I, Resolve

by Marinka on January 2, 2011

I did it.

We did it.

Unlike in past years, where I felt that our holiday gift-giving was out of control, we really pared down this year and got our children relatively modest gifts.

I did not get my son an X-Box Kinect (and not only because the illiteracy of spelling it Kinect fucking kills me). I didn’t get it for him because I think it’s too expensive and not affordable for us, but more than that, I am annoyed with my kids’ expectations that they will receive the next new thing. As their mother, I am fully aware of my role in forming expectations, so I put my gargantuan foot down and said “it stops now.”

Some of my friends thought that I was sort of a joy-kill (which is probably one step above waging a war on Christmas) because I did not plan a “WOW” gift for my kids. And to be honest, although I was determined to stay within my budget and not get the Kinect, I was worried about that too. Isn’t Christmas supposed to be magical? Especially for my partially-Jewish children who weren’t going to be sold the whole Jesus bill of goods?

But I did it. My kids opened their gifts–my son’s big present was an iHome, from his grandparents, my daughter’s a camera, also from the grandparents– and books, a few games and some baseball gear from us–and they loved it.

We spent hours and days playing Monopoly together, and Boggle and Scrabble.

We laughed so much and there were moments, prolonged moments when I thought that I am living someone else’s life, because I could not believe that my children were so happy even though they did not receive THE MOST WANTED ITEMS on their list.

And yet they were.

So that is my resolution for the new year: I will trust myself and my children more.

I will not buy them crap. I will not buy them stuff because they ask for it, because I think that it will make them happy or because all their friends have it.

I will learn that it is okay for them to want things and not get them.

I will remember that deferred gratification doesn’t break people and I will thank my wise and gorgeous friend Wendi for reminding me that overindulging children is almost as bad neglecting them.

I will break the cycle of retail therapy.

And I will apply it to myself.

I will not buy new clothes. I will not buy things that I do need because who doesn’t love new things? I will not buy purses or shoes (except I will buy sandals this summer, but that’s more of an investment.) And the toughest one for me, I won’t buy a Mac laptop. You know, the one that I really, really wanted. And I’m not getting it even though I made a pact with myself that once I made the money for it blogging, I would. And I did, and I’m still not buying it. Because I, at the age of 43, am learning the difference between “want” and “need.”

I have no idea how long this will last.

I hope, for my children’s sakes, that I make it long enough to make an impression.

Because children deserve that.

(Disclosure: My “no buying” pledge has been inspired by one of my favorite new blog finds, Flourish in Progress. This post has not been sponsored by Xbox Kinect.)

One year ago ...

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January 2, 2011 at 5:00 pm

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

christy January 2, 2011 at 2:10 pm

What a fabulous post Marinka, and what a great decision you’ve made. Even though our oldest is only two years old, we too did not do a wow christmas. Her biggest present was a dress up outfit, but her favorite was definitely chapstick! Ha! She did get more expensive presents from the grandparents, but that’s okay. As soon as we got home from visiting our relatives and the kids were asleep my husband and I went through all our toys and bagged up three bags to donate to goodwill. I love your no new clothes resolution – and would do it too – except I’m shrinking and don’t want my clothes literally falling off me – that wouldn’t be fair to you or anyone else! Ha!

Seriously, I love when you write all serious. 🙂

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Kimberly January 2, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I’ve been trying to buy less/want less and even though it took a little while, I’m actually feeling happier when I DON’T buy something than when I do. I feel good when I find a way to use something I already have in a creative new way. And, it IS wearing off on my kids.

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Marinka January 2, 2011 at 7:44 pm

That’s great that it’s wearing off on your kids. I’m not happy that my kids expect stuff. I’m hoping to re-teach them.

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April
Twitter:
January 2, 2011 at 2:23 pm

That’s awesome! Last night, I was watching Suze Orman, who talked about making the question before purchasing is to try and project, will you be saying, “I wish I hadn’t” or “I’m glad I did.” Like you, I pared down a lot this year, and was SO happy to be able to say I’m glad I did!

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Marinka January 2, 2011 at 7:46 pm

I find it really hard to ask myself those questions when I’m faced with a purchase. Because the adrenaline is running and the answer is always YES, I MUST HAVE IT NOW OTHERWISE WE WILL ALL DIE!

So, knowing this about myself, I know I can’t put myself in this situation. I’m hoping that this “no shopping” commitment will help me. Because I don’t like public humiliation!

Yay for you, paring down!

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Wendi
Twitter:
January 2, 2011 at 2:25 pm

The time you spend with your kids is the best thing you can do & they have amazing parents. Sniff.

WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME FEEL SENTIMENTAL?

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Marinka January 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Thank you. Really. Your making that comment about overindulgence really made something click in that perfectly hairstyled head of mine.

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By Word of Mouth
Twitter:
January 3, 2011 at 8:53 am

Underneath that cynicism, she has a heart of gold 😉
Great post, sure you guys don’t to move down to Boca, could do with a little of that mentality around here and you would bring a little culture with you too!
When you bemoan the lack of certain things here – the response is always ‘but we have the sun!’ – bring on a rainy day!

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tracy
Twitter:
January 2, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Well this was so.not.funny.damn.you…but thank you. I loved every word -as I sit here on my new MacBook that I cannot afford, watching my toddler play on her tiny pink grand piano and my older 2 playing their new Wii games. Visa loves me. They should really send me a card next year.

Happy New Year!
Tracy

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Marinka January 2, 2011 at 7:49 pm

I’ll get my funny back soon!

And hey, someone has to support the economy. Thanks for taking it for the team. You’re a true patriot!

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Gdot January 2, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Thank you!! You’re right. Overindulging is bad parenting.
But Where were you with this 3 weeks ago when you could have saved my credit rating ??!!

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Marinka January 2, 2011 at 7:50 pm

I’m sorry! I’m sure that if you tell the credit report companies that I didn’t alert you timely, they’ll make the necessary adjustments.

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Awesome dude January 2, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Steve and his family will be very upset….these are the people who get children stuff for free.

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Marinka January 2, 2011 at 7:51 pm

I know. (And for everyone else, papa is referring to the family that gets all out stuff once my kids are done with it.)

But I’m sure that Steve will rejoice in my personal growth!

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Halala Mama
Twitter:
January 2, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Marinka – this is a wonderful post. I worried too that my son wouldn’t enjoy his pared down Christmas and I remembered years of being disappointed as a kid because my Christmas was never as big or as grand as others were. Then I remembered two things. He’s TWO and SCREW IT, I’m the mama. 🙂 You’re the mama Marinka and I’m so so glad you had a wonderful holiday with your family.

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Mwa (Lost in Translation) January 2, 2011 at 3:53 pm

I applaud you. I’m kind of going that way (we bought smaller gifts, too) and my Christmas was more fun than last year as well. If I keep it up, I might start to enjoy it.

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Liz @ Peace, Love & Guacamole
Twitter:
January 2, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Really loved this. Our new family word is “deliberate” and we tried hard to apply it to every penny we spent on our Christmas gifts and activities. No last-minute crap or second-guessing of our original list/plans. I think as long as you bring enthusiasm, kids get that overflowing magical moment.

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the mama bird diaries
Twitter:
January 2, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Now I don’t remember you ever describing me as gorgeous and wise. Did i miss that post?

I think you make excellent points. I’m inspired.

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anymommy January 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Inspiring. Damn you. Did I ask to be inspired? I come here for the funny, Marinka. Kidding. I love it; I love simplicity in 2011 and I wish I had a million dollars because I’d send you that mac laptop.

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Holly January 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm

My friends think I’m evil because I never buy my kids stuff. I had a $40 dollar budget for my 2 almost 3 year old and bought a pack of diapers for my 6 month old. Merry Christmas kids! Never bought them a birthday present. They are still young so I doubt they notice but I’m not about to start the spoiling cycle.

Basically I’m saying, GOOD FOR YOU!

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Sheila
Twitter:
January 2, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Great post and great point. I have been at family members houses on Christmases where the kids had to take a nap…because it took too long and they got too tired to open all the gifts…WTF?

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anna see January 2, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Yay! We, too, had a wonderful Christmas and stayed in budget. The kids were thrilled and I pulled myself away from my computer to play board games. Then we called friends and relatives, and the kids found out everything else everyone got, and we all felt…. waaah. The thing is, even if we had bought more, more, more…there is always more. More is not the answer. I hope you’ll keep us filled in on your progress this year!

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annie January 2, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Bravo!! Very well said – hey, I might even take you advice. Happy New Year my friend!

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annie January 2, 2011 at 6:14 pm

uh, youR advice.

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Heather January 2, 2011 at 6:16 pm

I bought my sons gifts back in June (seriously, they were on sale at Target), a light saber and a learning computer both reduced to $7 each. My daughter was a little trickier and I actually feel totally guilty that she did get a wow present but her birthday is the 22nd of December, which I am sure she will hate me for later. So she got a Leapfrog Explorer which was kind of a birthday and Xmas present. My husband and I didn’t buy for each other because there is nothing we NEED! (There are a few things I WANT but I just don’t need). I felt good about my spending this Christmas and I am going to still look for presents throughout the year for my kids, it makes my life easier and it is less burden on the wallet.

