I told one of my sons to clean up his room the other day and specifically to clean out everything from under his bed - the notorious "shove-it" spot for kids.
Later on in the evening as I was getting him ready for bedtime, I noticed the contents of the bathroom trashcan near his room. I became infuriated as I pulled out several items that had apparently been "lost" beneath his bed.
Right before me, in the can, I found one of his brother's missing Vans tennis shoes - the pricey kind - (older brother was very angry at this) and several toys, some fairly new.
To top it all, my fury swelled as I pulled out a brand new pajama set, still in its plastic wrapper, that I'd purchased this very son for Christmas! (Yes, I'm embarrassed to tell this story, but I believe I should).
After some very appropriate discipline and a brisk deposit of this child into his bed, I went downstairs to sort out this awful thing. Who did I call? Good old dad! My dad is a strong but soft-spoken man, who is always a great source of counsel to me and the rest of our family. He was equally upset and advised me on ways to deal with my young son. After that, he asked me whose fault it was, and I knew the answer - mine. I don't typically spoil my children, or so I thought, but I'd gone terribly overboard purchasing multiple gifts for them this past Christmas. It had been a tough year for us, with my husband in school instead of at work, and this was my way of "celebrating" the fact that we were on the upswing again. I thought it felt good spending money, even though I knew I'd gone too far. Now I wish I had it all back!
Having given my children way too many gifts, I'd not only been an unwise steward of God's great provisions for my family, but I'd inadvertently taught my children to be greedy and expectant at Christmas, and ultimately, ungrateful. Shame on me!
They are normally not like this (this Christmas brought out the worst in them), and it's true that a couple of them were truly grateful, but still overwhelmed with too many things.
So, it was largely my fault, since I'd practically trained them to think this way. While this past Christmas was huge, I typically enjoy harvesting that "blow-out" feeling every Christmas. So while 2007 was excessive, it was not unusual.
I went to ask one of my other sons to tell me which gifts he remembered receiving from a particular family member who admitted to being just as guilty as I. Of the 15 gifts he'd gotten from this person, he could only remember four! It's only been a month! That's pretty sad.
Eventually, we came to the conclusion that the Christmas madness has to stop. I contacted a few family members and discussed the matter with them and with my husband, and we all agreed to put a cap on our gift-giving to the kids. No more than three gifts from the grandparents and no more than five gifts from us, per child. That will still mean about 10 gifts total per child at Christmas time, if we add in all three sets of grandparents, and I certainly think that is plenty!
Why am I sharing this with you? Let's just say I have a sneaking suspicion I'm not alone in this position.
Have you made this mistake in Christmases past, feelin' the blues about junk that didn't last? Tired of kids who don't put away their toys, sick of ungrateful little girls and boys? Well, if you are, you need not be stuck in it. Do yourself a favor: Next year, set a limit.
Ruthie Davidson is a mother of four children, ages 5 to 10. She lives in South Daytona and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.