Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

October 7, 2009

In which I suffer from ‘Present Panic’

Continuing the ‘Seven Deadly Sins of Parenting’, I’m asking you to consider whether, as parents, we have become too greedy?

From the end of October to the end of the year is an extremely busy time at Hot Cross Mum Towers with both boys’ birthdays and Christmas.

During this time, I get endless phone calls from well meaning grandparents and aunts and uncles asking what the boys would like as presents and I panic. When I do think of something they might possibly need, this means that there really isn’t much left for ‘Santa’ to bring which leaves me wracking my brain for ideas again.

For weeks, we seem to have an endless array of friends, relatives and postmen arriving with presents, which although all very lovely and exciting (I’m a sucker for a celebration), inevitably leaves us grown ups feeling a little uncomfortable.

I’m not being bah humbug. Just perhaps a bit bah.

I end up stressing about where everything is going to go (when I say ‘Hot Cross Mum Towers, I am perhaps over-exaggerating ever-so-slightly on the ‘Towers’ analogy!). I try desperately to re-organise and re-house everything so it looks as though we don’t live in an actual toy shop.

I feel bad that some toys are hardly played with and do my level best to rotate them, but of course despite my best intentions this never happens.

We have started to ask the boys to choose one of their older toys to give to charity – which I hope goes some way towards helping them understand that not everyone is as lucky as they are, and perhaps helps them to appreciate what they have. Does it? I don’t know.

So parents, are we raising a nation of Veruca Salts, demanding their golden goose, and getting it? How can we balance the desire to give gifts and the excitement we see in our child, with giving them a sense of appreciation?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.



  1. It's a tough one but i sure don't want no verucca Salt as a daughter! I have the same problem the twins birthday and Fi's are within a day of each other's in November...that's three Birthday's in 2 days a month before Christmas, so i've asked everyone to just buy them clothes instead! My girls take clearing out there toys for charity to the extreame though and refuse to help tidy there toys away unless evry single time i can give them a charity bag to put the toys strewn on the floor away, they end up wanting to give it all away and then moan they have no toys and want and want and want everything they haven't got!!!!!!!!

  2. It's really hard; luckily my boys birthdays are spring and summer so we don't have as much of an issue but they are both quite spoilt with toys. This year when my parents asked about Christmas pressies I said limit to one toy per child and then the boys would love Santa to give them clothes or money for their savings accounts.

    I do plan to get them to choose some toys for charity when Ben is a little older (his concept of sharing is still a little shaky so I think giving to less fortunate would be a hard one to get) the only snag is our local charity shop is really unfriendly, and not pushchair accessible which makes me disinclined to go there.

  3. It's a tricky one, but I'm sure with the recession people are trying to cut back - would you consider a Kris Kindle idea? All names in a hat and people have to but for the name they choose and set a financial limit on the gift?

    Maybe if they also have to choose a gift then begin to appreciate what thoughts went into choosing a gift for them.

    Then again if your birthday just happens to be around christmas I do think it also needs to be recognised.

    My husband's work place also starts to collect toys for charities and hospitals - it's a good idea to recycle old/new gifts.

  4. Big E's 3rd birthday is in November and me and the hubby were just discussing the very same thing an hour ago.

    He already has 100's of toys. I'm a sucker for them. We really need a good clearout but Little E will probably get use out if alot of it even thought it's boys stuff.

    We're gonna sit down tonight and make a list of things he might need but since we're struggling for space in our little house they're gonna have to be compact LOL!

    I think now is probably the time for me to reduce the amount he gets on birthdays and christmas as this is the first one he will really remember. Less will seem normal if you understand?

    Sorry for the waffle, was thinking out loud a bit there.


  5. I've tried buying in a theme several times ie We've bought the Knights Castle & then asked people to buy the Knights etc... It has worked well... (particually with the wooden railway) Have two winter children which doesn't help the toy influx either!


  6. I've been considering asking the family to actually give less. Either they all club together for a big present, or everyone gives small ones. I always chicken out, though, as it's the in-laws who are really into presents. (The Belgians not so much and I like that.)

    Christmas is particularly bad for us, as we have Sinterklaas just before, which is when Belgian kids get their presents, and then the Brits going all-out for New Year. And we have a birthday at the end of November, too.

  7. My daughter has a ridiculous amount of toys. She doesn't actually need any Christmas presents and there is certainly no room for them. I used to buy her presents all the time, sometimes every day because I missed her when she was at school. Then I realised that she wanted my time, not my presents and the novelty value of receiving them disappeared completely. Not she only gets them on special occasions which makes her a lot more grateful. I'm starting to teach her the value of money as well. Giving old/unused toys to charity is a great idea.

  8. I know exactly what you mean - Toddlergirl has a playroom full of toys but barely touches most of them. Yet when I suggested cutting back on presents to MIL and putting money away from them you would have thought I'd become the Grinch...

    Am just going to have to sort through and move them on regularly and hope for the best ... that said I have a thing for books so don't tend to be so good about them (and keep buying them for her ... oops)

  9. YES YES YES! We have way too much stuff and they just ask for more. It doesn't help when friends (age 4) have a Nintendo DS! It's crazy!

    BTW -- have some ideas on the charity book and how to publish...

  10. We try to rotate toys as well, however it doesn't really work for us either. Our children have so many toys I am constantly getting rid of them. The boys actually don't mind getting rid of a few from time to time knowing that they are going to someone that doesn't have any toys.

  11. This is a great topic. I have three boys, all in their early teens. Last year I got so disgusted with all the "wanting" that was going on last year that I made some drastic changes to how I approached the kids presents. I mean, two of the boys would literally calculate in their heads how much "loot" they got last year and then just expected to get the same scale of presents this year. I remember being a kid and thinking that clothes (like socks and shirts) were a wasted present. If it wasn't a toy, I didn't care. What I see in many of the kids today is a basic lack of appreciation.

    So for Christmas last year, I got big montage picture frames (that had about 12-13 places for pics). I chose one picture for each year of my son's life and put them in the montage. It now hangs in our hallway and every day, he gets to see a montage of his life. We all love it. Now I'm working on ones for the other two boys. The only cost was the frame, which was about $20 from Target. It was mostly time and love. To this day, its one of the best gifts I've ever given.

    p.s. I found your blog through the BlogFrog network and wanted to come say hello. So nice to discover your blog! If you ever have any suggestions for how we can improve, please let us know.

    Holly (co-founder TheBlogFrog)

  12. Between my 5 brothers and sisters and myself, there are 8 kids and one on its way. We need to find a solution this year too because it becomes super expensive to buy gifts for everyone.

    It's been a few years that we draw names in a hat for the adults and its been working great. Maybe we'll do the same for the kids.

  13. Fab, fab comments - thank you all for giving this such detailed thought. It would seem we are all in a toy predicament. I completely blame Santa so am considering writing him a strongly worded letter to see what he has to say on the matter.


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