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My kid is spoiled. And it's evident in his Christmas list. Now that Norrin knows how to write, his list has become longer. His letter to Santa Claus didn't cover his entire never-ending wish list. He's been creating his Christmas list since September. Whenever he sees something he likes — whether in a store or on TV — it gets added to the list. This is the year that he's asked for the most. With days left until Christmas, I haven't made a single purchase (I'm always last minute).
In years past, my husband, Joseph, and I have gone overboard. And yet, on Christmas Eve as we look at the gifts around the tree, we've sometimes wondered if it's enough. We didn't mean to spoil our kid. It's just something that's happened. And I totally know why it did.
Photograph by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez
We grew up poor. Both Joseph and I came from single-income households. We had everything we needed, but very little that we wanted. My mother always taught me to appreciate all that we had. But that first day back to school after Christmas break was always tough. Everyone came in wearing their new clothes and winter coats, bragging about all the gifts they got. I almost always showed up wearing the same old clothes and there wasn't much to brag about.
We are far from rich, but Joseph and I both work. And we love being able to give Norrin the things he asks for especially at Christmas. We love seeing the look of joy on his face as he tears through his gifts. It's our way of reliving our childhood through our son.
He's an only child. The first Christmas we really went nuts was in 2008. Norrin was almost 5 years old and I had had a miscarriage earlier in the year. I had expected to be celebrating the arrival of a new baby that Christmas. I knew with another child, Norrin would have less because our resources would have to stretch for two children instead of one. Without the baby, all of my focus shifted to Norrin. Since Norrin remains an only child, I have no reason to feel guilty about the amount of gifts we give him.
He has autism. When Norrin was diagnosed at 2 years old, our lives were consumed with therapy. Norrin will be 9 next month and goes to a special needs school. Over the last six years, he has received multiple therapies inside and outside of school. There are no after-school sports or activities. On the weekends, there are rarely any playdates or birthday parties. He has a handful of kids he calls friends and none of them live in our immediate neighborhood. And he has little in common with "typical" developing boys his own age. There are some things that I feel like Norrin misses out on, and things that I worry he'll never have or experience. Christmas is a time of year when I don't have to worry about that. He is just like every other kid. I want to spoil him with the things he wants because I know it will make him happy.
I want to give Norrin everything he wants (and needs) but I also want him to appreciate the things he has. I want him to be grateful for every gift, no matter how big or small. This year will be different. There's no way I'm getting everything on his list. No matter how much or how little he gets, it will have to be enough. I've read there are some parents who are cancelling Christmas to teach that lesson. I'm not there quite yet. But seeing Norrin's list and his expectation has made me realize that while I love to spoil him especially during the holidays, I don't want my son to be spoiled. That's the fine line I'm learning to walk.