How big is your child’s wish list to Santa this year? How much are you willing to spend to make those wishes come true? Last week on the UK TV show This Morning, Emma Tapping, 28, from the Isle of Man appeared to defend her excessive spending on her three children. Emma admitted she spent £1,500 ($1,863) on 96 presents for each of her kids and some for her partner, totaling 300 gifts in all.
Viewers immediately took to Twitter to complain.
“Why doesn’t she give some of these presents to charity? To show her children to help others!” commented one person.
Many accused her children of being spoiled, calling the amount of gifts “excessive.” But Emma refused to accept criticism, saying she wasn’t in debt and “we work hard all year round, if that’s what we decide to spend our money on, then so be it.”
This is of course true; everyone is entitled to spend their money on whatever they choose, but I can’t help wondering what kind of message this is sending her kids. With those 300 gifts stacked up, my first question is how can they appreciate anything? I’ve watched my own daughter open gift after gift at her birthday party; she barely had time to stop and focus on one for more than a few seconds before she was unwrapping another. It made her less appreciative and grateful.
My second concern is how do other kids react to her children when they return to school and boast of how much Santa left them? Won’t their enormous haul set them apart from their peers — make others feel inadequate and alienate them from their friends?
When I see things like this, I can’t help but feel the true spirit of Christmas has been lost. It is about greed, materialism, and status and has precious little to do with the Christmas story and wishing goodwill unto all.
In my house, there is a strict rule: one big gift from Santa and then stocking fillers. That is it. The big gift isn’t excessive either — no flashy iPhone or iPad — but around the £100 maximum. We don’t buy the children gifts from ourselves, but instead we tell them we pay Santa — so they know that Santa’s bank does indeed close and he isn’t capable of bringing unlimited goodies.
Personally, I find the endless holiday gift guides, the shops filled with toys from November 1st on, and the focus on materialism utterly repellent. What are we teaching our kids if we shower them with toys — that life is better with more things? That the more we have, the better people we are? That signs of wealth make us stand out for the right reasons?
One mom I know recently confided to me that she was worried because her son wasn’t inviting his friends around, simply because he didn’t have the right game console and he felt “uncool” — at the age of NINE. I don’t remember worrying about what my friends had in comparison to me until I was in my early teens.
Before you ask, I’m not jealous of a mom who spends £1,500 on her children — and in some circles this would be a meager amount. Here in the UK, a short trip around Harrods where you can buy a full-sized toy zebra for $1,000, a Dolce & Gabbana purse for $700, or a Carolina Bucci bracelet for a mere $900 shows there are people willing to spend a lot more than Tapping. I understand that we all love to treat our kids and make sure they have all they need in life — but does that mean they also get everything they want?
It’s very important to me that my kids understand how hard I have to work to afford their school shoes and pay for their sports lessons. I want them to appreciate the value of something and understand what it means to work hard and earn something. I never want them to take things for granted — to assume that things come easily. Christmas may be a huge holiday on the calendar, but by no means is it the end all, be all. In fact, in the next couple of years, I plan to take them volunteering on Christmas day so they can see how fortunate we are to have food on our plates, a roof over our heads, and clothes to wear.
Emma Tapping may buy so many gifts because she wants to make her kids happy, but the lesson that things make you happy is one that doesn’t fly with me. Experiences make me happy — swimming in the ocean in the summer, trick-or-treating on Halloween, making cakes on a spring day, ice skating on a frosty clear night, celebrating milestones with family and friends — this is what fills my heart with joy. Making memories sure beats owning a fancy pair of heels or some top that is only in fashion for a season.
But to each their own. If you too are splurging on a mountain of gifts for your children, perhaps this is how you show love. But I’d ask yourself — can love be bought? Isn’t it time we all said “enough” to all the pressures of Christmas and focused more on what we can do for others rather than what we can give them? My favorite gift of the past few years wasn’t a fancy necklace to wear or an expensive bag; it was given to me by my neighbor: a beautifully wrapped box of homemade meringues. A gift filled with love and utterly unique — isn’t that the true spirit of Christmas?