Parental Present Paranoia

Presents. The only thing that stands between your children and a shit Christmas. And it’s all up to you.

You can talk about baby Jesus all you want, but any parent knows that, to a young child, presents are the true meaning of Christmas. They are what will make this Christmas live or die in your child’s heart and memory. Or so your parental present paranoia tells you.

It’s the last possible day to squeeze in an Amazon Prime before the big day. Feeling comfortable? Sitting pretty on a pile of perfect presents?

Are you sure?

That was me last night, wrapping our little horde of gifts for our three wise men. I thought I’d done so well. The full working week before Christmas had enabled me to get all their presents through the front door with time to wrap them.

All their presents, though? As I surveyed the pile, a little voice started niggling at me:

“Are there enough?”

And then: “Are there too many?”

Judging the fine line between showing your love for your children via the medium of commerce and spoiling them into spoilt brats is a tricky business.

But my parental present paranoia had more to say:

“Have you been fair? Are they big enough? Have I bought the right NERF gun from the massive range of ridiculously similar weapons that all jam and need a thousand batteries anyway?”

Children judge presents by size, not value – there’s no use telling them you spent the same amount to the penny on each of them and have the spreadsheet to prove it. But as they get older, presents they actually want tend to get smaller. I know my oldest is going to kick off about the frankly scarily big stuffed monkey we’ve got his younger brother (£30 from Cosco!) despite his special present being two computer games which cost considerably more but are tiny in comparison.

Children are open books – if you’ve bought the wrong NERF gun, boy, do you know about it. They have not yet mastered the Present Face and their disappointment – and quite possibly anger – will be plain to see. Riling as this is on so many levels – not least invoking the familiar fear that you have not brought up your children properly – I have to say I sympathise. I clearly remember my dear mother giving me a beautiful pink cardigan from Boden and me – may I be struck down! – commenting, as a young teenager!, that “it was the wrong kind of pink”. I’m sure I’m owed 20 years of infant ingratitude for my own sins against parental present-giving.

Children change their minds. In the last few days, as parcels drop through the door every few hours to be whisked away with the words “it’s for me, darling!”, my children have been coming up with all sorts of lovely things they want for Christmas. None of which I have bought. For they are a totally different collection of coveted items to the ones they’ve been talking about ALL YEAR.

What then, is a parent to do?

Panic buy when you’ve already overspent? Donate all their gifts to a children’s hospital to remove the issue?

Or just take a deep breath and hope you’re just being paranoid.

No one knows your children better than you. You will see their little face light up with joy, if only at the selection pack you bought again on Christmas Eve because you keep eating them with the stress of getting it all right.

Whatever you’ve bought your child, I’m sure they will love it, if only in the fulness of time. Meanwhile, I wish you luck, and a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!



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