As I was driving to the gym the other night I had an interesting conversation with my 5 year old son, Owen. I thought it summarized many of the issues I have with the commercialization of the holidays; the barrage of commercials that make you feel that you are less if you don’t have more, the panic and frenzy at the mall and the retail induced terror that maybe you got something for someone and they won’t like it. Our society has taught us that Christmas and Chanukah gifts are things we should expect every year and deserve them. When socks/underwear are looked down on as too prcatical the door opens to giving junk, just to say we gave something. Kids (and adults) develop lists to tell us,”This is what I want, go get it.” Gifts don’t come from the heart, from thinking, “I love you and thought you might like this” anymore. We are no longer a “It’s the thought that counts” culture, we are a “did you put the gift receipt in the box too?” culture. I am bound and determined that my children know the value and intention of gifts. They must learn that giving is the real gift of the holidays. So my conversation in the car was an opportunity to teach and I thought it was worthy of repeating here:
Owen: I know I will get a Wii for Christmas because we will have the wishing star on top of our tree and I will wish for it.
Dad: Well wishing for something is not the way to get something. People can wish and hope all they want and they expect to get what they want because they really really really want it. But wishes and hoping don’t always work.
Owen: (Silence, probably trying to figure out how he can guarantee the Wii)
Dad: If you really want something, not just for Christmas, you should work for it. hoping and wishing means you don’t really do anything to make it happen. But if you work for something you stand a better chance to get it and you’ll like it better because it means something to you.
Owen: But if I ask Santa……
Dad: Yeah, but even Santa wants to know you worked for it. Remember when Santa asked you what you did to deserve a Wii. You told him how you are teaching Emmett (our little guy) some words and you help clean up Emmett’s toys. That’s work. Santa knows you are doing something to “earn” a gift. Owen stays silent. When you work hard you get what you work toward. I worked my whole life to have a gym of my own and now look, I have Gymfinity. I worked my whole life to find a good friend that I can spend my life with, and I finally found your mom. Because I worked for those things they mean more to me. They have what’s called “value” and I appreciate them more. You get it?
Dad: People sometimes expect to get things just because they want them badly. They don’t want to sacrifice, they don’t want to work for them; they just want them. Then they get mad when they don’t get them. That doesn’t seem right does it? Nobody should expect anything without working for it first. Don’t I always ask you what you did to get something? Like a piece of candy, or a trip to the pool. I say what did you do to deserve that? If you answer with something I think works, we go or we treat ourselves to a candy. Right? But you have to show me that you “value” it. That it was something you thought about, worked for and earned. Right?
Owen: Yeah. But you know I want a Wii right?
OK, he’s 5. We’re working on it.