The Politics of Presents.

So I’m at Target today doing a little Santa shopping for my four-year-old, Elby (luckily she’s not one of those super advanced four-year-olds you hear people brag about who can already read – otherwise I couldn’t even write this column) when it occurred to me that –horrors-I would have to buy gifts from Santa for my one-year-old twins as well. I hadn’t actually accounted for that because, after all, they’re ONE and don’t need or understand the concept of presents. But as I was grabbing a few things from Elby’s letter to Santa–a recorder, a book where you find the Disney fairy, a dream catcher (which, even though I found one at Barnes and Noble, I put back because, come on, it’s not the sixties and we don’t live on an Indian reservation) I pictured her waking up Christmas morning, finding her presents and then wondering why Santa didn’t bring the babies anything. “Were they bad this year?” she might wonder. “Am I more special?” “Do mommy and daddy love me more?” And the answer to all of those questions is of course, sort of. But that would require way too much explaining. Preschoolers have an innate sense of fairness. They are acutely aware of another child getting something they didn’t get as well as if they are favored over another child.  So, I realized, I’m screwed. I now have three kids to buy for and we’re on a budget.


After coming home and enjoying a little post shopping egg nog (made with low-fat egg nog mix), I calmed down quite a bit. I realized that with a couple of years behind me in the kid gift giving biz, I have a bit of knowledge. And as you know, knowledge is power. Not only that, but knowledge can prevent too much crying which is always a time and sanity saver. There are politics involved in gift giving and the best thing you can do is have a plan and then follow it no matter how many things you see that would be “just perfect!” for your adorable angel.

Here are a few rules I am following that can help you get through most gift giving that involves the under preschool set:


1. At least for my daughter (and no, she’s not spoiled –she’s four) quantity over quality is best for both of us. If presented with a choice between a $45 dollar magic wand from a cool kid’s boutique that specializes in a one of a kind wand which is an artistic treasure certain to “enchant any child’s imagination” or five shitty magic wands from the 99 Cents store –I’m going to happily save over 40 bucks.  Plus, either way, the thing is going to have lost its newness after a few days anyway and land in a toy chest never to be seen again. Or at least until it’s discovered by another child who wants to play with it at which point it will suddenly be “My special wand!”


Good advice. My daughter is only two so this Christmas wasn't that big of a deal to her. While she was facinated with the tree the presents were secondary.But I can already tell next Christmas will be different. My husband and I will have to make an effort! Damn.



I will say that once the kids are 6 or 7, if you are hosting a birthday party at home, you can kill a good half hour just on opening presents and they are ALL quiet and absorbed in it. After stupidly doing a big "invite all the classmates and parents" party for our oldest when she was 4, we have the home party down to a science. 2 games, hot dogs, cake, presents, kick them out....well, it's better if you wait for their parents to get there before you do that.



This was a great column - spot on. Last year, my mother-in-law bought a (probably quite expensive) set of real cooking tools for our daughter who had just turned 4, and had gotten a new baby brother just a few days before as well. My daughter hated the set - didn't understand it, didn't want it, and was totally rude about it. There wasn't much I could do in my three-day-post-birth haze, but my mother-in-law was terribly offended, and lashed out at me because of it. It was a total disaster. Fortunately, my daughter and my mother-in-law both came around, and we now regularly use the kitchen tools. But it made me feel just awful at the time. This year, my mother-in-law asked for some advice before going shopping, and hopefully we won't have a repeat episode. And at least her first few Hanukkah gifts have been well-received!