Christmas is such a fun time of year. I look forward to it year after year and Consuela and I try to be intentional about making memories with our kiddos that will hopefully last a life time. This last Christmas season was no exception. We looked at lights, participated in Advent together, went to the living nativity, and more. It was really a banner year!
As most parents do every year, we asked our kids what they wanted for Christmas. They excitedly told us. American Girl dolls, PlayStation games, superhero costumes…and the lists went on and on. Our kids are no different than yours, I’m sure. They love getting presents and the excitement of opening gifts on Christmas morning makes them giddy and often unmanageable.
What I believe is unique for us is that we were able to get all four of our kids EVERYTHING they asked for – and we didn’t go broke. We didn’t break the bank and we didn’t go deep in debt to give our kids every single item on their Christmas list. And, the truth is that this has been the case every Christmas since we first started having children…on a pastor’s salary with Consuela being able to be a stay-at-home-mom.
How did we do it? One word – expectations.
We have been intentionally year after year to right-size our kids’ expectations about both the quantity and cost of their Christmas gifts. For example, they know that they are each getting 3 gifts from us on Christmas. So, the lists that they give us can include no more than 3 things. If they have more than 3 – they know that they need to go to grandparents to ask for the extras.
Also, our kids understand that we are not going to spend hundreds of dollars on them either. So, the gifts that they ask for must be within a certain dollar range. Asking for 3 gifts that each cost $500 will not work in our home. For example, our daughter asked for an American Girl doll this year…and those are not cheap. Knowing the spending limit, Victoria’s only item on her list to us was the American Girl doll. Of course, we ended up getting her other gifts, but she knew that it was possible that that could have been her only gift.
Are our children excited on Christmas day? Every. Single. Year.
Do our children feel like they are missing out? Never.
Do I wish we could buy more for our kids? Yes. Kind of.
But, because we’ve set these expectations with our children, they know exactly what to expect. In fact, it’s so clear to them, that Victoria gave me a great illustration. Since she thought that she was ONLY getting the American Girl doll for Christmas because of how expensive it is, when she came downstairs on Christmas morning and saw three gifts with her name on them, she immediately assumed that she didn’t get the doll. She fully understands the expectations. Of course, she got the doll and some other presents too. But, she would have been ok with not getting it because she knew that she was asking for something big from mommy and daddy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating anyone follow what we’ve done here. But, I am advocating the idea of setting expectations with your kids. If you haven’t done this before, it will take a while to fully implement. When you do, though, it will be a good thing for them, for you, and possibly for your bank account!