|The birthday girl! Happy Birthday!|
First off, I wanted to say that I am by no means a parenting expert, and my oldest kid is 6... I can only speak of my experience with my kids...
Ok, so firstly, how did we celebrate Anneliese's birthday?
She is two years old today, and until now, never had a birthday party. To be honest, I see no point in making one. Firstly, a first birthday is not done for the kid- the kid has no idea what a birthday is, what a party is, doesn't expect anything- and it's just a waste of money, in my opinion. The only purpose of that would be for the parents. But the kid doesn't need it.
A second birthday, also the kid has no idea what a birthday is, and that they should expect a party. But even so, since Anneliese's birthday falls out during the holiday season, I thought it would be a perfect way to hit two birds with one stone- get together with family for the holidays, and celebrate her birthday as well. I still wasn't going to make a big party- just some supper and some homemade desserts, but at the last minute, Mike told me that he really wasn't up to hosting a whole bunch of people, and didn't think I should push myself to do so either, so we called people in the morning and canceled. Instead, we just had Grandma come over, sang Anneliese happy birthday, and gave her her presents. She was very happy to see Grandma, and then on top of that, everyone singing her a song, and then getting her a present made it memorable for her. Lee made her a paper crown which made it even more exciting! I honestly don't think she would have enjoyed it any more with more people.
Now speaking of presents...
I have two conflicting thoughts about presents.
Firstly, there is the concept that kids get excited to get presents, just the fact that it is a present makes them excited. And I've noticed that anyhow, no matter what presents they get, they don't always play with them even after they got them- its the initial excitement of receiving it, and then afterward, it wanes away. For this, you don't need expensive toys. Even cheap, dollar store toys work for this purpose... And if it breaks after 3 days, is it really so different than the kid simply forgetting about the toy after 3 days?
At the same time, there are some high quality toys that get a lot of use, not just for the first 3 days. Lego is what comes to mind. So I do feel its worth it to get high quality toys that you know will be used and appreciated by the kid, even after the initial excitement period. We try to get our Lego from a knock off brand, and on sale, and it has been the best investment- Lee plays with Lego for hours at a time, at least a few days a week, and Ike is starting to play more with Lego as well, now that he's getting older.
Some occasions, when money isn't as tight, I, therefore, choose to go with the more quality toys... and on other occasions, when money is tighter, I give the cheap presents that give the momentary excitement and then are forgotten about.
But whatever the case is, I try to not overbuy, try not to give a lot of presents... because when there is more than one present, when there is a pile of presents, the kids don't focus on the present they just got- they just zoom right on to the next present, and the next, without appreciating what they got...
Because of this, I try not to give my kids more than one, maximum two presents in one day, even if they did get a bunch from different people, because I want them to appreciate what they got. We spread out the opening of the presents over a few days...
This year, we didn't have so much to spend on presents, so we stuck to cheaper gifts, however, we also wanted them to be useful. Lee and Ike have really gotten into art lately, always wanting to draw and draw and draw, and using up our paper. I decided to buy them art supplies- got them a stack of their own paper, which they can use as much as they want without having to first ask me if I let, and without my rationing it as I do with the family paper supply, as well as pastels and stamps. This, though it was cheap and from a dollar store type place, has been a type of present that has been well worth the money.
Anneliese's present, though, from us, was a bit of a dud... She LOVES playing dress up, loves changing her clothes a million times a day, loves making things pretty. I bought her a cheap (knock off) Barbie doll set that came with 5 changes of clothes, thinking that Anneliese would have fun dressing and undressing the doll... but all she wanted was for me to put the doll clothes ON HER, and then got mad when the clothes didn't fit... That was a bust.
We also got her a set of blocks, which, fortunately, was more of a success.
Grandma's present to Anneliese was something that was certainly a hit. Anneliese is obsessed with earrings, as long as they're "adult" ones- she takes my pearl earrings, and wants my dangly earrings, which I don't let her have unless its under my supervision for a few minutes here and there.
