Why What You Give Your Kids This Christmas Doesn’t Really Matter

Why What's For Christmas Doesn't Matter

Buzz And Woody In The Bin

I know, I know. This isn't what you want to hear, given that you've saved up all year, queued at the crack of dawn outside the only shop that hasn't sold out of Paw Patrol Paw Patroller, or paid over the odds for the most-wanted toys for Christmas 2015.

I realise that when you're busting a gut and working two jobs just to try and make Christmas magical for the kids, the last thing you want to hear is that your efforts don't matter. That's not what I'm saying; of course it matters.

But as the mother of three kids who range in age from 10 to two years old, I can give it to you on very good authority that what your kids will remember 10 years from now isn't necessarily whether they got the LEGO Star Wars Kylo Ren's Command Shuttle the Christmas they turned nine years old, or if you went to extreme lengths to make them one of the lucky ones who woke up to find a rarer-than-hen's-teeth Tomy Bath Foam Cone Factory under the tree.

Yes, that stuff matters. The delight in your child's eyes and the squeals of 'He's been!' on Christmas morning are testament to that.

But the truth is that what they'll remember is the stuff you're more likely to forget. That year there were holes in the hedge at the front door on Christmas Day - which looked suspiciously like the teeth marks left behind by a hungry, impatient reindeer.

And yes, they're bound to recall some of the antics of the Elf On A Shelf, but they're more likely to remember the night you woke them up just to let them watch the snow fall.

What I'm saying is that in tough economic times the pressure to create the perfect Christmas can become all-consuming, making us forget that it's the free things in life that truly touch a child's heart.

"One year I left a trail of chocolate raisins leading from the front door to the living room, and the kids told anyone who would listen that Rudolph had pooed in our house," recalls mother of three, Kerrie. "That tale went down in our family history."

So this festive season, don't let that pressure and the ensuing stress that it can create rob you of the chance to build memories with your kids that don't have to cost a penny - but which endure way past the point where even must-have toys have been forgotten.

Because that day will come, and probably sooner than you think. I hate to break it to you but those items you virtually swam an ocean to lay your hands on this year will one day get quietly consigned to the charity shop pile by the very same kid who will practically implode with happiness on sight of it this coming Christmas morning.

Trust me; it happened in my house last year. Star Wars toys that I painstakingly bid for on eBay several years ago over many months were cast aside this year during our annual tidy up before Christmas. I very nearly cried.

"Really, you don't want this anymore?" I said, my voice quivering in a betrayal of the depth of emotion I felt at the realisation that my boys are indeed growing up all too fast. It leaves me dizzy.

"They're Fisher Price, Mum! That's for babies," said the nine-year old sweetly, at the same time as fixing me with a vaguely pitying look.

I tried not to let it show but my heart was broken. And I'm not alone; one mum I know was rendered speechless when her then-six-year-old added Buzz and Woody to a black bin liner of toys to be donated to charity.

In a scene reminiscent of the Toy Story films, she took to Facebook to canvass for opinion on whether it's ever acceptable to send those guys to... *GASP*... the attic. There was no debate; consensus stated that to do so would practically be a crime of childhood. Said toys were quietly placed back on the shelf where I gather they've remained untouched ever since, and I don't blame the mum for thinking that it would be more bearable if they had been passed on to be enjoyed by someone else.

My point is this: when toys and trinkets of childhood have long been forgotten, what will remain are memories of the seemingly small but significant moments that you choose to share with your kids, which invariably don't cost a thing.

"My eldest son (he's 19) has had the job of putting the star on top of the Christmas tree ever since he was little," agrees my friend Allie. "As he was doing the job this year, he said, 'I still remember when I had to be lifted up to do this.' He's now 6'2" and bigger than the tree!"

So bundle them up at bedtime and take a drive to look at the Christmas lights around your neighbourhood. Don't stick rigidly to the bedtime routine tomorrow night but instead take time to talk to your child about Christmas; what it means to them, how it feels to be a kid full of excitement at this time of year, and what one thing they'd love to receive from you on Christmas Day that money can't buy.

I bet the answers will surprise you. And the only thing more surprising that that is how easy it is to give a little person the gift of joy - without spending a penny - this Christmas.

In our quest to deliver the perfect Christmas for our kids, let's not forget the old cliche: the best present you can give to those you love is always, always your presence.

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