I wrote this post on Boxing Day, back in 2012, and really, nothing has changed. Our oldest daughter is almost 14, and a truly lovely, giving, kind human being. She understands perfectly that while other kids get AirBooks, she got to have her mother with her at home, and has not an ounce of resentment or jealousy. Our son is almost ten, he still loves playing video games with his Dad, and he, too, understands that not growing up in daycare was the best gift he could ever have received. Our youngest daughter is seven, and she wants…. a duckling. A real live duckling.
We already have a rabbit, a cat, two birds and a fish. I’m afraid the duckling is not going to happen. Mommy and Daddy have enough pets to take care of! The Barbie Camper Van will have to do. I bought some plastic ducks for Barbie and Ken to enjoy.
We live in such a consumer society, saturated with untold luxuries, it’s easy to forget that what most kids want, at the end of each and every day, is love.
Here is my boxing day post on that subject, from 2012.
According to online retailer amazon.com, the top Christmas gifts for children included a bunch of plastic toys, electronic games and a remote control helicopter. http://www.amazon.com/Best-Christmas-Gifts-Kids-2012/lm/R3SYKLL4XLK2CJ
According to children themselves, the number one request for Christmas was a baby sister or brother.
Following that, children wanted living creatures to love and care for, candy, and rounding out the list:
Ipads, and smartphones and fancy designer clothes were no where to be seen. What children want for Christmas is the opportunity to love and to be loved. To have a home and a family, and sweeten it with a bit of candy (a rock is an unbent peppermint stick). Reindeers and horses were popular items, as well as the perennially popular doggie.
One of the nice things about living in a small town is that our children are protected from a lot of the extreme consumerism that seems to plague friends who live in bigger cities. Not allowing our children to watch commercial television also helps (no advertising!). Our dear friend SuzyQ lives in a huge city and she was distraught that her daughter, who is the same age as PinkyPinkyPie (11) wanted a Prada purse. A PRADA purse! $1500! Suzy’s sister-in-law, who has had her kids in daycare since pretty much day one actually bought her 10 year old daughter a Louis Vuitton handbag to carry her lunch in. Of course, Mommy has to work extra hours to pay for that kind of extravagance, so the kid spends even MORE time in daycare and then Mommy is exhausted and has to go on vacation by herself to recover but hey – LOUIS VUITTON!
So fucking stupid. Of course, Jezebel picked up Daddy for Christmas story, and then glossed it over rapidly because the idea that DADDIES and BABIES might be important does not fit with their world view. It’s interesting that in the comments section, children who have fathers deployed on active service are acknowledged as hurting and deprived, and quite possibly even damaged by the absence of a man in their homes. Obviously, that is part of the deal when you marry a soldier, but it’s nice to see that the wives understand their children suffer when Daddy is gone for long periods of time.
Women who are divorced put their children through the same suffering, but don’t say that on Jez! You’ll be ripped to shreds by the You Go Girl ™ narcissists who populate that site.
Mr. JB and I have a very strict budget for Christmas and we DO NOT carry credit card debt. Not ever. One of the most foolish financial decisions a family can make is to rack up credit card debt. Our children are well aware that we do not have as much money as other families in our neighbourhood because I do not work outside the home.
True story: this past summer, my two older children REALLY wanted an iPad. Turns out that our friend JudgyAsshole’s mom had plans to upgrade her iPad to a newer version, and was willing to sell her older version to LittleDude and Pinky for $200. I told them they could buy it, but they would have to raise the money themselves, and not by doing “chores” because that is bullshit. You don’t set the table because I will pay you, you set the table because I told you to!
So they went through all their toys and puzzles and games and stuffed animals and sporting equipment and carefully determined prices and made posters and set up tables and held a yard sale. The two of them were out at 7AM negotiating and bargaining with shoppers and they manned their tables until 2PM, when a neighbour came along and bought a dump truck which gave them EXACTLY $200.
They could not have been more proud of themselves, and the house was suddenly much easier to keep clean with all that mess of toys moved out.
So they have an iPad. A used one, an older version, but they (kinda) paid for it themselves. When Christmas rolled around this year, they didn’t even think of asking for outrageously expensive gifts, because they know what $200 is and what it takes to earn that much and they understand that we don’t have that money to spend on superfluous items that are pure luxury. There was no whining, no complaining, no wheedling, no pleading.
The kids thought carefully about what they wanted, and because they wished carefully, their wishes came true.
Growing up, I always had a little parakeet friend, and Pinky has heard me tell many stories about how much I loved PeteyBird, and she decided that now she is 11, she would like to have a little feathered friend herself. Christmas morning, she woke up to a beautiful bird cage, an 80 page book about how to care for a budgie and a gift card to the local pet shop. The deal was that once she finished the book, she could go and choose a birdie buddy. Pinky never left the couch. She read the whole book yesterday, so today she is going to pick out a little Petey bird of her own.
Several months ago, my brother HeatingMan gave LittleDude his Xbox and a bunch of games that LittleDude plays with his Dad all the time. Mr. JB has an undergraduate degree in military history and he has taught LittleDude so much history and strategy, just talking about what is happening in the games. I have come under lots of fire from other parents about my decision to let LittleDude play horrifically violent video games, but I believe there is great value in those games for boys.
First of all, he plays them WITH his Dad, who guides him through the different scenarios and helps him understand what the conflicts are about and why certain actions are better than others, and even though I don’t personally enjoy those games, I have absolute faith that my son’s FATHER is taking care of him in just the way he needs, whether I can understand that or not. Second, those games are FUN! They demand mastery. You don’t get a ribbon just for showing up. You don’t proceed through the mission until you get it RIGHT. There is no “close enough”. It’s frustrating and exasperating and takes hours of practice to get right. There is tremendous value in teaching children perseverance and resilience. You die 1000 times and then all of a sudden, you understand and slowly, mastery comes. Third, I refuse to shame my son for enjoying his natural aggressiveness and yearning to pick up a weapon and defend and protect. There is something intensely satisfying for boys in playing out war games, and I believe those desires are hard-wired deep into little boy’s brains. He doesn’t need to be protected from that desire, he needs a man to show him what to do with that desire.
LittleDude requested, and received Call of Duty: Black Ops II for his used Xbox. He is curled up on the couch now with his Dad, as they struggle to get their helicopters to do what they want.
MissBossyPants is still only four and fairly easy to please. She got a tea cart and is busy arranging her collection of stuffed animals on a blanket for a picnic. Daddy and LittleDude will need refreshments soon! Get ready to put down your controllers and join Pookie Bear for a tea party, dudes.
Mr. JB will spend Boxing Day not out shopping for a bunch of useless crap he doesn’t really need. He will spend it alternating between the battlefield and a picnic blanket. He will be the Daddy our children need, deserve and have a right to.
Is it any wonder that all little kids want for Christmas is a family? A baby sister, a little brother, and most of all, a Daddy.
Happy Boxing Day to all the Daddies out there. Don’t spill your tea!
Lots of love,