Decisions Surrounding Gift Purchases for Our Children
When my son was 2 or maybe 3, he and his dad came home one day from running errands with a bright red electric car, perfectly sized for a little boy. They were so excited.
I was furious.
When is it okay to make spontaneous purchases for our kids devoid of spousal input and when is it not? If we could find a foolproof answer to that question, wouldn’t a lot of households run more smoothly? Ours would – and does, now that we’ve discovered our own and learned each others tastes and priorities for our son.
Navigating birthdays and Christmas, to say nothing of ‘occasional surprises’, has been an on-and-off topic of discussion between my husband and me for several years. Thankfully, we seem to be merging with regard to some choices and with others, respectfully communicating with one another before the ‘gift’ is presented. That way each gets a ‘say’ in what our son receives.
These days there is a plethora of toys. Screen-based items have a wide variety of games, apps and accessories, so in that arena the list is endless. What happens if, as in the case of the red car, there is differing parental opinion about what is suitable and what is not?
In our case, I made it clear to my husband – when my son was outside of sight or earshot – that I objected to the purchase of the car for an array of reasons. I won’t go into those reasons now, though readers of this post who have children will imagine with a degree of clarity, just how vehemently I expressed myself at the time (ahem!). Of course I didn’t expect the car to be returned because that would undermine the father’s decision-making and painfully disappoint our son. But herein is the operative word: ‘our’. Whether I agree or not with my husband’s choices or he with mine, the child is a part of both of us and we are, together, stewards of his life and development.
“How good and how pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity” is from Psalm 133. Perhaps more importantly than in any other relationship does this quote apply to couples parenting their children. Nowadays, if my hubby and I happen to have an intense discussion(!) in front of our son, who is now 8, he sings deliberately and loudly. Once he said,
“I don’t mind if you argue; I’m having a nice time anyway.”
Clearly, heated debate between spouses in front of their children lends a degree of stress to the child and is better left to privacy. But surely unity does not just mean ‘not arguing in front of the kids’ but rather living with the same ultimate goals, using complementary strategies, loving and respecting one another for the perspectives, insights and choices we make.
I believe that by discussing the issue surrounding the giving of presents to their children, parents can find common ground, or by taking turns, couples can at least find a way forward together. How can we find unity as parents when our priorities and experiences might be very different from each other? What principles can we apply to decide when and what to buy? What guidelines do we follow to decide how much to spend? To avoid arguments and stress between parents and to avoid the possibility of being bulldozed by a demanding child, finding answers to some of these questions will enable parents to take a stand together and can pre-empt disagreements.
I learned from the car experience, and I know too, that good can come out of anything. At 8 my son still fits in the car and drives extremely well. He even reminds me to signal when I’m changing lanes – on those rare (?) occasions when I’ve forgotten. And my husband has learned too. Last summer, he came home from an outing with a friend and summoned me to the car. In the back seat was an enormous teddy bear (53” to be precise), sitting in our son’s usual spot.
“$37.00,” he said, “And I couldn’t resist it. What do you think?”
“Wonderful,” I said and then we summoned our son.