Emily Wyckoff

Skip the vacations, pricey lessons and over-the-top gifts. What kids really remember.

Even though I swore I never would be “that mother,” I have to admit I have evolved into the parent who makes sure my kids get an equal number of gifts to open on Christmas morning. I didn’t start out that way, as I told myself that my family would be different and my kids would just have to learn that that was life, and sometimes things would be seemingly unequal. Be grateful for what you have and remember how lucky you are. (My poor children. I tend to go on. And on.)

Year after year, after gifts were distributed, and turns were taken opening one gift at a time, there was always one kid who had nothing left to open and they would frantically search all around the tree (and the room) for the rest of their gifts (of which there were none). I decided to make life easier for me and now everyone gets the same number of parcels to open – even if someone is opening some kind of pricey electronic while the other child is opening a pair of socks.

This year for some reason my son had a gang-buster Christmas while my two daughters had a relatively low key holiday (socks, socks, more socks). My middle daughter’s top gift request was a new gaming system that I made very clear she would not be getting, yet she held false hopes throughout the day and her mood got darker and darker as the gift failed to materialize. My older daughter cracked later in the afternoon as my son opened his last gift – an iPod Touch – and she burst into tears as she ran out of the room. I pulled out the gratitude lecture, but shortened it in honor of Christmas. Someone is always in tears/time out on Christmas in my house.

My husband raised a red flag when I reviewed the Christmas gift plan (already executed) a few days before the holiday¬†that¬†although the numbers were equal, the gifts were not. I told him no one would remember the day after Christmas, and everyone has their year – this year happened to be our son’s. Parents (myself included) lose perspective on this holiday and place way too much emphasis on gift giving when kids barely remember the next year even their favorite gift from the year prior. They don’t remember the big gifts, or the lavish birthday parties, or pricey lessons and activities. They remember time together – most likely at home, hanging out as a family.

I was proven correct that very day (I love when that happens because it’s not very often) as we opened our son’s Christmas gift to us that he had made at school – a mini bulletin board with a handmade card and letter. Here is what it said:

“Dear Mom and Dad,

Thank you so much for loving me and taking care of me. I love you so much. I love when we all play the Scrambled States of America game together. I also love when we all watch Jeopardy together at dinner or watch Modern Family or The Middle in your bed. I love you so much and you guys are the best Mom and Dad ever.”

After I wanted to die a little as I thought about what my son had shared with his third grade teacher (we have the TV on during dinner sometimes and we all lie in bed and watch inappropriate sitcoms), I teared up. We are a cozy, (TV) loving family and my son loves it. Forget the Christmas gifts, the trips to amusement parks, the lacrosse/soccer/skiing/tennis lessons, the laser tag birthday parties. Kids just want time with their families. That’s it. So simple, now why as a parent is it so hard to remember?


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