A Four-Present Christmas


With no Christmas bonus again this year (it’s been hard times in the oil industry, y’all), a new baby coming, and a wheelchair purchase on the horizon (she grew 7 inches in 18 months), we’re looking at a leaner Christmas than we’re used to having. I spent November in denial, but I also scrimped, saved, and started looking for bargains.

In the past, we’ve had a set dollar amount for each child, one that I tended to blow through every now and again. Last year and this year are different, as I have a tight budget without any flex to it at all. Which is how we got to less than two weeks until Christmas Eve and most of the presents still not bought.

A trip through the playroom upstairs is all the proof I need to see that we really don’t need any more toys around here. We have enough Legos to build a small village and an arsenal of Nerf guns with which to defend it. The toys cover every available surface upstairs, and the only reason I can imagine as to why they might want for something more is because they can’t find the one they already have.

We are drowning in stuff even as I struggle to teach my children about the sin of gluttony, and then along comes Jolly Old Santa Claus to add to the piles of excess.

This year I’ve decided to go about it differently. I’ve completely stolen the Four Gifts idea from so many people that I don’t know who to give the credit to for inventing it, so I’ll just say “thank you for your brilliance unknown blogger,” and hope that’s good enough.

Starting this year, and maybe for the rest of our Christmases from now on, the kids will each get four gifts:

  1. Something they want to own
  2. Something to read
  3. Something to wear
  4. Something to do

It’s been a struggle for children who are used to asking for the stars to start thinking of things a little closer to home. I started to feel guilty, and then decided that was stupid, and made up my mind to be thankful for the opportunity to teach them how to figure out what’s really important to them.

It’s the “Something to do” that’s been the most interesting of the bunch. With teenagers in my house, I expected a list of concert tickets or something fantastic. My 17 year old, who’s learning to drive, asked for a season pass to Six Flags, which usually runs around $150-200. This time of year they’re on sale for $67 and include free parking and a season pass to the huge waterpark nearby. That waterpark is a little chilly now, but come July he’ll be happy to go.

The 15 and 12 year olds (avid Dr Who fans) did a litttle research and found a Comic Con with Dr Who cast members coming later in the year. They also dug up the information that while Ella’s ticket will be full price, because she’s a wheelchair user, the adult who goes with her is free as is the handicapped parking.

My 9 year old asked for movie gift cards because he “didn’t want to have to wait for things to show up at the dollar theater or on TV,” and the two youngest were much more literal and took “something to do” to mean a board game and a puzzle.

The rest of the lists are predictable with the usual Legos, Converse, and Harry Potter books on them. This year I don’t actually mind them knowing that they’ll be in such limited quantities.

As I’m studying, researching, and slowly shopping my way through these lists today, I’m realizing more and more that the overflow of stuff in the house isn’t due to their own gluttony as much as it is to mine on their behalf. It’s not their greed, but my guilt that they might miss out on something wonderful just because there are so many of them.

This whole season is rapidly becoming a lesson in humility and temperance for me, and perhaps that’s what I needed for Christmas most of all.


Photo credit: By Kaz Andrew from Edmonton,Alberta, Canada (Merry Christmas All ! Uploaded by Dolovis) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

About Rebecca Frech

Rebecca Frech is a Catholic author, speaker, CrossFit coach, and the Managing Editor of The Catholic Conspiracy website. She is the author of the best-selling books Teaching in Your Tiara: A Homeschooling Book for the Rest of Us and Can We Be Friends? She is a co-host of the popular podcast The Visitation Project, and is a columnist for The National Catholic Register. She and her husband live just outside Dallas with their eight children, a German Shepherd named Dave, and an ever-multiplying family of dust-bunnies.
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1 Response to A Four-Present Christmas

  1. Viterbo Fangirl says:

    I LOVE the “four things” idea! Absolutely brilliant! <3

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