Friday, December 5, 2008

Contentment vs ?

Lately I've been thinking about my children's Christmas presents. (not too surprising, at this time of year I guess!) The other night I was out with some other mums and we were talking about what they "expected" Santa to bring for their children. They all listed large-ticket items, some were even" expecting" motorbikes (trailbikes) for their teenage sons, plus the very expensive safety gear to go with them. Others were "expecting" gifts up to $200 per child on various desired. One family who are not so well off were buying a Wii for the family - a year after "every" other family got one last Christmas. (we don't have a Wii LOL)

Santa usually brings modest gifts to our girls. Some cute things, some useful things, a few little candy treats, and we give the girls a few things - maybe books, or toys to share. Lego has been a favourite in the past, and one year we were given a hand-me-down dolls house which I remember remodelling up to late Christmas Eve.

Our girls have everything they need. Their clothes fit and they have instruments to play and second-hand books galore. We have a cupboard full of board games the whole family enjoys (past gifts and a lot second-hand). They have a little pocket money each week to buy treats for themselves. They don't need the latest electronic gadget or game. They love reading, and the rest of their free time they are happy to make up imaginary stories or practice handstands against the wall. The trampoline outside is sometimes forgotten.

I always remember the Little House on the Prairie stories when Laura and Mary were so pleased with such simple gifts - a white pattycake, a tin cup of their own, a stick of candy. I thought that sort of gratitude and contentment had long disappeared.

But a couple of weeks ago my twin piano students turned 9. They are from a hard-working Chinese family, and a good education for the girls is the main focus of the family. The twins are lots of fun, I love teaching them. When they arrive I ask how their week was, and they respond every time so positively with something interesting in their lives (a new academic challenge, usually!).

After the twins' birthday I asked what they were given for gifts. They didn't receive anything on their birthday, but a few days earlier had received Monopoly as a gift for the whole family. I think they also had a nice dinner at home on their birthday. They don't do Christmas. I asked about Chinese New Years, and they didn't seem to remember that either. But these girls,while surrounded by children who all have the latest and greatest, were completely content (and even excited) with one new board game for the family.

Which brings me back to wondering about what I (and Santa) give my girls, and what they really need, and what am I teaching them? According to the 5 Love Languages they are both "gifts" girls, so gifts are important to them, but how much is too much? When is enough enough? How many of their Christmas presents will end up on the bedroom floor with the rest of the junk?
How do I teach gratitude when their every need and wish is generally granted without much waiting or trouble on their part?

Sorry to have such deep thoughts at such a busy time. It's a wonder my brain could even function above coping with the Christmas paraphenalia all over the living room. (wrapping paper, decorations, every surface covered with something - eek!)

So I'm off to go and deal with that. But I would like to know others' thoughts on gifts, gratitude and ... greed, I guess.


Linda said...

I have certainly given this a lot of thought since I read it yesterday, no conclusions really.

We do love our wii, it is great for the ages of our children ranging from 17 to 7. However, not sure what effect it is having on my seven year old.

Hill upon Hill said...

Love thinking about this sort of thing. We are doing an old fashioned approach this year (or at least it is my inspiration this year). We are giving stationery items, ie nice pencils,paper etc. Also nice socks and things that will be needed for school. I will not be shopping at the end of January again. Rather now I will feel more inclined to buy a nice pacer pencil for 10 year old son. Stickers, paint, textas, glitter.......... I have spoken to the children about the gifts, so we will see. We have everything we need for the children.

Hill upon Hill said... has some good thoughts.