Good for you Marinka.

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Anna
Twitter:
January 2, 2011 at 6:58 pm

I try all the time to buy less, and I do think it’s the way to go. Even so, the influx of stuff for my kids is hard to keep up with! If you ever want more inspiration to not buy stuff for your kids, check out the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. They’re info about what over-consumption does to kids is really compelling and inspiring, just like your post!

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K-Line January 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Frankly, I’m amazed (and thrilled for you, of course). I cave every freakin’ year – though, in my defense, there is no Jewishness in this household. It’s full-on, undiluted (faux) Christian Christmas. I’m sure you will find this pathetic, but my version of standing strong was only getting her a DS or an American Girl – she had to choose between the two. Wait – is this starting to sound a bit like I’m the “Sophie’s Choice” bad mother of the season??

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elizabeth-flourish in progress
Twitter:
January 2, 2011 at 7:10 pm

whaddup, marinka, happy new year!

my family staged an intervention and made me get off the computer for a week. it’s like they want me to dislike them.

i come back to find you not buying things. that’s a whole heap of awesomeness and i can’t wait to see what you think about the whole experience. serious applause for holding off on the computer. it’s hard to draw the line between want and need.

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Dana
Twitter:
January 2, 2011 at 7:11 pm

My husband and I stopped buying gifts for each other a few years ago because we don’t NEED anything. Excess gives me hives. We keep gifts simple for the children. They each get a book, new PJs, a DVD and one bigger gift. My favorite ‘big’ gift this year was a steamer trunk (my friend’s parents were getting rid of) filled with costumes bought for $5 each the day after Halloween. We got the costume trunk for my 4 year old daughter but they all played dress up for days after. Kids don’t mind simple if that’s what they’ve always had. I’m pretty sure our children thought what I’m calling simple was incredible extravagance.

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Neil
Twitter:
January 2, 2011 at 7:19 pm

I’m a little surprised by this post because I didn’t visualize you as an over-spender who needed the latest trendy fashion or iPhone, although that tends to go hand in hand with living in Manhattan. But I think you are making a wise move if it is an issue with you. My resolution is in a way the opposite. I tend to NOT buy things unless necessary, and while I’m not promoting living beyond my means, it does mean that I can indulge in Heinz Ketchup rather than buying the store brand, just to save twenty cents.

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Yuliya
Twitter:
January 2, 2011 at 7:33 pm

As you know because you read every single one of my posts and are probably stitching me a quilt made up of my own wise words at this very moment, I too have begun my journey towards being fulfilled with less. I succeeded in getting rid of ten schmatas a day for the month of December…not sure how I’ll proceed in the new year but wanted to cheer you on in your efforts.

“Give me an ‘M’…etc!!!!”

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MommyTime
Twitter:
January 2, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Drooling while window shopping doesn’t count as excess, does it? As long as it’s not followed by an actual purchase of any kind? Because this post is making me feel downright awful about my last post, which is basically a wish list of extravagant clothing. To be sure, the point of that post is that I’m not actually buying any of it. But still…it makes me feel a little dirty to come over here and find you so pure and uncommercial. Seriously.

We pared down this Christmas too — lots of jammies, books and games. Our family played HOURS and HOURS of board games over the last week and had a great time doing so. I’m all in favor of eschewing the “WOW” in favor of the actually enjoyable…

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vodkamom January 2, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Where was WENDI when I needed her???? oh well, next year.

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Ann's Rants
Twitter:
January 2, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Wonderful.

The genuine kind, not the sarcastic kind.

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alexandra
Twitter:
January 2, 2011 at 11:16 pm

OK. I’ve got to go to this blog that filled you with such determination now.

Because the only thing my husband and I argue about is money, and I’m tired of it.

Not as much as he is, though.

Thank you, Marinka.

Peace to you in 2011.

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The Flying Chalupa
Twitter:
January 3, 2011 at 1:38 am

There were the Three Wise Men – and Wendi. Damn, she is so wise.

But good for you for being strong. Kids don’t need jack. My son (granted, he’s two) was done after two presents. DONE. I was embarrassed that I had bought him so much more. So next year? When he’s three? I’m thinking three presents should do it.

Happy New Year!

