We Cancel Christmas Presents

I’m a single mother. I have very little money — sometimes it’s a struggle just to pay the rent. Last year, my parents were going to be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in New York, and our whole family was going to gather. The celebration was scheduled for January, and I really wanted to be there with my two children (they were 10 and 12).

There was no way we were going to be able to pay for tickets to New York and have Christmas gifts too. No way. I’ve done a lot of thinking and working through my feelings about my parenting and about our financial situation in Listening Partnerships over the years, and I’ve been able to stop feeling like I’m a bad Mom if I don’t have extra money. I am a good mother!

So I sat down with my children, and told them about the gathering and who we would see there. I was excited about the trip, and I conveyed that to them. And I told them, with enthusiasm, that we were going, but it meant that we weren’t going to have presents at Christmas. We could give each other one gift each. It could cost no more than $5. That would be our rule.

They were totally fine with this. I couldn’t believe it. And guess what! This was the very best Christmas we have ever had. I wasn’t running around like crazy beforehand. After years of stressing about Christmas, this one was a relief! A big relief! I wasn’t stressing about money. I wasn’t feeling bad about the things I couldn’t afford for them. On Christmas Day, we opened our gifts — they were so thoughtful with what they got me and each other — and then we relaxed. We went to the park, played, and had a nice little dinner together. It was the best day! My kids were absolutely fine about it — not one complaint.

And we had a great time in New York!

– a mom in Berkeley, CA

6 thoughts on “We Cancel Christmas Presents

  1. Sounds wonderful! Not only in theory, but also because I’ve recently asked my parents to help out sending my son up to NYC for a couple days with me after my conference there. No way, but I know there will be lots of pretty packaging for him to open under the tree.

  2. Love this. This is how we are this year. No special plans but with everything going up there is no extra. I have 4 kids 17, 7, 5, and 2 . Just not sure how to do any of this anymore. I don’t even want to decorate.

  3. It’s nice to be engaged in something positive, hopeful and creative. There are so many crafts that can be done for little or no money that would allow for quality time together. So if your budget allows *any* excess whatsoever, consider activities such as crafting salt dough ornaments, stringing popcorn or cranberry garlands, drying lemon slices on the radiator, making “stained glass” window decorations by ironing grated crayons between sheets of wax paper, putting glitter glue on pine cones, cutting out paper dolls and decorating them with scraps of fabric, or making a treat for the birds outside. (No PB, though, as it gets stuck in their little throats!)
    Good luck!

  4. Top Parenting Posts of 2011 | Super-protective Factor

  5. For those in the San Francisco Bay Area, don’t forget about SCRAP! It is an enormous warehouse in the Bayview district of S.F., and it contains wonderful materials to make your own artwork or gifts. All the materials: paper, bottles, fabric, yarn, buttons, and on and on are donated by individuals and companies. Some are free and all the rest is for sale for very little. My company just did a volunteer afternoon there — we folded and sorted fabric, and made kits for teachers who might want to make puppets with their students. http://www.scrap-sf.org

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