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
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
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
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.