The Ghosts of Christmas Presents

Parents love to give gifts to their kids at Christmas. Each Christmas season we spend a lot of time and money selecting gifts that will make our children happy. While there is a  lot of joy in all this parental gift-giving, there is an element of it that makes me quite frustrated.

While the pre-Christmas gift-buying can be stressful, it’s what happens after all the Christmas presents are opened that can be the most agitating to me.

You might recall in Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas story,  A Christmas Carol, The Ghost of Christmas Present appears to Ebeneezer Scrooge and shows him how other people, particularly Scrooge’s nephew and Scrooge’s exploited clerk Bob Cratchit, celebrate Christmas.  During its appearance the spirit noticeably ages and reveals to Scrooge that he will only exist on Earth for a very brief time, which is implied to be that single Christmas holiday.

Dicken’s Ghost of Christmas Present provides a befitting commentary of the exasperating problem I confront each Christmas season–Christmas presents that get broken often before Christmas Day is over!

Yes, the remains of these broken toys laying by the Christmas tree in pieces or in silence are the ghosts of Christmas presents.

Several years ago I wrote a poem about a mythical, Santa Claus-like repairman that comes to your home after Christmas to fix all the Christmas toys and gifts that have been broken “by careless girls and boys” (read The Christmas Gift Repairman).

At first, I thought the expeditious demolishing of Christmas presents was merely a toddler problem. What I’m discovering is that it’s a perennial problem that only intensifies as the kids get older and the presents get more sophisticated and expensive!

So, here’s a few observations I’ve made over the years (and hopefully some lessons learned) from these ghosts of Christmas presents:

(1) When selecting Christmas presents, I try to consider not only how much a gift costs but how breakable it is. The amount of agony associated with a broken Christmas present correlates to the price of the present. The cheaper the gift, the less anxiety it causes if it gets broken!

(2) Clothing presents are not excluded from possible destruction. Don’t take it for granted that clothing can’t suddenly be ruined. While you might think clothing can’t be broken, it’s been my experience that clothing can be torn, stretched, cut, pulled or stained during tag removal, prior to putting it on for the first time,  while trying it on for the first time (but prior to exchanging it if it doesn’t fit) or upon first wearing of the clothing item!

(3) Buy some stuff you can repair such as bicycles, scooters, sports and outdoor equipment. For me that generally means there must be a how-to YouTube video on assembling and fixing it and it doesn’t require specialized tools to repair.

(4) When selecting a Christmas present for the kids, I often consider its “discipline” value. Discipline value increases for more desired gifts such as electronic devices because Santa giveth and Santa taketh away. A gift’s potential to be leveraged to inhibit bad behavior (by taking it away) or reward good behavior (by letting it be used or played with) is certainly an added benefit to its acquisition.

(5) Finally, I can’t let the the ghosts of Christmas presents turn me into Ebeneezer Scrooge. Christmas is a time to celebrate God’s gift to us–the birth of a Savior. And, when Christmas morning is over and the gifts have been broken, I’ve still got to remember that it is after all still Christmas. The gifts are just stuff but the memories are forever, so let them be Merry!

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