Yes, you’re doing Christmas all wrong!
That sounds really harsh, right? But here’s the thing; we were doing it wrong too…
UNTIL WE SAW THE LIGHT!!!
I can’t remember where I first saw it; I can only assume Facebook? Or possibly Instagram? Doesn’t really matter, but I’m grateful I did, and I’m sure you’ve heard of it as well…
The FOUR gift rule!
It’s a cute rhyme so it’s even easier to remember…WANT, NEED, WEAR, READ! That’s right yall. You buy your children four gifts and that’s IT!!! Does that give you some sort of heart palpitations? To only see them open four presents on Christmas morning? To not have the gift-opening process go on and on and on? To not have 540 pictures to take of them opening every little thing that was ever created?
Well my friends, all of that was about YOU, and YOUR expectations. None of them were brought on by the kids. Sure, I know that they may saaaaaay “I WANT THAT!!!” to every commercial that’s shown on the TV. But mine also said that about wanting to go to the Atlantis in the Bahamas for weeks on end, and we’ve never been there either! (side note: brilliant marketing by Atlantis to buy ad space on Nickelodeon). But I digress.
I saw the ‘want, need, wear, read’ thing right around the same time one of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle, posted about her non-profit, Together Rising. She wrote a beautiful post around the holidays, where she remarked about us taking care of each other, and people could submit what they needed for the holidays and we’d help who we could. She said “my child shouldn’t have six things and your’s have none. Mine should have three and your’s should have three.” And it has ALWAYS stuck with me. The visual of a child waking up and having NOTHING to open, and my child having PLENTY (half of which they’ll get sick of in no less than 12 hours), broke my heart wide open.
And we had always given to charities, non-profits, angel trees, operation christmas child, etc., but it still seemed like our kids were getting TOO MUCH. And I’m sure all of yall reading this are altruistic, and super giving around the holidays, even if you’re giving your kids a ton of stuff too. But is that what we’re wanting to teach them anyway? That they still get everything their precious hearts desire, just because you grab an angel off of the tree?
And I get it. Every family and person is different. My love language is NOT gifts. In fact, out of the five languages, I’d put words of affirmation first, followed by acts of service, quality time, physical touch, and then 430 other things BEFORE receiving gifts. I get uncomfortable opening them in front of people, and I am not great at giving them so it’s just added pressure, instead of joyous for me. And if you’re a gift person, then #youdoyou, but I’m at least going to suggest what we’ve been doing the last few years, and it’s fan-freaking-tastic!
We told the minis three years ago that things were changing for the ‘what to put on Santa’s list’ thing, and this was before they knew the truth about him 😉 So it doesn’t even have to be something you wait to do, and actually if you start with the first Christmas, it’s all they know! And you’ll never even have to change things up! And it’s not even like we had gone that crazy before over the years (but certainly more than 4 gifts)…not like some of the literal MOUNTAINS and rooms full of presents I see some of yall post on social media 😉
But, we told our girls that Santa was bringing four presents (and we never did “gifts from mom and dad” anyway)…a want, a need, something to wear and something to read, and to make their lists accordingly. We clearly explained that it would be four presents only, but they could list as many options in each category that they wanted and he would pick. And you know what happened? They listed one in each category, and they weren’t expensive things AT ALL! They thought long and hard about these things, and it forced them to be selective…evaluate quality over quantity. And to decide on things they’d love over the long run, not just temporarily!
And they are so smart about it…for her read, Bella asked for a subscription to a magazine, and that way she got something to read each month 🙂 Lilly asked for a cookbook so we could make recipes out of it all year. They really are the gifts that keep on giving when you have to be selective about it! And for their ‘wear,’ they’ve only ever asked for a single item, instead of a whole outfit, but they’ll get smarter as they get older I’m sure!
And when Christmas morning came, they had four presents to open…the exact things they asked for! We gave them an expectation, and we met that expectation. That’s basically the holy grail for kids/parenting. Don’t over-complicate it. Don’t assume your kids can’t grasp the concept. Don’t fall for the keeping up with the Joneses. But do you want know our total spent on their four gifts each year?! Less than $150 per kid! They also open stockings, which we don’t make a big deal out of either…just some candy, some stuff from the dollar tree, and a canned good or fruit (my parents used to do this and it’s just stuck with me I guess)?!
