How's It Feel to Want?
by Risa Green
Before we had kids, my husband and I both couldn’t stand the holidays. The fake merriness, the endless holiday parties that took over our weekends and prevented us from seeing movies, the obligatory gift giving. But of course, like just about everything else, having children changed our feelings, and now that my kids are really old enough to get excited about the holidays, it’s become my favorite time of year. Instead of seeing fake merriness all around me, I see genuine happiness. Instead of viewing holiday parties as a chore, now they’re fun, exciting activities that we get to do as a family. And instead of feeling obliged to buy gifts, I look forward to picking them out, especially the ones for my kids. But, like just about everything else having to do with being a parent, there’s a balance involved.
We celebrate Hanukkah, and in our family, our kids get one gift on each of the eight nights. I collect presents throughout the fall – a book here, a game there – and I stow them all in a secret hiding place until the day before Hanukkah starts, when I wrap everything up, put everyone’s names on them, and then pile them up on our pool table. I can’t decide if it’s more fun for them to shake every present and try to guess what it is, or if it’s more fun for me to watch them. And while I love buying things that I know my kids really want, now that they’re getting older, a lot of the things they really want are really expensive, and I don’t know how I feel about giving in to that. It’s not about the money. I’m lucky that I can afford to get my son the big Star Wars Lego set that he’s had his eye on all year, or to get my daughter the karaoke machine that she’s been asking for. The question I struggle with is whether I should get them those things just because they want them, and just because I can. I can’t help but wonder at what point entitlement starts to set in. I can’t help but wonder at what point they stop hoping that they’ll get what they want, and instead just expect to be given it.