Last week I got a full catalog in the mail from Target. It was several pages of Easter baskets filled with fancy new toys, and not just the usual summer pool gear and bubbles, but representatives from every major toy trend. I was rather put off by this (successful!) attempt by retailers to turn Easter into another Christmas, complete with keep up with the Jones’ levels of overindulgence for the kiddies, and Santa-level whining and begging for parents. The only reason I held on to the thing was the row of good coupons in the center. My mistake.
I completely put it out of my mind until my children found it. They had meticulously circled and cataloged every item that they wanted to find in their Easter basket, clipped the relevant coupons, and were prepared to stage a full out gimme attack on their parents. I wasn’t buying it, literally or figuratively.
Now, I am a bit nutty when it comes to holidays. I thoroughly enjoy spoiling my children, and their Easter baskets have always held surprises beyond a chocolate bunny and a few eggs. This began in an attempt to not sugar them up with loads of candy, and was a fairly good solution. Last year I happened to over-fill the baskets. I had just had an Usborne party, so each kid had a few books. Plus all the Toy Stories and the Frog Princess were coming out, and I had amazon gift cards collecting dust, so I bought the Blu-rays and stuffed them in there too. Then, of course, I fell prey to the well-marketed pre-stuffed eggs with exclusive Littlest Pet Shop Toys and mini Lego sets that lined the Easter aisles (note multiple aisles) at Target. Add in the usual candy and eggs. . .and even before I hid these for the kids I realized I had gone way over-board.
A smart mother would have pulled out some of the books and the movies, and just had them appear as needed over the next few months without attaching them to a holiday. I wasn’t very smart that day, and so I thought, “eh, it will just be an Easter to remember.” And yes, they have remembered! They remembered so well that they now think all baskets will be that over-flowing! The memory of that Easter has completely blocked all other normal Easters from their memories and upped every expectation so that they were now registering a Christmas Toyland where a basket and a few eggs once were.
Now, last Easter I did spend a considerable amount of time teaching my children about why we celebrate Easter. The bunny isn’t the big deal; Christ is. I bought several new books to help my kids get a clear vision of what happened, and we had four weeks worth of family lessons on the Savior. They all went very well. Ask my kids. They know what Easter is all about. This lesson learned is just as clear as the lesson I inadvertently taught when I over-filled those baskets.
We cut back on Christmas this year, not for financial reasons, but because I just don’t think they need all that stuff. They don’t need the lessons the stuff teaches, and they don’t need stuff trumping things of actual importance. They don’t need clutter beyond their ability to deal with it. And they really don’t need so much excess that a Christmas list becomes essentially an entitlement for an ingrate. Even with our efforts, they were still plenty spoiled, and Chris and I have determined to cut back even more next year. We are doing our Christmas shopping in a totally different way, and I’m excited for these changes.
I think the trend of entitlement and greed is here to stay, and I think that parents are going to need to be a lot more vigilant in helping their children keep a wise perspective. Children are going to need a lot more opportunities to work and earn, and opportunities to make due and find satisfaction anyway. It isn’t an easy thing to do, especially in a competitive society where every media campaign and every bit of school lunch chatter is focused on having more, and always equating ‘haves’ as winners and ‘have nots’ as losers. We need to teach them that having things through honest hard work has value, and is a very real reality. They need to understand this concept well enough to develop gratitude.
So what is your plan? What ideas for keeping the gimmies under control and the gratitude levels rising can you share with us? I’d love to hear!]]>