’ll explain that while we’re on our outing, we can take a family photo and put it in the frame so he’ll remember it every time he sees it. This way, I’m giving him a (small) gift he can physically open and the gift of an experience he’ll hopefully remember fondly.
My girls’ birthday is a different story, and right now I’m leaning toward skipping the gifts altogether. They’re too young to understand the concept of one person getting them a toy or outfit versus another, so as far as I’m concerned, there’s no need to buy more things just to be able to say, “This is from Mommy and Daddy.”
Am I being too frugal or practical for my own good? I don’t know. But I figure as long as my kids enjoy fun birthday celebrations and a festive Hanukkah that’s not all about the gifts, I’m doing the right thing.