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Christmas is nearly upon us and the mania has begun. There’s shopping to do. There are menus to plan. There are cards to write. There are presents to wrap. There are events to go to.
I love Christmas for so many reasons and I’m particularly excited about Christmas this year because it’s my first one as a mum. Having a child though has given me a different perspective of Christmas.
Sam and I have been asked a few times what gifts we’re buying Henry. We have no idea. We haven’t even thought about it. To be honest, we’ve said to each other ‘he’s not even one – do we actually need to buy him anything?’
We’ve also been asked by family what we want them to buy for Henry. Again, we’ve said we have no idea.
The last couple of times I’ve seen my mum, we’ve headed to the shops to do some Christmas shopping. In desperation for gift ideas for Henry, mum suggested that we go to the toy section in various shops. I was avoiding it like the plague but eventually gave in.
The toy sections in every shop were overwhelming. To me, they were walls and walls of expensive, bulky, one-dimensional plastic crap. On top of that, there was what felt like a million other parents and grandparents running around looking possessed, trying to find the perfect gifts for all their young loved ones.
A lot of these other people looked like me – overwhelmed, stressed and a little lost. Perhaps they didn’t know the current trends. Maybe they were budget conscious. Perhaps they were fearful that the child recipient would open the present and say ‘oh’ or ‘that’s not what I wanted!’ or ‘thaaaaaaaanks...’
I felt these emotions because I realised we were mainly looking to buy things just for the sake of it, not because there was an actual need. Sure, there are a few things that I’d like to buy Henry, but as for the stocking fillers, he’s not at loss without them.
Sam and I aren’t against toys. We purchase them and we'll continue to. They help Henry learn. They keep him entertained. They build his imagination and independence. They allow us to play with him on his level. Let’s be honest, they give us break when we need one!
The point is that we don’t want to shower Henry with a million gifts at once simply because it’s Christmas. He doesn’t need or want the overload. Plus, he’s not in a position to appreciate it.
Henry doesn’t need fancy toys that sing to him. We can do that. He doesn’t need fancy books that read aloud to him. We can do that. He doesn’t need a monitor that goes on his foot to measure his oxygen levels. We’re quite capable of checking if he’s breathing or not.
Businesses prey on consumers at Christmas. They know how to get you in the door and keep you there. People spend money to save money - I wouldn't be surprised if people spent over $100 just to qualify for a $1 poop-scented candle that's usually $10. Being a first-time mum and going toy shopping though made me realise how much pressure there is on people to buy kids toys - and lots of them.
I know it’s a cliché that we want to give Henry more presence than presents this Christmas. It’s absolutely true though. There’s nothing a child wants more than quality time with the people they love. While a great toy can make that time extra special, it’s the relationship the child longs for at the end of the day; not the ‘thing’ they played with while interacting.
Every year I lay out my Christmas shopping on the table before wrapping it. I look at what I've purchased for each person and the first thing I always ask myself is ‘did I buy them enough?’...
That’s not the mentality I want to have, especially in relation to my child. It's not the mentality I want him to have either.
This will be Henry's first Christmas. Starting this year, and every year beyond that, Sam and I will be teaching him that the time and energy he devotes to his loved ones is far more important than any material gift he gives them, especially ones that are given just for the sake of it.
I'm married to Sam and I'm a mother to Henry.