What did your little ones get from Santa?
Our boys both got a Nintendo DSi.
Not because they asked for them. Nope.
Because me and their Dad thought it was time for something to keep them quiet – on long journeys, during meals in restaurants, at formal occasions when they’re expected to sit still.
And because we’re fed up wrestling them off the laptop, because they’re playing games on the CBeebies website
Or the CITV website.
Or the CBBC website (aaaarrrrrrghhhhh!)
So we’re not complaining about the expense of Christmas.
Especially after I wrote the post below, as a guest post for Ruth at Dorkymum last month.
(I’m sure she won’t mind me borrowing it back, since I seem to have my head stuck in the Quality Street)
The moaning started at the school gates weeks ago.
Once thoughts turned to Christmas shopping, it was the usual stuff you hear at this time of year.
“I just don’t know how I’m going to afford it.”
“We’ve bought out the entire toy shop.”
“I’ve never known such a spoiled child.”
All from mums and dads, complaining about how much they are being forced to spend on their offspring.
Blake is still in nursery. Brodie is six. I’m not hanging out with the parents of demanding teenagers.
Nor is my town the kind of place where kids hold guns to their parents’ heads.
Yet all of us blame our primary school children for brainwashing us into overspending.
Have we lost our baubles? Are we a few tinsel strands short of the full tree?
When I take a good long look around my children’s bedroom, there’s not that much stuff they’ve actually asked for.
Most of their toys are things I’ve seen and thought they’d like. Or I’ve tried to keep up with what their friends have.
Then I complain if they don’t play with these gifts.
And I’m not the only one.
My friend Emma is a single mum, who got her five-year-old son a Nintendo Wii last year. He got an Xbox 360 at his Dad’s house.
This year, she wants to cut back.
“But I know what I’m like. I always wrap his presents – then worry that it doesn’t look like much, so I rush out and buy more.”
In a year or two, our kids will be writing lists as long as our overdrafts for stuff they want Santa to bring.
But I can’t help feeling parents set the precedent, by piling up the goodies early on.
A report by UNICEF agrees our kids don’t want half the stuff we buy them.
They want time, attention…
And probably an expensive toy as well, if you’re offering. But if you’re not, they’ll settle for the first two.
This study on materialism states: “We observed within UK homes a compulsion on the part of some parents to continually buy new things, both for themselves and their children.
“Boxes and boxes of toys, broken presents and unused electronics were witness to this drive to acquire new possessions, which in reality were not really wanted or treasured.”
UNICEF scored kids in the UK lower for wellbeing than children in Spain and Sweden – where parents don’t cave in to pressure to keep up with trends and status symbols, preferring to put the focus on quality, family time.
So what’s the answer?
One local mum has a novel way of teaching her kids a lesson about materialism.
She allows her son and his big sister to ask for three things each at Christmas – and they don’t get one of them.
“It’s to teach them you don’t get everything you want in life,” she told me, as my jaw dropped lower than my struggling bank balance.
It’s an admirable idea. But not one many parents could bear to carry through – we’re so worried about disappointing our little ones.
Old habits die hard. We can’t change overnight.
But at the very least, let’s stop blaming our children for clearing us out at Christmas.
Because that little voice which guides you towards the pricey presents?
It’s got nothing to do with the little person you tuck into bed every night.