I thought about writing this for some time but still unsure how to express my thoughts without sounding like Dr.Phil (who is a pompous fraud). This time of the year I often listen to Johnny Dare’s Hope for the Holidays; he reads letters from people who often through no fault of their own hit the low point in their lives – layoffs, illness, other issues- it doesn’t take much to put many of us in a similar situation. Many people who call are struggling to pay for basic things like heat, electricity, food, phone, transportation.(By the way, in winter utility company is not allowed to disconnect you for non-payment if the temperature is below 35 degrees, the phone company is not allowed to disconnect your landline if you pay for basic services) . Then the listeners call in and donate money, items or services and within few minutes a person or a family in trouble gets a “hand-up”. People who call and donate help a particular someone, it’s not as impersonal as giving money to Salvation Army and the whole process is very emotional for Johnny Dare and his crew, for the listeners, for the donors and especially for the recipient. It’s probably one of the coolest things on the radio.
My problem is when people say “I can’t give my kids Christmas” like it’s some kind of personal and parental failure. I don’t see it the same way. When I was growing up© we didn’t have Christmas or Hanukkah, we had New Year’s Day, but the presents were exchanged just the same. For most people Christmas lost its religious meaning long time ago, and New Year never had it to start with, so it seemed like a good substitute for the atheist Soviet people. We were never broke or poor, but not well-off in any way as demonstrated by our living arrangements. The presents were never extravagant, I don’t even remember what they were, we enjoyed the surprise more than anything else. I think under constant barrage of pre-holiday advertisements people feel like it’s their obligation to outdo and outspend everyone else, and that their kids will somehow be disappointed and hurt if there is anything less than their every wish fulfilled .
I think that your kids are better than that. Little ones will probably be just as happy with a two-dollar toy, all toys end up at the dumpster sooner or later. Older kids will probably understand that it’s not the end of the world. Since I got here I have never been to the point of being evicted or not being able to afford food or heat, however I realize that I am not too far removed from being there. Over the years my kid received many things she wanted, but just as many times I had to say ‘no’ to some unreasonable (from my point of view which is always right) requests. I hope I know her well enough to think that if I am struggling to pay for basic needs, just a hug for Christmas, Hanukkah or New Year would be enough. I am not expecting people to go back to hand-made presents, anything I have ever made with my hands would only add an insult to already sad situation. I am just saying that not being able to buy holiday presents is not the end of the world, neither for the parents, nor for the kids. Your kids get it, even if you think they do not.
Just give them a little more credit and concentrate on getting back out of the hole.
Some related discussion here.