Ahhh, Christmas: the most wonderful time of year. It’s a season of love, family, joy and peace; carols playing on the radio and twinkling lights aglow on house after house down the street. There’s fresh snow on the ground and magic in the air. Oh, and parents killing each other at the mall because there are only two LOL dolls left on the shelf.
That part is less magical.
Each and every year there is at least one “must-have” children’s toy that countless parents fall over themselves to buy for their kids. One recent year, it was the Hatchimal and another time it was Furreal Friends. Back in my day, it was the original Baby Alive and that Teddy Ruxpin robot that read you stories when your parents didn’t feel like it. This year, I don’t even know for sure what the “it” toy is...and truly, I don’t care.
Don’t get me wrong: I love the holidays and I spend a ton of time finding the perfect gift for each of my kids to open from Santa on Christmas morning (and then I find an even better gift to give them from ME, because honestly, moms deserve some of the credit). I love seeing their faces light up when they open their stockings or rip into a carefully-wrapped package. What I don’t care about is ticking some mega popular, often mega-priced item off a list because every other kid at school is going to have one. It’s the same old, “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you?” argument that our parents made in the 90s...except decidedly less morbid and this time, about toys.
I know my kids - I know what they like, how they play and what they really care about. I can tell the difference between a heartfelt request and a popular one, and I’m more than happy to leverage the distinction. If they really, truly want that Hatchimal or Pomsie, it’s not like I’m going to ban it from my house. (I’m not a monster - just a bit critical of their wish lists.) I’ll go to the store and if it’s there, I’ll happily buy them one for Christmas. What I won’t do is turn my life upside down trying to find one when they’re sold out online and in stores. My willingness has a clear line, and my kids know it.
I’m not going to line up outside a toy store at 6am to get my hands on a fad item that my kids are going to play with for maybe two days, and I’m definitely not paying marked-up resale prices. Essentially, I’ll buy them that hot toy if they really want it, it’s within budget AND it’s reasonably available - and so far, that’s never happened.
That may make me sound like a jerk, but trust me - my kids have literally never been disappointed in Christmas Day. Their Christmas mornings are just as wonderful as the family that spent $50 on a Fingerling bought off some greedy re-seller dad on Facebook. Everyone in my house is happy, and no one is looking for that “missing” item under the tree - they’re too busy playing with what they did get while stuffing their faces with treats from their stocking.
I make a point to manage my kids expectations. Last year, they both wanted Fingerlings - a crazy-popular fad item. Their friends kept bringing them to school and they REALLY loved playing with them at recess, especially the purple ones. We heard about them day after day, particularly as the holidays approached, and they were genuinely into them. I checked the price and said sure, that’s a cool idea - put it on your wishlist.
Then I realized that Fingerlings were selling out in minutes and then re-selling on Facebook groups for double the price. In that moment, I was done. There would be no Fingerlings under the tree. Sorry, kids.
I told them that Fingerlings were selling out everywhere because every kid on earth wanted one. I said I had found other awesome gifts and Santa had great ideas of his own. Then I mentioned that there would be plenty of Fingerlings in stores after Christmas, when buying slows down. “If you REALLY want one, why don’t you plan on using your Christmas money from Grandma to buy one sometime after Christmas?” I suggested cheerfully. “There will be a lot more to choose from and you’re only going to wait a little while longer.” My kids barely blinked. “Yay, we can pick our own after Christmas!” Then they were off, and our Fingerling-free Christmas was great. They did end up buying them a month or two later, when they had finally narrowed down the perfect colour and style, but they weren’t given much thought on Christmas Day.
The bottom line is that presents are great, but they aren’t what Christmas is all about. Our family focuses on being together and yes, on giving each other gifts, but not in a way that stresses each other out. When I see a mom pleading for a Hatchimal because “My kid’s Christmas will be totally ruined if I don’t find one,” my heart breaks for her. “CHRISTMAS WILL BE AWESOME!” I want to yell. “SCREW THAT HATCHIMAL STRESS - JUST FIND SOMETHING ELSE!”
Everyone does the holidays differently and I’m not here to judge moms who do the 6am lineup thing, especially if it makes her happy. That said, please let my alternative approach be a simple reminder: toys don’t make Christmas magical - people do. Christmas can be amazing no matter what’s under the tree. Don’t let mom guilt or peer pressure rule your shopping list - just do the best you can, hype it up and never apologize for what DOESN’T happen on Christmas morning. You don’t have to kill yourself obtaining the right coloured Pomsie to be a great mom - you already are. I know it, your kids know it, and hey...Santa probably knows it, too.