Dear Santa, I would like a laptop, an iTouch, a Nintendo DS….
Halloween is not in the can for a week, and the Christmas crap starts.
Before I have even taken the skeletons and cobwebs (this, in itself, is alarming: Halloween decorations??) to storage and put away the multiples of costumes, the kids have their Christmas lists finished and are asking about their dresses.
Dresses? For one day?
As I’m questioning the necessity of whether they each need a dress they will never wear (Doesn’t last year’s fit? How about something a little nicer than normal that you will actually wear again throughout the year?), I catch a glimpse of my oldest daughter’s list.
The first item is a laptop computer. And then the cheeky bugger has listed several other items beneath it, since you can’t simply get one gift for Christmas.
Hardly an original thought, but once more, with feeling: have we lost our marbles when it comes to consumerism at Christmas?
I said as much to her. “But I need it for school! We don’t have enough laptops to go around,” she wailed.
She is eleven. Whatever happened to the blackboard? And slates?
I try not to point my finger solely at her – it is the age in which we live. Also to blame is her peer group, who seem to up the ante on every birthday and occasion. You can’t blame her for trying. But it seems to get worse every year, the wish list loftier and longer, the price tags higher, the gadgets fancier.
We’ve traded in American Girls (who knew you could spend that much dough on a doll?) for electronics. A couple of years ago it was the iPod, then the Nintendo DS, then the iTouch. (The requests for the cell phone have been ignored although her voice gets louder, and I am sad to report she is in the minority of her group of friends who must resort to land lines for calling home – “use your friends cellphone,” I tell her cheerfully.)
When I was her age I was lucky to get a Barbie. The world, and not just my daughter, has gone mad. And you either must buck up in order to make their wishes come true, or buck the trend; in which case your name, come Christmas day, will be the Grinch. Or Scrooge. Pick your poison.
The answer, of course, is to educate your children about those who have so little at this time of year; let’s help them instead. We gather necessities and tiny treasures and put them together for families in need in our community. We deliver bags of food to the Food Bank. We talk about all the people all over the world who are simply trying to survive each day, let alone play with a new toy. We do all this until the cows come home. And yet when tucking them in at night, it’s back to their list.
This is where the tough parenting comes in. I love my children to the ends of the earth, but it’s my job to teach them that their happiness can’t be bought. I want them to be joyously happy on Christmas Day, but not because I’ve forked out January’s grocery money on their gift. I want them to have great friends and feel secure but not because they received what the rest of their friends got during the holiday. I want them to be thoughtful, loving, caring, empathetic citizens, not greedy, selfish drama queens.
It’s so much easier to say yes than no, but what is that teaching them? I always did have a soft spot for the Grinch.