My Kids Didn’t Give Me Presents…

I want to start out by saying I’m not complaining. Really. I’m just contemplating the holidays…

For the first time in many years, I took my three kids to Los Angeles to celebrate Hanukkah with my Dad and have a bit of a collective holiday. We had a good time, though the last few days my son G- got sick, which was a drag. Still, visits to the beach, Dana Point and the always terrific San Diego Zoo were definite highlights.

Kids Making Holiday Greeting Cards
My Kids Creating Hanukkah Cards

I admit, though, traveling for the holidays is tricky because gifts then require advance thought and planning, something that I’m good at, but that my kids are not. The result: when we got on the plane I had all their gifts purchased, wrapped and hidden in my suitcase. They had nothing. Nothing for me, nothing for each other, nothing for Papa.

While we were there, I reminded them again and again that Hanukkah was coming up in a few days and that they should start making cards and scheming about presents. I suggested that their #1 priority was Papa since we’d not celebrated Hanukkah with him for years (and since this was his first holiday season without my Mum in the picture), and some sort of presents for each other and something for me, ideally.

The day before Hanukkah we did get to the local Mall and G- and K- managed to find small presents for each other (purchased on the sly, of course). My teen, A-, stayed in the hotel reading rather than go to the Mall. She then came up with a great gift for her brother (an In-N-Out T-shirt) but that was the extent of gifts.

Then they finally started working on their holiday cards. And then spent hours and hours on them. So many hours that we were late for a big family get together and they still needed a few hours the following day too.

But none of them had any presents for Papa, none of them had presents for me, and it was, well, disappointing. I went out and rounded up some gift cards that they each gave Papa, but that was me filling in the hole, not them saying “where does Papa like to eat with his friends?”. I had a present from all of us too, a photo book from Shutterfly, but…

It was a disappointment. I was disappointed to get three nicely made cards plus a bit of a gag gift from my Dad and nothing else. And I was even more disappointed that my kids, even after weeks and weeks of encouragement and discussion, hadn’t pulled off anything for my Dad. My oldest did share with me that she had wanted to make a photo calendar for both me and my Dad (and, presumably, for her Mom too), but on Hanukkah morning she still hadn’t taken even the first step and would need my credit card to order the calendars anyway, so that’s all talk, no action, to be rather blunt.

I realize that they’re kids and that, frankly, kids are more focused on the receive than the give part of gift exchanges, but still, where do we go from here? I’m disappointed in my kids and disappointed in the whole holiday experience this year. They can do better. They can at least think of each other, but, darn it, they should be able to come up with something, anything, for the adults in their lives and not end up wasting half our vacation (or so it seemed) creating these elaborate — beautiful — cards that they could have far more easily drawn weeks earlier.

Thoughts? Advice?

8 comments on “My Kids Didn’t Give Me Presents…

  1. We take our kids out on specific shopping trips for all of the Christmas gifts they’re going to have to get, so we know they’ve got everybody covered.

    While it would be nice to leave them to be responsible for this sort of thing, I haven’t given them the option so far. Mine are 5, 8, 10, and 12 – the oldest is responsible enough, but I am not comfortable leaving it in the hands to manage it with the younger ones, yet.

  2. Relationships are like bank accounts, you just can’t keeping taking without giving or you’ll be in deficit “spending.” Take them to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen and let them see and interact with people who have lost everything. Get them engaged with these people, and not for an hour, more like a day or more. Get them to see the MEANING of gifts to the recipients, especially to those that have nothing or next to nothing and receive a gift.

    Love is the first place to start, gifts are secondary, without love, gifts become meaningless.

  3. When I was a teenager there was a year we didn’t get my mom anything – and it was close to her divorce, so she didn’t get anything either. Our entire life we were used to my dad getting all of the gifts for my mom.

    She let us know how disappointed she was and you’d better believe we always get her something (even when she forgets to get us stuff). Maybe let them know – they’ll probably never make the mistake again.

  4. I just finished my divorce this November and I made sure that my kids got me something to open (OK the oldest didn’t, but he did get stuff for his brothers) by always reminding the kids that what I like best is spending time with them. So, when my 14 yr old didn’t get around to buying anything, he was able to make a nice card christmas eve that was good for 1 day with him of my choosing – he pays:)

    I took the younger with me on an errand to the hw store and hinted about how much I needed some drill bits, nails, etc. He wandered off with the sales rep (and my money) and ‘snuck’ them into the house on his own.

