In Defense of Presents

Growing up it was a constant battle: Which was better—Hanukkah or Christmas? Christmas always wins because, well, it’s CHRISTMAS! The only viable argument any Jewish kid had to defend Hanukkah was that it lasts for eight days—so you got eight presents! (Not such a great argument, as you probably got more than eight gifts under the tree, but alas… We tried.)

Now, as adults, there is a different battle: The war against commercialism. You hear cries of “Put Christ back in Christmas!” And a self-righteous Jewish mother will say “My kids only get one big present for Hanukkah, and they’re satisfied with just lighting the menorah the other 7 nights.”

Whatever. Can we please get over ourselves and enjoy gift-giving? One of my greatest joys as a parent is delighting my child with something they really want. Seeing their face light up and hearing them screech with joy is a blast. So, world, please stop ruining it for me by making me feel guilty because I love to buy them presents! And yes, I buy them presents for every night of Hanukkah. They’re not all expensive, but they’re all something the kids want. Think about it—how often do you get to really wow your kid? Trust me, they are not impressed with your presentation from work, or your contribution to the PTA. But you’re a hero if they unwrap the Wubble Bubble or the Hover Ball. (Both “as seen on TV,” both cost less than $20, both are currently in my Hanukkah hiding place waiting to be wrapped. Don’t judge.)

Look, we don’t shower our children with presents on a regular basis. That’s what makes this time of year so special, and we get to indulge our inner child through their excitement. (The Wubble Bubble and Hover Ball do look pretty cool, and I’m looking forward to playing with them with my kids.)

I know that you know better than to go into debt for silly presents, but I’m willing to bet your kids are easier to manage than you believe. When I told my son he’s not getting a Play Station 4, he said, “Ok, can I get a new baseball glove instead?” YES!

I also trust that you are already teaching them life’s true lessons—that giving is better than receiving, volunteerism, kindness, gratitude, and healing the world. That’s the challenging and rewarding part of parenting, the part that you do all year round. So when it’s holiday time, cut yourself some slack and enjoy.

This year, I’m employing a New Year’s resolution early: No more guilt. I plan to beat myself up less about my many flaws and not being the perfect parent.

So tonight, on the first night of Hanukkah, after prayers are said and candles are lit… It’s present time! I will not feel bad about buying my kids presents (and if I buy too many, they’re getting two on one night! Oh, the materialistic horror!). I will spend more money than I budgeted, but not so much that I can’t pay off my credit card in January. I will enjoy every moment of buying, hiding, wrapping, anticipating, screaming when the presents are opened, and playing with them.

I hope you unwrap less guilt and more presents than you were expecting this holiday season. Happy Everything.

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