My children were expecting monthly gifts based on the holidays.
I decided to only give them new things on their birthdays and Christmas.
Now we do activities for holidays like Valentine's Day and Easter.
I love seeing my children's eyes light up when they finally get a long-coveted stuffie or toy truck. I spend hours with my children building Lego bricks, getting messy with new slime kits and art sets, and being too competitive while learning the rules of a new board game. I like to think that these gifts help my children feel special and help us create core memories together.
However, it seems that every year, as soon as Christmas is over, I am bombarded with ads and blog posts suggesting the perfect Valentine's Day gifts for kids. Soon enough, these Valentine's Day ads are replaced with suggestions for the perfect Easter gift, last day of school presents, and so on in a relentless stream throughout the year.
They expect gifts almost every month
My son became accustomed to expecting gifts on a near-monthly basis. Once, on Mother's Day, he asked me what he was getting for Child's Day, a holiday he assumed meant that even more gifts would be coming his way. It was clear that for my children, getting gifts at all had ceased being something special and started to be something they had a right to receive regularly.
I had enough. My children are fortunate enough to have access to a wide range of toys, games, and enriching activities. It was time to put an end to the gifts-for-every-occasion mindset. I am privileged enough to be able to buy a seemingly endless supply of gifts for my children, but that doesn't mean I should.
By succumbing to the pressure created by social media algorithms, marketing executives, and influencers with affiliate accounts, I was teaching my children that the only way to show love, celebrate a holiday, or mark a special occasion was with material goods. I had created a sense of entitlement.
I was done with the clutter
Apart from being expensive, this mindset resulted in clutter from gifts, big and small. My children could be thoughtless and impulsive about what they requested from the Easter Bunny or Santa, knowing that they needed to wait no more than a month or two for another gift.
As the clutter accumulated in my home, all of these gifts created stress. They meant more time cleaning up and less time having fun. When I tried to donate unused toys, more often than not, I found they had to be tossed because a key piece or two was missing, rendering them useless. After I put yet more plastic in the trash, I felt guilty about adding to landfills and the climate crisis. I knew I needed to break the cycle.
I decided to stick to giving gifts only on birthdays and Christmas and went cold turkey. I haven't given up celebrating entirely, but we mark occasions differently.
We do activities instead
Now, when Valentine's Day rolls around, my family usually celebrates with chocolate fondue and extra hugs. With new traditions, my children look forward to our toy-free Valentine's Day each year.
When Easter rolls around, I happily stay up late stuffing eggs and wake up early to watch my children search for candy. I no longer perseverate over the perfect toys for Easter baskets and focus instead on creating a fun experience for my kids, albeit one with lots of candy.
On the last day of school, we might celebrate with ice cream, or I might just tell my children how proud I am of them. They shouldn't expect a gift for making it through the school year, something they are obligated to do anyway.
Limiting how often my children receive gifts has made their birthdays and Christmas all the more special. These occasions are my opportunity to spoil my children. They consider more carefully what they ask for, knowing it will be a while before they get another new toy. In-between we take photos and make notes of things they desire. They are hardly deprived.
Sometimes they can do chores to earn money for a toy they just can't wait to have. Sometimes I make a detour to the toy store for no reason at all, surprising and delighting them. I have found that a gift for no reason is appreciated much more than the one they feel they have the right to receive.
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