I am aware what a blessing it is to have people who love my child and want to bestow that love on them in the form of gifts. I am conscious that having loved ones close enough and comfortable enough to share their wealth with us is a luxury that not everyone has. I know that I should be thankful they are here to watch her grow and be part of her childhood. And guess what? I am! That does not mean that I don’t want them to stop buying my kid stuff.
I am okay with gifts! I am okay with toys! I am grateful for the help with school clothes and the spoiling of my child! I am not even asking for experiences instead like a lot of people are these days. I am just asking that we minimize the gifts; that we limit them to special occasions. That we make the opulence of gift-giving special again.
This is not just about toys. This is about all things.
This is about clothes, candy, toys, knick-knacks…all of it. No sooner than the candy jar is cleaned out, is it filled up again. I cannot ration the sweets steadily enough so that they are not either all consumed at once or never eaten at all. Many outfits are worn once, just once, before they’re outgrown. The toys are a whole other story, as they are oozing from the cracks in my house.
There are many reasons why reducing the number of gifts and stuff is important to me and my family, so here are a few that I really want you to know:
1. The wow factor is gone.
When you come home with gifts every time you visit a loved one’s house, receiving a great gift on your birthday or a holiday is no longer special. The gift the parents thought of and planned especially for you has less value, because the chance of some buying that gift for you on another day is likely. Important note: This isn’t because the child has not been taught gratitude. A child can still be grateful and kind in receiving a gift, but lack the full delight of a gift purchased just for them for this special reason.
2. There is too much value placed on having things.
Today, we are more wasteful with our resources and what the earth has provided for us than humans ever have been before. We have evolved to where many of us are able to take for granted what it means to have a toy box full of toys, let alone an entire room (and then some), and what it means to have drawers overflowing with clothes and racks of shoes. What we really need is simplicity — some toys to spark imagination and bring joy, clothes to wear and to repeat outfits, and shoes that can become worn before they’re outgrown. It’s easy to let it take us under, because truly it’s amazing, but that doesn’t mean we should indulge in it. Chocolate cake is amazing, but we shouldn’t eat an entire chocolate cake.
3. Clutter is real.
There is so much stuff in my house. I have reconfigured our playroom so many times. I have spent countless hours reorganizing toys and toy bins. I have spent DAYS cleaning out and attempting to sell toys and clothes to make space for the constant influx. There are so many toys that we forget that we have some and hardly get to enjoy them. There are so many that it is overwhelming for my child to choose a toy to play with and focus on.
4. My ability to be parent is being impeded.
It is much harder to teach a child about the following things: being grateful for all you have, recognizing the value of a dollar, recognizing that others do not have the same opportunities, the importance of organization, the importance of minimizing the amount of things you own and not being a hoarder, appreciation for how hard your parents work for you, and respecting the earth.
Reason #4 could be an article all on its own. What do I say when I tell my child there is too much stuff, that THEY have too much stuff? How do I make them choose what items to give up or choose for them when they aren’t looking? That’s not fair. It is THEIR stuff and forcing a small child to make decisions like which toy to give up that Grandpa Joe bought for them is unfair, so please don’t make me do that. Please recognize that I am painting a picture, albeit small in the grand scheme of things, of being that bad guy who “gets rid of things.” I don’t want to box up the not-played with toys when they aren’t looking; I want them to take part in choosing what to donate to the less fortunate or even to resell to make money to save.
How do I teach that having less is actually more? How do I actually show that it is important to not buy things we don’t need? How do I show the value in saving the $10 for a trip to somewhere cool instead of buying the Barbie in front of them, when that’s what another adult figure in their life would do for them?
It becomes infinitely harder. Please recognize that. Please understand that no matter what your theory — about grandparents, aunts/uncles, whoever spoiling the child in their life — that it has lifelong impacts on them and greatly affects the day-to-day life for their parent. Please don’t spout off angrily that we are asking you to stop. Please know that you are loved, cherished, and your presence alone in my child’s life is worth more than any measure of materialistic items would bring to them. They will remember you being there, not that you indulged their every whim and filled their home with anything their heart desired.