Tuesday, December 19, 2006

One Toy

All month long I've been trying to figure out if I feel bad that we're only giving Julia one toy for Christmas.

Understand: she'll be getting toys from her other relatives as well; it's not as if this is her one and only present. And she's getting a few small toy items in her stocking from Santa. She also has a second gift from Mama and Daddy, but it's a non-toy gift (a very cute pink cartoon-pig-themed cereal bowl, plate, glass, and big-girl silverware set) that I bought back when I thought we'd have enough money for other toys too, so that it wouldn't seem quite so lame. (Actually, knowing sweet, enthusiastic Jujee, she'll probably be just as excited by the dinnerware as by the big toy we're giving her--the Fisher Price Little People Circus.) Genevieve is only getting one toy too, but she's only four months old, so not only will she never know, but there's not a whole lot she requires; her life is full of infant toys that used to be played with by baby Julia, but that are new to her, and at this age she's not doing a whole lot of playing with toys anyway (though she will soon).

We just don't have the income right now for lots of gifts, and early this month it became clear that it would behoove us to stop at the gifts we'd already bought rather than adding some of the other toys I'd thought of for Julia. On the one hand, our family's values include restraint when it comes to buying material things for our kids; Julia has far fewer toys than every other child with whom she plays, and while sometimes I worry that perhaps that is why she is so easily bored at home, most of the time I am confident in our decisions regarding parenting and consumerism/materialism. And, when it comes to Christmas gifts, my family of origin typically gives modest gifts to each other and to our respective children; none of us has much money anyway, and we've just never felt the need or had the means to spend large sums of money on each present. So, in some ways, this giving only one toy to my child for Christmas doesn't seem so out of the ordinary.

But on the other hand, my family didn't have much when I was growing up, and yet my sisters and I always got lovely Christmas gifts from our parents, and more than one toy each year, too. And my girlfriends--the fellow moms I meet for playgroup and the like--talk of shopping for clearly way more than we are giving our girls.

So I can't decide. Julia's young; she doesn't have any expectations, so she won't know that most kids get more than one toy for Christmas, right? Better this year than future Christmases, when she has more of a frame of reference? And, naturally I know full well that the number of toys under the tree is not what Christmas is all about--nor is it a reflection of love. But still. If I had bought one less nursing bra in August, a few fewer iced coffees on the way up to my office last May, if we had ordered fewer pizzas or gone for sandwiches at Hogan Bros. fewer times, would we have more resources for filling out the space under our tree now?

Part of it is that Julia IS easily bored, she DOES need a lot of mental stimulation. She gets tired of the toys she has, and not because she's greedy or jaded or used to being overindulged. It's because she's bright and gets bored easily. That's also why I refuse (unless absolutely necessary) to give up her toddler classes that cost us money. She needs classes and toys--she needs things to DO, new things, things that challenge her--or she'll never make it until next fall to start preschool.

I guess it's all a moot point. This is what we're giving her this year. I know she'll be happy. I've just been thinking about it.


Heidi said...

Why don't you think of the toddler classes as one (or two or more) of your gifts to her? *She* won't know the difference (unless you explain it in simple terms) but *you* will.

It's always a struggle how/where to spend $. Maybe you *needed* those pizzas b/c you were burned out that day and couldn't stand to cook. Or, if you had spent the $ on more gifts instead of pizzas, maybe you'd then be asking, should we have put that $ into her education fund instead?

Along the way, we *all* need to teach our kids as they grow that, even if it seems like "most kids" get more Christmas gifts than they do, it's *actually* the case that *most* kids (looking worldwide) get far *less* than they do--many getting not even one material item to call their own.

Shan said...


Anonymous said...

Only when she reads this blog next summer will Julia know!

Shan said...

Ha! No kidding! ;)

Anonymous said...

There was a wonderful editorial column in our newspaper this week featuring "Letters to Santa" written by American children ("Bring me an Ipod, an XBox 360 and games, an Aeropostale sweatshirt, and money, money, money!") alternating with letters from children in third world countries ("Could you possibly bring me a bed of my own?" "Could you bring a ball for my little brother?") Very eye-opening. You're doing fine.