Should holiday gifts to our children be the things they want or the things they need? Larry Bernstein wants to know.
Eight presents for eight nights. That’s the way Chanukah works in our house. Each night the drama begins anew. We say some prayers, sing a song, and presents are distributed.
And I hold my breath. Praying that the children will be happy with their gifts.
A friend of mine was holding court recently. The topic was Chanukah presents. Specifically, can clothes be given as presents? Now, there are no holy books with great sages’ views on said topic. So, we are left to our own wits. My initial reaction: “Of course they count.”
However, my friend, whose youngest child is in 11th grade, presented his three children’s arguments. Clothes don’t count. They are a necessity. It is a parent’s obligation to clothe their child.
I think my friend might have a lawyer or two in the bunch.
My boys are young. Their mantra is play, play, play, play. If the day was longer, they would play longer. Therefore, the only presents they want are toys.
And I don’t think their behavior/desires are all that unique.
How many prepubescent teen boys care all that much about their wardrobe? Sure they might enjoy wearing a t-shirt displaying the logo of their favorite sports team or their favorite superhero. However, as long as whatever clothes you put them in (they would never call it an outfit) is temperature appropriate, do they really care?
My boys certainly don’t. They barely have the patience to get dressed. They revolt when they see buttons.
So, then maybe my friend’s son had a point. Maybe, shirts don’t count.
After all, what is the point of a gift?
Don’t we buy gifts to make the receiver happy? Don’t you want the person to enjoy the present? Doesn’t seeing the person happy make the giver happy?
As they say, the pleasure in giving is the response of the receiver. It’s supposed to be a selfless act.
And my boys want toys, toys and more toys.
The other night they got their wish. They each received a Lego set, and they were ecstatic. There was actual whooping. They spent the next couple of hours, till bedtime, working on putting the Lego together.
Let me contrast that with a night from last year’s Chanukah.
My older son received a Lego Ninjago shirt. My younger received a Sponge Bob shirt. My older son, a Lego lover, was crying and kept repeating, “I don’t want a shirt. Why would you give me a shirt? I want toys.” My younger son was in disbelief and ignored the present.
Score one for expressiveness. However, it was not a pleasant night.
Part of me was livid at my son’s reaction.
I remember when I was a child that I did get clothes on Chanukah. All of my friends did. While I didn’t jump and down for the eight pack of tube socks, I didn’t cry and throw a tantrum either. I said thanks and walked away. I don’t think my reaction was all that remarkable.
Is it possible times have simply changed? Kids today have different expectations. They are swept up into the consumer culture at a young age. They are bombarded by commercials and led to believe that their desires are to be satisfied.
Maybe, my wife and I are not doing a good enough job. We strive to inculcate our sons with a sense of gratitude and appreciation. We let them know there are plenty of people who are less fortunate and struggling. We regularly give to charity.
Yet, maybe all that seems distant. There are people who are struggling, and then there’s us. Not that we are wealthy, but we haven’t missed a meal, had our power turned off, nor wondered where we will sleep at night.
In addition to these possibilities, there is the nature of Chanukah giving itself which adds to the drama. A child has to wait 24 hours for their next present—an eternity to a young child. So, each night there is pressure to get the “right” gift.
On the other hand, Christmas gift giving seems less dramatic. The children receive a number of gifts at the same time. So, if they receive a shirt or something similarly practical, the child might be disappointed, but the next present is right there, waiting to be opened.
So, do shirts count? I suppose each family needs to make that decision for themselves. However, one thing that should not be an option is a child should do his or her best to appreciate what he/she is given.
My boys should just be appreciative, or next year one night the gift will be underwear.