Now, I realize it won’t be a science kit, a garmin, a book, and a sweater forever, and that the gifts may get more expensive over the years, but it’s the idea that we aren’t being gluttons, and overspending when there is no need to do so. And if you’re a Christian, you could always go with the angle of “Jesus received three gifts! If that’s good enough for Christ, it’s good enough for you! And LOOK, you’re getting one more than him! Quit complaining!” LOL But really, maybe that’s just my inner monologue speaking.
And even IF yall were feeling sorry for our minis, keep in mind, they aren’t really getting four gifts anyway! By the time we’ve made it to Oma and Opa’s condo, Aunt Keke’s house, opened cards that came from Grandpa Brian, headed to Aunt Jaime’s house, and the parties they may have elsewhere, our kids are more than satisfied with their hauls! And most of the time, kids just want to start playing with the gifts they receive…the more they have to open, the more you delay the playing part!
Speaking of the grandparents, I often get asked the question about “how do I explain to my family members that we don’t want tons of toys?” And I always suggest experience gifts! Explain to extended family that yall would rather have time together than things that collect dust, lose a kid’s interest, or take up room. Have grandma and grandpa buy the yearly membership to the Aviation Museum if you have a plane enthusiast! Or maybe a weekend trip to LEGO LAND and they take care of the hotel room? Perhaps they could buy AMC gift cards and yall could go to the movies a few times on their dime?!
Each time you visit the museum/place throughout the year, text them a pic of the family there and say “this is because of yall!!!” I think grandparents take so much joy in seeing their grandkids “play” with whatever they give them, and they think if they don’t buy them something tangible, how will they remember? But just be good about reminding your kiddos who gave them the experience gifts and send them pics of yall enjoying the time spent together at that place! Or better yet, print the pic, put it in a frame, and give it to them the next birthday or Christmas!
If they are still INSISTENT on toys, please encourage them to build up their grandkids’ libraries and stock them full of books, or something fun/educational if possible, like board games, puzzles, cards, etc.! What’s better to a grandparent, than to think you’ve made your grandchild smarter?! And for the love of God, if all else fails, beg them to not do a toy that makes noise 😉 I’m looking at you HESS trucks (those sirens are OUT OF CONTROL)!
But seriously, last time I posted about the girls and their four gifts, people asked me, “when should I start this?!” And I said, “Now!” If you don’t have kids, but plan to, or you have a baby, start right away. If this is all they know, it’s the norm. And even if other kids tell them how much they got and they question it, stay the course…”this is how our family does it!” No matter your child’s age, it’s never too late to start a new tradition, and this is one I was happy to get on board with 😉 And you can always add in “a surprise from Santa” as the 5th present…one they are totally unaware of that they’re getting! And now that they know the truth about Santa, nothing has changed! LOL! I still sign the tags from the big guy 😉
For those of you who say, “but I go big at Christmas because I don’t buy them ANYTHING throughout the year,” then again #youdoyou 100%. You certainly don’t have to justify yourself to me. But I find that extremely hard to believe that you don’t buy them any clothes throughout the year. Nothing to read whatsoever. Not one single want, even if it’s a set of Pokemon cards for $2.99 in the checkout line?! No need, like a new bike because they’ve outgrown their’s by March?! Let’s get really honest with ourselves. It’s okay (and necessary) to get your kids things throughout the year! My hope is simply to take care of as many in need as we can (over the holidays especially), and the more we reign in what we spend on our kids, the more we can give back to those who truly don’t get anything throughout the season, OR throughout the year.
We also truly believe in spending money on experiences instead of things. We strive to be minimalists as much as we possibly can, and that includes Christmas. I’d rather us spend the money to go to NYC and see the Rockefeller tree, play in Central Park, peruse the store windows, see Santa at Macy’s, go to see the lights in Dyker Heights, visit fire houses and walk the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset (notice all of those things were free ;))…
If you’re feeling deep down that the whole gift situation in your house has gotten out of control, give the four gift rule a shot! That’s all I’m suggesting! And maybe your read is an entire set of books, and your wear is an outfit head to toe, and the want is an iphone, and the need is a new bike?! That’s still an AMAZING haul for a kid, but at least it gives some sort of parameters for you AND them!
This is just a first in a series I’m doing on Christmas and the holiday season! I’ll have lots of info about what to do in town, things to make in the kitchen, ideas on decor, and so much more to celebrate the season, so don’t forget to follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter!
I talked about this idea on Charlotte Today recently, and would love if you’d watch it!
Do you do the four present rule?! If so, what are your thoughts on it?!