Holidays with my husband’s family are insane. He is one of seven. He is the baby of the family. He is a twin.
When our daughter was born last year on March 23, 2011, we filled an entire waiting room with people anticipating her arrival. The days that followed her birth were filled with visitors, meals, and lots of gifts.
This is how my husband’s family is they do everything big. Holidays, birthday parties, and everything in between. This is not to say that we do not appreciate our extended family, we do, we just tend to be a bit more reserved and are trying to do things a bit differently.
At Christmas time this year my husband and I decided we would NOT go overboard with our new daughter and asked family members not to get her anything, after all she was only 9 months old. We also have 4 other children between us and they are quite accustomed to getting lots of gifts. They also tend to get spoiled because they come from divorced families.
We want to encourage things to be different with our daughter. The child we share together. We have come to realize that children especially babies, don’t need tons of toys. What they do need is time, attention, and love. After all most kids I know at younger ages prefer the boxes and the wrapping paper, not the stuff inside.
So we sent out our usual email that circulates for family Pollyanna and made mention that along with trying our best to keep it a Made in America Christmas, we would also like to ask that everyone refrain from buying the Little Flower anything. If they could not resist we asked for no battery operated toys of any kind, no plastic toys (unless it’s recycled~there’s a fabulous company that makes toys out of recycled milk containers & they are Made in USA), nothing made outside of the USA, and if at all possible that it be naturally derived and organic.
To most people this is odd. Crazy. Too crunchy, but this is our family and our ideals on how we would like to raise our daughter.
We have been through this with our older children and I have seen first hand what over spending on frivolous things can do to a marriage & the children involved. I wished I had the guts that I do now to be more outspoken about this, but I was young and easily swayed, I over spent and thought my kids needed the latest and greatest videos, toys, and gadgets now almost 14 years later I realize just how wrong I was.
Kids learn to expect things.
I am not saying I never splurge or there aren’t moments when I may buy an item without checking to see where it’s made, but I do my best to buy only what we need and to support American jobs in the process. We are trying to teach our children the same values. We typically leave extra spending for Christmas and Birthdays. We also stick to a very tight budget. If I told you what it was per child, you may be blown away. (Perhaps that will be a blog post for another time) Now that our children are older and we have such a large extended family we have monthly birthday get togethers. This means we celebrate every family member’s birthday for that month. We also started this year with a new idea, we offered our boys the option of an activity of their choice, or a gift. (once again within a budget)
Which leads me to this…
In two weeks Little Flower will turn one years old. My husband and I talked it over and decided NOT to have a first birthday party. We have been there done that with our other kids. We have asked them if they recall the elaborate birthdays they had when they were younger and not one of them can. Heck I can’t even remember. What I do remember is the weeks leading up to the party, agonizing over the theme, menu, entertainment, party favors, waiting on RSVP’s, for a final head count because my family sucks at that, and being terrified I would run out of food. I also remember the stress and finances it took to throw such a party and believe me on my ex-husband’s teacher salary it was tough.
So we decided to just add the Little Flower to the March birthday get-together celebration and call it a day. However, the peanuts in the gallery are talking and rumor has it that certain family members are shocked. We also composed an email and asked that everyone refrain from buying her any gifts. Financially we know things are tight for everyone, and after all she is only a year old. It makes no difference to her whether people buy her something or not. We would rather see the money spent on babies or children who are truly in need or have a donation made to a charity in her name.
I know. You are probably thinking this is just the silliest thing you have ever heard. No birthday party, no gifts, donate money to charity instead?? My husband and I believe our family and our daughter are very blessed. We feel its important to teach her from the start that life is not all about receiving. I saw an episode of Oprah once that touched me deeply. The boy’s parents chose to celebrate his birthday every year by doing some type of service. He learned from the time he was a small boy that his birthday was about giving back to others. I would like my daughter to grow up realizing the same. Children live what they learn. I recall another episode with Bette Midler (and I use this example often) where she was speaking about her daughter and when Oprah asked her about spoiling her and buying her whatever she wanted because, after all Bette could afford it, she answered, “No I do not buy her whatever she wants nor do I spoil her. In fact she only has a few pair of shoes, toys, and other things. How else will she learn to have a favorite anything?” That episode was over 10 years ago and it has stuck with me all this time.
We are trying to do similar things with our children. We teach them about people who are less fortunate. We donate food or our time serving durning Thanksgiving. We adopt a less fortunate family at Christmas and we tell our children it’s about giving more than receiving.