What better time than the biggest gift giving holiday on the planet to teach our children the importance of family, alongside the potentially positive and negative impacts of money? I had a conversation with my brother and his wife the other day about this subject, and oh how glad I am that I did!
You see, my daughter is three years old (barely.. I’m talking within days.) and she has this obsession with the Barbie Dream House. I was telling my family about how I’m in a bit of a holiday conundrum, as I feel like this Dream House is such an expensive gift. How am I supposed to go about giving her birthday presents and the Christmas gifts from my husband and myself without spoiling her rotten? Especially with everything being stacked up side by side right next to this Dream House from Santa. Also, how are we supposed to make it seem fair in giving with my son in the process, without overdoing it with him as well?
My brother and his wife, being the more seasoned parents that they are, kind of giggled at me. Then my sister-in-law proceeded to tell me that,
“We always bring the big salad.”
Of course, my instant response was, “Why are you talking about food? I don’t care what you’re cooking, I want advice on the Barbie Dream House!”
She laughed, and explained to me that, ‘the big salad,’ is their metaphor for, ‘biggest gift.’ They told me about how they’re teaching their kids at a young age the importance of giving each other what they really want, all-the-while letting Santa bring the ‘smaller dish’ to the table for the mere purpose of keeping the magic alive.
At first I thought they were being silly, and the entire concept was a load of bologna. I mean really, what little kid doesn’t want the magic man in a red suit to bring them something mind blowing? But, once we really dug down deeper into the conversation all the pieces fit together beautifully.
First, there is the family aspect: By giving the more important gifts to each other as a family, it pulls that bonding to the surface inside the home, rather than aiming the adoration and appreciation elsewhere. It also puts a cap on the children’s growing expectations of Santa from year to year. They still get their gifts (as many or as little as you wish to spoil them with), and more importantly, they focus on giving each other their gifts first and foremost.
Second, there is the social aspect: I’m not talking parental status either, this isn’t a game of ‘keeping up with the Jones’. When I say social aspect, I’m referring to our children and their schoolmates. There are always kids who get more than others, whose families have more money than others. This is inevitable, it just happens. When the children are too young to understand it all, it can often at times leave the lesser fortunate to wonder things like: ‘why doesn’t Santa love me as much as them?’ Or sadly even, ‘why doesn’t Santa think I’m as good as them? Was I not nice?’ Ideally, if we as a society can eliminate the over exuberant Santa competition and focus on family and magic rather than the size and money spent, than we can reduce the level of post-holiday depression in children. Kids can talk among each other about all the cool things they got for Christmas, but when they address the subject of Santa (the one guy who give to them all), they wont have as much to boast about.
Third, there is the money aspect: Do any of you CTM readers/parents out there ever feel like you need to compete with Santa? You want to give your kids something just as nice as Santa did, because mommy and daddy give good gifts too? I know that up until this year I’ve definitely felt this way! By ‘bringing the big salad’ this problem is reduced immensely. This way there is one large gift (from the parents) and the little ones (from Santa), instead of two or more large gifts in order to overcompensate and keep up with the magic man.
Now, obviously this concept will not work for every household, and not everyone will agree with it, which is totally fine. To each’s own. But as for me and my family… this year my husband and I will be ‘bringing the big salad.’