What I learned from my kid’s disappointment in a crappy Christmas present



As a rule follower, I shouldn’t be surprised by now when other people don’t play by the rules.

Especially in this case. Gifts for kids are fraught!

The daycare Christmas party had Santa handing out presents to every child, with each parent responsible for buying a gift for $10 or less for their own offspring.

I personally didn’t expect whatever I chose for Spud to even make it back home from daycare – even more reason, in my mind, to keep it simple.

But as it turns out, we had a massive outage at work that morning, and so with nothing to do … I nipped up the road to daycare to attend the Santa visit and witness the gift exchange.

As some kids unwrapped big, cool trucks and whatnot, others (including Spud) quickly got Christmas gift envy. Longing stares and subtle drifts towards the coveted toys started to converge from all directions. Spud even threw his tiny toy on the floor and declared that he didn’t want it.

This was a major trigger for me. We didn’t do presents in my household growing up (Not a money thing.) I still have issues around lack, scarcity, comparison and envy of other people’s stuff.

My first instinct? SCREW IT! NEXT YEAR WE’RE GOING BIG! Forget the budget limit, clearly others totally ignored it!

But I eventually came to see the real lesson here. A life lesson for my kid.

Some people will have more than you. Some people will have less.

It would be silly and futile to bend over backwards to spare him disappointment. That’s not how life works.

I acknowledged that he wanted those other trucks. That maybe the others would share and they could all play together – but ultimately, that would be up to them.

It was a lesson for me, too. To let him feel and express those feelings. To be his teacher and to steer him through the ups and downs of being human. If one thing is for sure, it’s that there will be countless more to come.

Have you ever had to deal with Christmas gift envy?

3 thoughts on “What I learned from my kid’s disappointment in a crappy Christmas present

  • Reply revanche @ a gai shan life December 23, 2020 at 04:06

    Every. Single. Year. (Except this one yay?)

    JB opens gifts with other kids and there are some parents who go way way overboard with the expensive and trendy toys (and not so incidentally, so much plastic and waste), and they cannot help but drift towards the shiny and sparkly and new stuff that’s being flaunted. We’ve had to work through quite a lot of envy and rarely gets easier but we work on making it a life lesson every day of our lives that yes, sometimes we want what other people have and sometimes people want what we have. Sometimes we can deal with that by sharing, sometimes we have to live with knowing people simply have different lives and things than we do. We have different priorities in life and that’s ok.

  • Reply Sarah December 23, 2020 at 10:21

    This post was pretty timely as we had some Sibling Gift Envy at Hanukkah this year. I decided (once I got over being horrified) to use it as a teaching moment- about gratitude, expectations and MANNERS.

  • Reply KentuckyMom January 17, 2021 at 03:21

    When my son was in Montessori school, one of the other children used to bring a new “He-Man” figure in every week.( I know, it has been a few years, LOL). One day in the car, he kept whining about it and I lost it. I said that the young man’s father made ten times the amount of money your father makes. If you don’t like it, ask his mom for a new toy. I know, not the right response to make, but I did not hear about it again. Now that my children are in their thirties, they always talk about what good parents we were. I just hope some of those moments don’t come out in therapy, ha ha.

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