This Christmas I Won’t Compete: The Three Gift Rule

Halloween is long over. I have seen pictures of all of the kids and their loot from trick or treating. Thanksgiving has come and gone. {I wore an elastic waistband, if you’re wondering}. And suddenly it’s Christmas. Facebook has been inundated with pictures of Christmas trees and décor. The radio stations have been playing their nonstop Christmas music, and Hallmark has its endless run of holiday films. And suddenly, the bane of my holiday existence has arrived, all wrapped in paper and tied in a bow. Yes, it’s time for presents. And you know what? This year, I give up. I won’t compete on gifts.

What am I talking about? Honestly, it comes on a number of fronts. Whether it’s grandparents, aunts and uncles, extended family, Santa, or social media, the pressure is there. Whether it’s the pictures of the tree with a zillion presents underneath, or trying to figure out what gifts come from Santa versus what comes from Mom and Dad, the pressure is there. At the end of the day, we’ve all heard the story or experienced it ourselves: you have a great present lined up, and the kid loves the box that the gift was in the most.

Make no mistake. I love gifting. I would love to give the biggest, best present every year. Here’s the rub, that’s a constant escalation. It’s exhausting. It’s compounded by the fact that I have two daughters that are so close in age, one with December birthday. I can’t keep up. And this year, I have decided I won’t.

I was talking to my mom recently about this, wise sage that she is, and she told me a story from when I was little. It was close to Christmas. She had finished wrapping presents at our neighbor’s house, and realized that our gifts were not equal. What wasn’t equal? No clue, but for her, they weren’t equal. This led her to a midnight trip to the local Meijer with my youngest sister, who might have been one-month-old, in tow. I can imagine her in the toy department looking at a doll, trying to figure out if that would make everything “equitable”. Keep in mind, that my sisters and I were all six and under. We would have had no clue. Honestly, we would have seen a sled and been totally distracted. I know what year this was, and Christmas did not stick out to me as being outstanding because my sisters and I all had the same number or value of gifts. 

My mom claims that she also has no idea what she bought that night, but with four kids at home, she remembers that she spent money that didn’t need to be spent on a present that none of us remember.

For the Christmases that I do remember, my mom was Biblical. She saw Kathy Lee Gifford talking about Christmas presents and Kathy Lee said that Jesus got three presents, so her kids got three presents. And you know what? That worked. Sometimes there was a “big” present, like my senior year of high school when I got a prepaid cell phone that was accompanied by socks and jumper cables. Sometimes it was three “regular” things, like Barbies, ice skates, or clothes. My siblings and I knew that we were loved and fortunate regardless.

As a parent, the three gift thing makes sense to me, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas for religious reasons. I happen to, but recognize that it’s no longer a purely Christian holiday – for many, it’s mostly secular. I am going to try to stick to it. It gives me a point of reference and a reason to stop competing. It also prevents us from breaking the bank every year. My girls are also loved and fortunate. If the biggest gift they get isn’t from me, I will survive. We adopt families every year, and I would rather break the bank for them. For now, my girls aren’t going to get presents from their parents and Santa. Just Santa is enough. Eventually, they will figure out who Santa really is. For now, I won’t compete with Santa.

This Christmas, I already know the biggest present they receive won’t be from us, and that’s okay. I actually suggested the “big” present when requested by their grandparents; they happen to love gifting too, and I say, more power to ya. I love seeing the joy on their faces when their grandkids are opening presents on Christmas after we have dinner.

The true joy of Christmas? That she can’t count presents.

I love my kids, but like Meatloaf: I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.  I won’t compete on gifts.

Do you feel the pressure to compete with gifts during the holiday season?


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