Photo by Lisa Jay

The party season is almost upon us.  This year, we’re trying something different in our house.  It’s a moratorium on all presents for the month of November.  When I say presents, I mean everything from a new book, or a water bottle, right down to a lollypop.  Birdy is completely banned from presents.  We’re saying ‘no’ to everything for the whole of ‘no-vember’.  I’m happy to buy her a milkshake when we’re out a café but that’s as far as the generosity extends.

It all started a few weeks ago when I bought Birdy a princess dress from the local $2 shop.  She’d been complaining for a while that she doesn’t have any dress-ups, so on impulse one day, I agreed to buy her a $16 princess dress.  Then when we were driving home she put on a big sulk and asked me to buy her another dress-up because she didn’t ‘like that one so much’.  Well, that went down about as nicely as a sardine smoothie.

I’m pretty sure I lost my voice I lectured her for so long!   After that, my husband and I decided that Birdy needed a break from presents so that she would learn to appreciate them again.  We don’t actually buy her that much stuff, but between all the grandparents and aunties she probably gets a gift of one kind or another nearly every week, even if it’s just a packet of stickers or crayons.  (I’m not complaining!  It’s wonderful that so many people love her and want to show it through gifts.)  But also, all three of us have our birthdays close to Christmas… so from December to January it’s just non-stop presents!  So we thought it would be good to rest up a little before the gift giving marathon kicks off.

So does this mean she no longer asks me for stuff when we’re out shopping?  Oh no, she’s still asking, and I’m still saying ‘no’.  No presents for ‘No-vember’.  I just keep repeating my self-made mantra.  I’m hoping if I keep saying it loudly enough in the shopping centre it might catch on.  Then Birdy will think I’m normal instead of the world’s meanest mum.  Shortly after the Council of Parents (that’s me and hubby) voted on the No-present Resolution, I took Birdy shopping to fill up a Christmas shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.  It was a really interesting experience to buy all those toys and teddys for another child, but not buy anything for Birdy.  The whole afternoon she was saying, “Mum can I have this?  Can I have that?  Oh please, can you just buy one for me too?”  And I had to keep saying, “No we’re buying these for a little girl who won’t get any other presents.  IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU OK!”  Or words to that effect.  It’s almost easy to be mean when you’re doing it for charity.

The other thing we did a few days later was to get on the computer with Birdy and choose a Compassion sponsor child.  It was another opportunity to talk about how we have so much but there are other kids who don’t have any toys and we can do something to help them.  She’s certainly been talking about our sponsored child ever since and keeps asking me about sending her some Christmas presents.   (Actually, I’m pretty sure she thinks our Christmas shoebox will go to our sponsored child… If we ever visit her she’s going to go looking for that teddy.)  So yes, she’s still asking for stuff, (sigh!) but hopefully next time she gets a present, she’ll appreciate it a little bit more.

Of course, one day she’ll realise the best things in life are free.  But in the meantime, there’s only 19 days left in ‘No-vember’.  I just have to hold my ground for a few more weeks.

Do your children appreciate what they’re given?  Do they get too many presents from well-meaning friends and family?  How have you taught them to appreciate what they have?