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Vicki
Twitter:
January 3, 2011 at 8:10 am

*golf clap*

It’s really hard to understand what kids will be impressed by. I got Mr. B’s 9-year-old girly-girl cousin a beautiful version of Alice in Wonderland (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Alices-Adventures-in-Wonderland-and-Other-Stories/Lewis-Carroll/e/9781435122949/?cds2Pid=18569) and was so excited for her to open it. She was most excited about the $10 lava lamp that Mr. B bought for her and carried it around all night. I think the moral here is that kids should get goats instead of gifts.

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Isabel @AlphaMom
Twitter:
January 3, 2011 at 8:46 am

yes, you did!

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Jodi F. January 3, 2011 at 9:05 am

YAY! I’ve been riding the “no buying” train for a while now. Left my husband at the station, unfortunately, but not everyone gets it I guess.

My son wanted a PS3 for Christmas because our PS2 died over a year ago. Did he get it? NO. He got a secondhand PS2 from Craigslist, a pogo stick and a real metal Slinky ( he asked for it because his science teacher used one to demonstrate sine waves). He was perfectly happy and not at all emotionally damaged.

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Lynn MacDonald (All Fooked Up) January 3, 2011 at 10:21 am

I’m with you here. I didn’t get my kids much for Christmas. I try to get things that the whole family can use. I grew up getting “just because we love you” gifts intermittently and that’s what we do with our kids. As a result, they rarely “need” anything at Christmas.

Oh, and i loved, loved, loved meeting you…even though i was way hyper and wouldn’t shut up and you couldn’t get a word in edgewise!

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Marinka January 3, 2011 at 11:51 am

Yes, but those “just because I love you” purchases are what I’m trying to eliminate.

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Katie January 3, 2011 at 10:29 am

I made a similar resolution, in part to save money and in part to avoid buying things we don’t need. Funny enough, I just posted about it last night. I went through an old bank statement from January 2010 and looked at how much money was spent on ‘shopping’ and Starbucks, and the total made me sick! So this year, I’ve resolved to only buy second-hand unless I HAVE to buy new (i.e. toiletries, diapers, underwear), and I think just that decision alone will keep me from impulse purchases!

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dusty earth mother January 3, 2011 at 11:35 am

Fantastic post, Marinka! It feels sooooo good, doesn’t it, to do it simply? So that you can really just enjoy what you HAVE already? I loved this so much. Happy New Year and good luck on not buying the laptop. xxoo

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From Belgium January 3, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I couldn’t agree more!!
Although I do need new clothes, you can also go to work in pregnancy clothes and spit up stained clothes for so long…

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Jenny January 3, 2011 at 12:53 pm

I agree with everything you’ve written here! Good for you! I just wanted to say that “Kinect” is a hybrid of “kinetic” and “connect,” in hopes of quelling your irritation somewhat. Happy New Year!

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Erin@MommyontheSpot January 3, 2011 at 3:59 pm

This is awesome! I agree with everything you talked about in this post. I tried to do this this year. I did . . . OK. I think I can do better.

I love your resolution to trust your instincts more. I am with you on that, for sure!

And Wendi? She is one, wise lady!!

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Loukia January 3, 2011 at 6:38 pm

I will break the cycle of retail therapy, too.


….

Okay, I tried.

It’s too hard for me, IT IS TOO HARD!!!

Seriously, Christmas was NOT about what was under the tree. It was about amazing family moments and new awesome memories. Truly.

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Issa
Twitter:
January 4, 2011 at 4:23 pm

I’m just working on the need/want thing. At thirty.

I’ve decided thought that for this year? Stuff is a want, not a need. Small weekend trips to see friends? A need.

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Erin I'm Gonna Kill Him
Twitter:
January 5, 2011 at 10:43 am

Good for you, you kill joy. No, seriously, you and Wendi are wise, wise women. It is a slippery slope when you start indulging every whim and desire. Plus, the veneer wears off EVERYTHING no matter how cool it was. We did the same though my kids still drool and crap on themselves so that was easier.

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RealMommyChron January 7, 2011 at 9:36 pm

So happy to hear that other parents feel the same!

Our sons’ “WOW!” gifts were a Tag reading system (3-year-old) and a book that makes sounds (8-month-old). Their other gifts were basically more books, puzzles and board games…and lots of socks.

My MIL was ready to videotape it and put it on YouTube along with that kid that yelled at his parents for getting him a book for Christmas.

Guess what? The only thing she videotaped is a nice memory of Christmas 2010, because both kids were ridiculously happy and excited.

Not saying all big gifts are inherently bad or anything, but kids (and the rest of us) don’t always NEED them.

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