By Elaine Toney
Jackson Advocate Guest Writer
Oh my goodness! Can you believe that it is almost Christmas already? Time to start planning parties with friends; dinners with family; and my favorite, figuring out what to buy … I mean, suggestions for what Santa should get our loved ones for Christmas. Don’t you just love it?
When I was a young girl, Christmas for my brothers and sisters (there were 13 of us) and me consisted of ONE gift plus a brown paper sack. In that sack was an orange, an apple, and a variety of nuts. There would be hazelnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, silver bells (bougie people call them Hershey’s Kisses), and those awful gummy orange slices. That may not sound like much, but with 12 brothers and sisters, it was rare to be able to have a WHOLE orange or apple by myself. My mother could slice an apple so thin that you could see through it, but she was determined that everyone had an equal share.
When we woke up on Christmas morning, my mother would make us get a bath, get dressed, and then we would have prayer and breakfast. We kids would have to choose and read a scripture surrounding the birth of the baby Jesus. Then, we would take turns going around saying what we were thankful for before we ended with a Christmas hymn. Then, only after this ritual was finished, we opened our gifts. One. At. A. Time. We usually started from the youngest and went to the oldest. At the time, I thought the wait was pure torture! But as I grew older, I realized how wise my mother was. She knew that she and my father were unable to provide a bunch of gifts for all of us, but she used the anticipation of waiting for that one special gift to heighten appreciation for it.
Fast forward to around 2011 when my own daughter was about 8 or 9. She kept telling us that she wanted Santa to bring her the latest battery-powered car for Christmas. I told her that I KNEW for a fact that Santa wasn’t going to bring that car because he had already given her the Barbie corvette the year before AND she had the Jeep and 4 wheeler that her older brother had handed down to her. So, there simply was not enough room in her garage for another vehicle. So, I suggested she focus on something else because that wasn’t happening.
Imagine my dismay when on Christmas morning, I heard sniffles coming from my daughter as she sat on my father-in-law’s lap. I had to wade through a sea of toys literally covering the entire floor to see what was wrong. Mr. Toney said, “She is disappointed that Santa didn’t bring the car that she asked for.” I saw RED!! And it wasn’t Christmas red either. I couldn’t believe that my daughter had just received at least 30 different toys for Christmas and was crying for more. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that she didn’t have that PARTICULAR car she wanted, but my goodness, she had three other ones. And as upset as I was with her, I was even more angry with myself. I had done this – well, her father has to share the blame also. I had created this little monster.
I had gotten caught up in emotional spending for my children. I would buy for them all of the things I wanted when I was a child. Why have four pairs of shoes when you can have 15? Buy so many clothes that they are outgrown with the tags still on them. I let my emotions justify every excessive item that I bought. “I work hard; I deserve this whether I need it or not.” Does that sound familiar?
I had to take responsibility for my daughter not knowing how blessed she was. I had invented the new number – All. “How many did you get?” “All they had.” So, back to my story. I had my husband gather up all of those toys and put them in big black containers in the attic. I told my daughter she could have them back when she (we) learned to appreciate our blessings.
Around March, my sister asked how did my daughter like a particular toy. I said, she doesn’t have that toy. She said, yes she does, I gave it to her for Christmas. (She definitely gets some blame.) That’s when it hit me. I had forgotten the baby’s Christmas toys and they were still in the attic. Oh my goodness! Then this idea came to me. I told my daughter that because she had been so good, she had earned a trip to the treasure box and could pick one toy as a reward. She was so excited! She started doing good things to “earn” a trip to the treasure box. We had created a new game that was pleasing to both of us and she appreciated one toy at a time. Best. Year. Ever!!
I was reminded of what my mother and father had taught me. It is not the items bought that were important, but the hugs, kisses, and the time spent together that makes Christmas so special. Play games together, sing songs, watch Christmas movies, and just love on each other.
I know it is not easy; I struggle every day to control emotional spending. But remember, Christmas is just one day. Don’t sacrifice your financial goals for just one 24 hours. Years from now, your children may not remember the things you bought them, but they will always remember the love you shared. Stop the emotional spending and keep more of your own money in your own pocket.