This Christmas I am seriously contemplating becoming a proper Scrooge and not giving presents to my children. I know that sounds cruel and unnatural, but I do have good reasons for my tight wad tendencies.
Firstly my sons' birthdays fall in October and February, neatly creating an expensive sandwich around the festive seasons. To be frank after two parties that resulted in a pile of presents that could be used to restock Hamleys, the last thing my children need are yet more plastic gewgaws to discard around the house.
I watched my five-year-old rip paper off his birthday presents and literally chuck them to one side in his haste to move onto the next one. He didn't even look at what most of his friends had given him, it was the mere act of acquisition that drove him and it made me feel a bit queasy.
Had I turned my boy into this spoilt monster who was so hard to impress? I am ashamed to admit I probably have. I have always indulged my sons, probably due to working mother guilt. When I do spend time with them I don't like to say no, and I don't like them to be bored, which had gifted them the jaded palate of the over-indulged.
My oldest son is only seven, and yet for this birthday we were casting around for ideas of what to give him as he already has everything a boy could want. Our house is bursting with games consoles, iPods, DVDs, Lego, action figures – you name it we probably have it.
I canvassed the opinion of my nephew who is only a few months younger, but far more frugally brought up. I asked him what he would suggest as a present for his cousin. To my shame my son already had every single toy he suggested – and he suggested a lot.
The second reason is that because I have four sons, toys are shared between all of them. The concept of ownership doesn't really come into play with our excessive collection of toys. Probably because there is so much to go around they all play happily with each other's toys, so no one feels left out.
This does make me feel proud of their advanced sharing skills, but it convinces me that there is no need to add to the mountain of toys we have built up over the last seven years since my first son was born.
Thirdly, I am not sure I can stomach the sight of a teetering pile of presents threatening to dwarf the Christmas tree again this year. I still remember my first son's first Christmas – the stack of presents was 10 times the size of my tiny baby, and things have only got worse as we have added to our family.
This year I am determined to bring a bit of magic back into Christmas by cutting back on the present frenzy. I don't want the boys to be hyped up by opening huge gifts; I want their presents to be small part of this special family day.
I am not sure I can wean myself off doing stockings. The boys so love finding them at the end of their bed filled with little surprises crackling in shiny paper, the toe swollen with a tangerine and the top spilling out a mesh bag of golden chocolate coins. But this is where I draw the line. Big presents can be confined to birthdays, while at Christmas token gifts can form a tiny part of the day's celebrations.
Whether this new ruling will go down well with the children remains to be seen, but if I can bring a bit more of the joy back into Christmas day by scaling down the presents then I think it will be well worth a bit of moaning from my sons.
What do you think? Has Christmas turned into a manic scrabble to open presents in your homes?
Or do you think that's a big - and essential - part of celebrating Christmas?
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