Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A soapbox under the Christmas tree

Jill, you were right. After you told me about what your neice's kids are getting for Christmas, my beak was so tweeked that I laid awake last night thinking about it.

...and thus begins my holiday rant.

While my parents provided a comfortable life for our family, I don't think I was really "spoiled". I heard the word "no" pretty often, and I remember distinctly (even though I was six) being told that there wouldn't be as much under the tree that year for me because we were going to be having a new addition to the family a month after Christmas. I don't remember it bothering me all that much. Something happened to me six years later, however. I don't know where the attitude came from, but when one of his little friends arrived for my brother's sixth birthday party, I remember my mother recoiling in embarrassment when Greg greeted him with "Where's my present??"; at that point, I became very uncomfortable with gift-giving. It has not been easy for me to receive gifts since then, and I stress big-time over giving them. I can't really explain why, other than that little incident with a sugar-charged six-year-old really made me see what greed looks like. (And for the record, he's a pretty okay 28-year-old today!)

We've all known at least one spoiled-brat kid in our lifetime, and I am fairly certain there are enough out there for each of us to know at least one spoiled-rotten adult, too. Not too many months ago I was in the post exchange looking for a blouse for Kelsey and overheard a conversation between two such people. A wife was telling her husband that the Coach bag he picked out for her to get (it was $180, by the way) was just NOT good enough. It was too small, and she was just NOT going to be upstaged by her friend's bigger, more expensive bag. She actually made a point of telling him that she wasn't going to have ANYTHING that was cheaper than what her friends had. I had to take a second glance to see if she was going to flop on the floor in a screaming fit. I feel for the poor guy, he didn't look like he could have been old enough to be any more than a Specialist (E-4), and I know his pay is probably nowhere near what it takes to support that kind of wife-spoilage.

Where does this come from? comes from spoiled KIDS, and those kids come from parents who are afraid to buck the system and limit the 'stuff' their kids get. These people grow up with a sense of entitlement that is unreal--feeling that they "deserve" the best, that they are "worth" splurging on, and oftentimes it's at the expense of other (more important) things. Ridiculous.

Jill told me last night that her neice spent TWELVE HUNDRED DOLLARS on her TWO children. No, these aren't teens who are begging for Wii systems and hundred-dollar shoes and jeans, these kids are four years and three MONTHS old. Does Daddy make a ton of money? Not really, but that's kind of a moot point. HOW do you spend $1200 on two preschoolers???? HOW?? I just can't imagine. It seems that when they took everything out (to inventory the toy store stockage she had amassed in the closet), it took up their entire living room. The four-year-old, when asked what she wants for Christmas, says "Everything". Yikes.

For about two seconds, I almost felt bad trying to figure out if I even spent $350 on all six of our kids. I did, but maybe a couple of dollars over that...not much more, and half of that amount was spent on one child. I am not trying to make all things 'even' for all of them, because in all honesty, life isn't about 'even'. We don't live in a socialist economy (yet....time will tell), and the kids have to learn that not everyone gets the same things all the time. Sometimes one of them has more than another does, and that's okay. But it's also okay to have LESS. Our entire country is hurting right now, and yet Black Friday spending was UP from last year? Why? Are people trying to compensate for daily frugality by over-filling their Christmas lists? Is there some weird need to "prove" that this nationwide financial dry spot isn't affecting us?

Hey, I'll be humble. It STINGS this year. More than in previous years. And not because we've got more kids. It's because everything is more expensive, and the paycheck is going down, not up. But you know, I'm teaching my kids through all of this that life goes on. We can still give--and receiving less is sometimes a blessing, not a sacrifice! I don't know about anyone else, but I want my children to appreciate the luxuries we have...and they can't appreciate it if they are so overindulged that they can't see the difference between 'need' and 'want'. I'm beginning to see that there is real virtue in having less, and having more can be a true curse sometimes.

I almost wish I'd signed my Christmas cards, "Have a simple, blessed Christmas, and may you be given no more than you can handle under the tree this year." If you're so inclined, I found this article on about much the same thing I've blogged about. It's a good read.


Kathleen said...

Kris, so well said!! You preach a mighty good sermon from your Christmas tree soap box! :-)

Luke said...

Wow. $1,200 on preschoolers?

That's crazy.

It's been an interesting journey for my wife and I. Her family grew up "going all out" (in a very controlled/moderate/practical kind of way) and I've always hated spending money. It's been interesting to find a balance between my, "We could get that for $1.50," and her, "It's only $20, and they'd really like it," attitudes.


Sheri said...

That is insane Kris! I cannot believe someone would spend that money for Christmas-esp. on young kids! WOW! Your friend's niece needs to go to Budget Bootcamp! We do not spend a lot on the kids ever. Even if we suddenly became millionaires, I wouldn't go gaga...get the essentials (which we desperately need) and let it be. Very good post! And yes-the chapstick was a doosey...usually we don't swap with eachother cuz there has never been the extra $$ to do so-barely get the kids covered, but hey-I did need it and all...has brought us many a laughs too. As for the Colonel-we didn't salute him (was he even really in the military?) but did pound on him a bit to see what he was made of-conclusion-hard resin plastic. We were a bit slapsticky from having been in the car for hours and hours...
Have a blessed and non-spendy Christmas and I loved your post dear! You always crack me up!

Teri said...

You know - last I checked - soapboxes are still pretty cheap.

Thanks for the great rant. And I agree...

On to spending time with my children baking - which is waaay more fun than gifts!

Qtpies7 said...

No kidding! Crazy! I spent $300 (including almost $40 in shipping) on all 7 kids, in-laws, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews and even a courtship book thrown in.
There are a few other gifts I will be giving, but I earned them doing reviews or made them, with the exception of one gift we hope to buy. Kaytlin has to have a computer for college, it is not optional at her college, so if we get the severance check in time, she will get that, but even with THAT we'll be under $1000.
How does a person DO that? We bought a laptop last year, too, and didn't spend over $1000 on everyone total.

Qtpies7 said...

Oh, and my $300 wasn't actual money, lol. I had Amazon gift cards that I earned from blogging, so it was FREE to my pocket book. does that even count toward what I spend? LOL

Just take joy that SHE has to deal with those kids down the road, not you, lol.

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