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Please Don't Give My Kids an Uneven Number of Gifts

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To all the generous grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors and friends who have thought of my children this holiday season, I thank you from the bottom of my egg-nogged heart for the gifts you went out of your way to get for them. If the next few weeks go as planned, you should get a sincere, handwritten thank-you note before mid-January. Or at least by Valentine’s Day.

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I don’t want to spoil the festive mood, but I have one request. If it’s not too much trouble could you please not give my children an uneven number of gifts? I know you mean well. I know that the one gift for my son, say his Spider-man race car, probably cost as much as the two craft kits you picked out for my daughter, but my kids don’t understand the concept of counting total expenses.

No, they’re counting how many boxes each got.

It’s crude and it’s juvenile and it smacks of entitlement and a shameful lack of gratitude. It’s also exactly what I’ve come to expect from my 3- and 5-year olds, whose sense of fairness, always judged in exact numbers, is currently at an all-time high—just in time for the holiday season.

A hysterical child doesn’t want to hear about relative cost. What he sees is that (his sister) has two boxes and he has one.

Every year we have an epic meltdown when they bring their crack math skills to bear around presents. A hysterical child doesn’t want to hear about relative cost. He doesn’t give a flying fudge that Grandpa spent the same amount of money on him as his sister. What he sees is that she has two boxes and he has one. That’s the end of the story. No amount of cost accounting can assuage the pain of feeling ripped off.

When my daughter is apoplectic that her little brother got a Lego set and a separate box to put them in (that’s two presents for those who are keeping track), she doesn’t appreciate my lectures about gratitude. When I tell her to “focus on her own gifts,” she screams that she is focusing on her own gifts, which is how she knows she got half the amount her brother got. Seriously, I could give her a Tiffany tennis bracelet, but if her brother got two dirty, plastic, half-chewed rubber duckies, I’d still be in the dog house for at least a week. Because one is less than two, Tiffany be damned.

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So they aren’t ready to evolve into a higher state of gratitude. It’s a process. I accept that. Maybe next year they’ll get there. More likely, it will be 2016 or 2017. In the meantime, if you love me at all, please, please count before you give. Keep it even in the way that they understand even: Give them the same amount of presents.

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