    I just couldn’t have faced having nothing this year, so I was glad that 2 of 3 pulled something off. I was seriously bummed that the oldest didn’t though. Next year for sure.

  5. Sorry for your disappointment, Dave. I know how disheartening and frustrating that can be having been on the receiving end when my ex didn’t help my son get a present for me.

    However, I’d like to remind you that you actually gave your dad the best gift ever….your presence and the presence of his grandchildren! I don’t know any store bought gift that could mean more to him than that. Also, in our society we view cards as an intro to the main gift but grandparents view hand made cards from their grandchildren as the main gift! (and parents too!) How could a store bought gift compare to the love and spirit pouring out of those little masterpieces?!

    If having traditional gifts is important to you (and no reason why is shouldn’t be) may I suggest you take a stronger lead in creating smaller, specific windows of opportunity for your kids to shop? You sound like a pretty organized guy and very thoughtful of others but were you always that way? At your kids ages? I rather doubt it. Your youngest has no concept of time management, your son will be getting his first time planner next year (which will be enthusiastically used for the first month of school and then lost in his desk if he’s like my son) and your eldest has the best chance of grasping this but even then, she hasn’t mastered it by far. (Waldorf encourages and extends being non linear longer so your kids are actually right on track!)

    You have a built in holiday shopping opportunity with the SMWS Winter Faire & Holiday Bazaar; why not make it mandatory that the gifts they make & purchase there be priority family gifts? I make my son do his holiday shopping there first before he can take off with his friends to have fun with the other events.

    If you or they prefer store bought gifts then schedule specific trips to the mall to accomplish this prior to leaving on vacation. Also, create a gift wrapping & card making day, prior to leaving so you can ship everything to your destination or have it packed & ready to go. (A thank you note session after the holidays is also a good idea.) If your kids resist then use whatever age appropriate incentives work with them, playful, less chores, more chores, extra gift, cash! 🙂

    The point being, that if something is really important to you then take a strong lead in making sure you create the opportunity for it to happen in a way that meets them as well. That way everyone is happy.

  6. This post is so disturbing it is incredible. You have three happy, healthy kids that put in the effort to make acards for you and papa. They spent “hours and hours” as you say. You are an adult and you are whining about your three young kids not getting you a gift.
    You need to take a step back and be happy that you have three wonderful children. The fact that you took the time to write a blog post about how you are dissapointed about not getting gifts from your children is border line insane.

    I am a new father. My son is three months old and I will never, ever expect anything from him but his smile and his love. That’s all.

    I am also going to comment on your gym bag post here, because I don’t feel like spending one more second on your blog. The fact that you could not take 1/2 hour out of your day to drop off her bag says a lot. The fact that you blog about that as if you were somehow the victim says everything.

    You need to do some soul searching.

    • Wow, Frank, thanks for your opinion. You and I see things differently, and while I can appreciate your perspective, can I suggest that fifteen years of parenting lets me have a different view and a different set of expectations than your three months of parenting a newborn who can’t even talk, let alone understand the importance of *giving* rather than just *receiving*. To me, as I said, the importance of the holidays is learning how to be appreciative, how to have gratitude, how to give from your heart.

      We don’t have to agree here, Frank. But if you’re telling me to do some soul searching, you might want to think about the reality of children learning that they aren’t the center of the universe but are cogs in the machine of life, just as we all are, and that they need to give, and learn to overcome the challenges of their life journey, not just have everything given to them on a silver platter by fanatically devoted parents who sacrifice their own lives running around town to make their children’s lives as easy as possible, to buy them expensive presents but are happy with a “smile” from the child.

      And here’s the great thing about parenting: you do it your way, I’ll do it mine, and somehow, miraculously, I predict both our kids will turn out just fine…

  7. This is a tough issue. I agree with Katerina that the best gift is sharing your time with your Papa, but something small and thoughtful to share with others is a good tradition if for no other reason than to get the focus toward giving/sharing and not just receiving. Being a single parent too, I take craft stuff out each weekend after Thanksgiving and everyone makes something for someone else. I am very direct in what I want from each child ( I would like a painted mug, a lego creation, a framed photo or art pic) etc). I make sure they have the supplies to create all items. Sometimes I have us do a group project like wood burning or ceramics or scrapbooking or other so they will know how to get started. It So my advice is be specific and take the lead (making homemade stuff with them). Or if homemade is not your tradition have them set aside a portion of their allowance each week all year, then take this money they saved to buy small gifts for others. Good luck. It’s not easy, but I’m sure they will grow to be loving giving adults if only because you are aware, and obviously care.

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