Santa has a price limit

1914 Santa Claus in japan

1914 Santa Claus in japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UPDATE: My parents-in-law have saved the day by tracking down a Skylanders Giants game in a store near them. I guess they were checking the stores, just in case, and a new shipment arrived. Plus, they’re giving M a new Nintendo DS 3D. He’ll be very happy when he opens his gifts.

At 11, M is at the age and stage when his Christmas list is short, but everything comes with a big price tag. i recall my youngest niece going through the same phase when she was M’s age, so I wasn’t terribly surprised when he shared his list with me. His absolute must-have is Skylanders Giants for Wii – the started kit runs about $75.00 and then you can buy additional figures for $10 to $15 – an  easy $100 plus. The next item on M’s list is Lego Starwars, but only kits with more than a 1000 pieces. I bought him the Millenium Falcon last year and it was $150, on sale. Finally, M asked for a Wii U, which he told me costs over $300. His dad, who is much more up on game systems than I am (and I’m ok with that), pointed out that the Wii You only comes with one handset, so if you have more than one player, you have to buy a second remote. And of course, new games.

At this point, I suggested to M that he might be pricing himself out of the gift market. He has aunts and uncles and grandparents and they aren’t going to fork out hundreds of dollars on a gift for him. My mother, for example, has 3 other grandchildren and she likes to be as equitable in her gift-giving as possible. My husband and I could afford to spend the $500 – $600 to get everything on M’s list, but I don’t think it’s necessary. For one thing, he doesn’t need another game system – he’s already got a Nintendo DS, an iPod and my husband has a Wii (it might as well be M’s since the only one who really plays it). And call me Scrooge, but I don’t think an 11-year old needs a pile of uber-expensive gifts for Christmas. He can only play with one thing at a time.

After I strongly suggested to M that he was unlikely to find a Wii U under the Christmas tree, he suggested that maybe Santa would bring it for him. M is on the cusp of not believing in Santa but he’s not willing to run the risk of getting less presents – when you’re 11, it’s  all about the loot. At that point, I indicated that I didn’t think that Santa would be bringing him a Wii U I explained that since it is so expensive, if Santa gave one to M, he wouldn’t have enough money for toys for all the other children on his list.

I have no idea if M bought my explanation. He hasn’t mentioned the Wii U recently. Over the last couple of weeks, he’s expanded his list to include some books, Bey Blades and a 1000 piece puzzle of the periodic table.  His dad and I had planned on getting him the Skylanders game, but turns out, it’s sold out across the country. I wonder if Santa gives out I.O.U.’s?


4 responses »

  1. I think this is a difficulty particular to our time and place, Susan, an unfortunate side effect of the hyper-commercialization of Christmas. When our oldest son started school in our economically diverse community, we quickly ran into the problem of explaining to him why a few children always had the latest gadget, and others came to class in the same T-shirt every day. He knew that some families had a lot of extra money whereas many barely got by (we have a busy year-round food bank).

    Christmas was relatively simple: he surmised that parents must have to send Santa money for any gifts! This was such a truthful and understandable interpretation, that we nurtured it, and many of our Holiday traditions fit right in: selecting gift tags on the church Christmas tree (our four boys always wanted to buy for a child their own age); helping to collect food tins for the food bank; and their favorite: the church turkey supper, served all day Christmas Day, free of charge and where all were welcome. The boys, though grown now, still recall those special events.

    We were blessed to be middle class economically, so our boys were permitted to write letters to Santa, but there were two rules: they must ask for two “big” gifts, one of which they would receive (Santa’s choice), and there was a stipulated price limit. The letters were written in October, and once “mailed”, could not be rescinded, so it was taken quite seriously.The “one big gift” had many advantages, including not being overwhelmed by gift wrap litter Christmas morning! All the smaller, practical gifts would be signed “from Nanny”, “from Uncle X”, etc. In our home, Santa was just a sweet old elf who liked to make their dreams come true!

    IMHO, I think it is wonderful that you are guiding M to thoughtfully considering Santa’s responsibilities to other children. I know many are in a hurry to dispense with the whole Santa “myth”, but I loved that period when my boys’ belief was so unconditional. It is a beautiful time in a child’s life! As with my family, I’m sure in yours there are many wonderful traditions, not just receiving gifts, that have at least as much importance in your son’s Christmas experience. That is where he is making the special memories that he will treasure always!

    • Monique – I agree with you, but I also think kids between 10-13 are under pressure to keep up with their peers, plus they don’t always have a sense of what things cost. My son bought his iPod Touch with his own money (allowance, gifts, etc), so when he knows the price of a particular item, like the Wii U, he can identify if it’s expensive or not.

      • I think it’s fantastic when kids save up to buy what they want (or need, and yes, I agree, at they age it’s hard for them to understand/accept when others don’t always have to “wait” for stuff). Saving up seems to be a forgotten concept today… and not just among teens; witness the sad growth of personal debt in most developed countries. My boys all worked part-time jobs from age 15 or younger (including a son who has Asperger’s). Often, by the time they had the required funds for a new toy or game, the fashion had changed. They got the shortcut course on how manufacturers need to create continuously updating markets

        I forgot to say, Susan: from your post’s last paragraph, I’d guess M has read between the lines and realigned his expectations. Which would be awesome, right? Whether or not he “bought your explanation”, it sounds like being on the same page with you is more important to him than the gift itself. That impresses this Mom!

      • Monique – although we only have one child and my husband and I both have good jobs, I’m a big believer in having kids contribute their own money to a big purchase. I think paying for his own iPod helped my son realize that he doesn’t get everything he asks for. As well, having invested his own cash in the iPod, he’s more inclined to take care of it than he might be otherwise. I have been quite surprised at the number of parents I’ve spoken to who have insisted their kids save up for the big gadgets. One of my colleagues told me his 10 year old wanted an iPod mini for Christmas. She’s saved all her birthday/allowance money and her parents are kicking in the final amount so she can have it for Christmas. While it may not be a popular trend in parenting, I think my son and my colleague’s daughter will be much better prepared for “real” life.

        I’m don’t know if M has consciously adjusted his expectations about getting a Wii U. He certainly wouldn’t say no if it suddenly turned up under the tree. As it turns out, his grandparents tracked down the Skylanders Giants and they had already bought him a Nintendo DS 3D. So he’ll have lots of new technology to play with on Christmas day.

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