Grandma bought Anneliese little gold hoops, and Anneliese is in love! Every few minutes she grabs her ears, says "EARRINGS!!!" and then says "Gamma Mommy!" (what she calls my mom) noting who gave them to her... Those earrings will have daily use, and they're something she loves, so definitely not a waste, and definitely very appreciated by us.
We can get away with giving our kids "smaller gifts", and fewer gifts that maybe wouldn't fly in other families. How do we manage this?
First- its expectations and what you get your kids used to. If you always give a million expensive gifts, they come to expect that, and are dissatisfied with anything less. Aka they get spoiled. I have to admit, at some point, I felt we did spoil our kids when it came to presents, that they expected too much.
To fix this, I have what I call a "gift fast". A "sorry, you're only getting things you need now, no presents until further notice, because you're not appreciating what you get enough and I don't feel like spending money on something that won't be appreciated anyhow." As parents, you have to decide how long the "fast" should last, but, in my opinion, it needs to last long enough for the kid to realize that gifts, no matter what they are, should be appreciated and not taken for granted because they weren't "exactly what they wanted".
I've discovered that after such "gift fasts" kids certainly are more appreciative, and have less of the "gimme gimme" attitude that they had before.
Secondly, as parents, we are open with our kids about finances. To an extent. We don't keep our finances an open book, because we don't need our kids to stress out about money, even if we're really struggling at a point. No need for kids to worry!
However, we do tell them certain basics.
As someone with faith, I try to pass that on to my kids, and try to pass on that faith that we will be provided for with everything we need. This isn't just words, but rather what I truly believe, from life experience.
I tell my children that we are provided for, that we have enough money for everything we need, and some of what we want. I add to that, though, that it is our responsibility to spend the money we have wisely, because if we spend the money on things we don't need, we may not have enough money to spend on the things that we need, and we have to prioritize where we spend our money. I tell them that after we spent on the things we need, we can spend the rest on other things, but not before.
On months that are tighter with cash, I do sometimes tell my children that "at this point, thankfully we have enough money for everything we need, but we can't be buying extras for a little bit" and they seem to understand it and accept it without complaints. And when we put in extra work hours to earn extra money, they also understand that we're doing this to have more money so we can hopefully have money for extras and not just for things that we need, and they are willing to accept that, even if it means less time doing fun stuff with parents, Daddy staying out late at work, or Mommy working on the computer extra.
I find transparency with finances is useful in getting the children to accept the realities of fluctuating income and expenses, and to help them be content with less. This year, when they asked why they were getting the presents they did, and not more or bigger things, we told them that those things are expensive, and that we have less to spend on extras now, and it would be a bad idea to get more expensive presents and then not have the money for things we need. They didn't complain a bit about that, and actually understood what I was saying very well, and accepted it without so much as a grumble.
But honestly, one of the biggest ways we get our children to be content with less is by living in the community where we do. If there were people around us who were living richly, and we were "the poor folk", that would be much harder for our kids to handle, with much more pressure to keep up with the Joneses. But, for better or for worse, most people in our community are not well to do financially, and there isn't pressure from my kids' peers to have more and more expensive things...
To have kids truly have such an attitude of being happy with what they have, and not pining away for what they don't, it is important that parents have that attitude as well. You can't expect your kid to be content with less when you are not, and are resentful that you can't have all these things you want. Even if you say nothing to your kids, and keep this feeling inside, kids are intuitive and will pick up that you have this bad attitude. The only way to get kids to really be happy with what they have is for the parents to feel that way and model it to their children. If this doesn't come easily to you... well, then its something that you need to work at, because it can't be faked, and your kids will mimic your attitude...
What do you do to keep your kids happy with less? What are your tips and tricks? How much did you spend on gifts for your kids for the holidays this year?
Are you transparent with your kids at all about your finances? Why or why not?