I am proud to say that when my kids were babies and toddlers, I did not go overboard on Christmas gifts. In fact, I barely bought them anything. We are fortunate to have generous family members who love to dote on them so they had plenty to open. I just did not see the need to go crazy on gifts when they had no idea what was going on. Having patiently waited until my daughter was four and my son two and a half, I felt it was time to do something more than a few token gifts. Sadly, this was the year I learned that little kids mostly do not care about a fancy Christmas gift. It was a painful lesson and I hope some of you can avoid the feelings I had three years ago this week.
This was the year of Thomas the Train for my kids. Mostly my son but my daughter was a huge fan of train tables in general so, we were a train family for sure. My husband and I decided that a train table would be an ideal joint Christmas gift for the two of them that they could play with for years. I mean, they went totally ape for it at Barnes and Noble and their daycare, of course they would be thrilled if they got one of their own!
I trolled the ads for a few weeks to find the best deal (because holy SHIT these things are expensive) and finally, landed upon one at Toys R Us. My husband was at work so I dragged my mother with me to buy it and together, we shoved it into the trunk and brought it to my house. We had no space for it to be assembled before Christmas where the kids wouldn’t see it so we had to leave it in it’s box to be put together after the kids went to sleep on Christmas Eve.
We go to my parents house an hour away for Christmas Eve so we were not home that night until after 10 pm. We are both night owls so we weren’t too worried. We figured we would have it put together by midnight and go to bed. After the kids were in their beds, we cracked open a bottle of wine and got right to work. And mother-of-God, so many parts. Parts, screws, stickers- it was mind-boggling. It was in that moment that we realized we might be in over our heads, but what choice did we have? We pressed on.
I will admit that I dozed on the couch for a bit while my husband did a lot of the work. It involved many tools and screws and it is better for everyone if I don’t help with that sort of thing. By the time “we” finally finished, it was creeping toward 5 am. We lumbered down the hallway and crashed in our bed. Only to be woken by two tiny people at 6 am. Of course.
I was running on adrenaline at this point and grabbed my camera so I could take video of their reaction at the new, giant, toy in our living room. Surely, their little faces would light up and they would start playing immediately, ignoring the other gifts under the tree. I made my husband keep them in our bedroom for a moment while I got my act together and finally, we were ready. They started toddling down the hallway while I had my camera rolling. I was so excited. We got to the living room, I moved aside so they could see, and that’s the moment. The moment I realized we had wasted our time.
They gave it a glance and then asked us if they could have pancakes. They honestly could not have given less of a shit.
My husband is more realistic than I am and was not surprised at their blase reaction. Ever the good, patient, guy, he shrugged his shoulders. Filled the milk sippies and fired up the toaster. I sat glumly on the couch as I was pretty upset. They were four and two- surely they were old enough to understand that this was a great gift and they should be excited! At the time, I thought they were “big” kids and should be happy to get such an awesome present. Looking back, I see now how little they really were. Routine was the center of their world at that point and their little tummies were rumbling. Breakfast was the most important thing to them at that moment and it was not a slight toward us- just the actions of little people used to being fed at pre-appointed times. I was taking it personally, which was ridiculous in retrospect.
They got a bit more excited after they ate and played with the train table for a while. They still weren’t as happy as I assumed they would be and I nursed my wounds on the couch with a mimosa and my new tablet. It was an important parenting lesson learned. Kids might not understand or appreciate a fancy Christmas gift and in getting ready to give them something amazing, you need to be prepared for them to not have the reaction you are hoping for. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy them something big that you think they will love, just adjust your expectations in case they aren’t as thrilled as you dreamed they would be. It is not malicious on their part, they are just being kids.
(Image: Ronnachai Palas/Shutterstock)