Stomach flus, ear infections and fevers are rites of passage all kids must endure at some point in their lives. I wish that there was a vaccination for the terrible case of the gimmees my dear children have come down with. Tell me if this sounds familiar, whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or all three: your kid gets loaded up with massive amounts of presents. We are talking just sheer exorbitance from grandparents, cousins, and relatives near and far. Pretty soon said child is used to getting something new each and every day. Suddenly it doesn’t feel so special anymore. And that, my friends, is where the gimmees lay dormant and then come out to pounce on unsuspecting parents everywhere. Very few children have an off button (in fact, I can’t find a single one on any of my three boys) and the holiday season is all about ON, ON, ON.
“One more cookie?” Sure thing, it’s Christmas. “Can I open another present?” Why not, that’s why they are there. And so it goes. Until, suddenly, you are staring back at a red eyed, whipped creamed mouth, gimmee monster. This monster just wants MORE, MORE, MORE. And nothing that you do will be enough. In this season of excess, the gimmee monster will not be satisfied with what he has. Not when there is so much more to be consumed.
What’s a weary eyed parent to do? Especially one that has had to entertain three children for a three week “break” that feels like five hundred centuries? There are a few things that I’ve learned from experience and they seem to be working. Every year, the monster rears its ugly head for shorter and shorter periods. Soon, I envision life without gimmee monsters. But we’re not there yet.
1. Before the holidays or your children’s birthdays, always have them clean out their toy chests. There are probably near perfect condition toys that your child has lost interest in. It’s time to pass them on to someone else. There is a transitional housing shelter nearby that I bring the toys to. I bring my kids with me so that they understand what happens. I also make sure to buy something new and special for my child to donate to the shelter. It feels more magical that way. It’s not just the unwanted that gets regifted.
2. Allow your child to open only one new present a night. This gives your child the ability to really focus on what has been given and not getting overwhelmed by excess. Same goes for candied apples: one a night is a fairly good rule. What’s great about this is that there will be things your child will be less interested in. I’ve been successful giving my kids the option of trading a gift for a book that I know that they will dig. I then keep the present in my special regifting closet should the opportunity arise. Heck, it’s upcycling.
3. Talk about what and who you are thankful for every single night. This gives your child the opportunity to think about his day and to realize how truly fortunate he is. I also try to share something that I’ve done that has made me particularly proud. It’s a sweet moment. Once I said: “Remember today when I helped the man with the cane cross the street and then I tied his shoes?” It’s a chance for us to talk about the importance of being aware of the people around us.
4. Call out the gimmee monster and stop him in his tracks. Whenever I hear a lot of “I want this, I need this, I have to have this,” I quickly tell the boys that the gimmee monsters have arrived and it’s time for them to leave. It’s usually a good conversation starter, but it’s also a way to stop the selfishness straight up. We talk about things we really truly need to survive, and how much we have to be thankful for…which is a lot.
5. When it comes to money that has been gifted, I have my children take out a few dollars for charity and put the rest in their bank accounts to save up for something really cool. They always prefer hiding it under their beds, but we’ve talked about how rad it is that banks help us grow our money. It’s a win win.