Why I Bought Myself A Gift And Opened It In Front Of My Children

It would have been so easy to skip myself. Seriously. The last thing I wanted to do on the sixth night of Hanukkah was wrap another gift. Enough already.

I had my kids’ gifts ready to go that night– Hello Kitty for her and Spiderman for him. (Remember when we weren’t going to buy licensed crap for our kids?  That was before we had them. The kids, not the licensed flatware.)

Jeff was out of town, and he’s the Jewish parent but he left a phonetic version of the prayer right by the Menorah so I did my best.

“Baruch attah adonai. . . ”

On the first night, we didn’t do gifts. I wanted to focus on being together, lighting the candles, and learning the prayer. It was beautiful but then several Jewish people I talked to said, “No presents?” and I felt shame.  So, I vowed the remaining nights would include presents.

On the third night, before he left on a business trip, Jeff opened a new fleece and the kids reveled in trinkets from the special section in Target where everything’s a dollar.

“Mama, where’s your present?” Sadie asked.

I didn’t know what to say. Nothing sounded right.  Not “Mommy doesn’t need a present” or “Focus on yourself and don’t worry about me” or “I buy my own presents that come in the mail from Zappos and Amazon.”

And those statements are true-ish. Believe me, this mama isn’t afraid to treat herself. And Jeff and I hadn’t yet taken the time to discuss how we would do presents for our hybrid Hanukkah-Christmas celebrations, so the gifts he’d planned for me were still in the works.

But my kids noticed that everyone had received a present. Except me.

And I started to believe that it was important for my kids to see me open a present. I didn’t want either of them– a future wife and a future husband– to see me only giving. I didn’t want them to see me not getting the opportunity to sit down, unwrap something that makes me happy, and to feel glee and gratitude. Just like they were each night.

But it was more than that.  I don’t want to burden them or Jeff with the spectre of the martyr-mom who gives gives gives but sighs resentfully at the table wishing someone– anyone– would read her damn mind . . . . and then buy her a nice leather wallet in a bright color so it’s easy to find at the bottom of her purse.

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And there’s more.  I don’t want to be a person who can’t teach her children how to take in gifts, and I definitely do not want to subliminally teach my kids that deprivation is a virtue.  Or that the best moms are martyrs who just go without. Don’t worry about me, kids, I’ll be fine.

What I want is to join them at the table, at the feast before my eyes, and take a portion for myself.

Because there’s nothing wrong with taking a turn.

But really.  It would have been so easy to skip myself and open the wallet privately.

I’m so glad I didn’t.

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44 thoughts on “Why I Bought Myself A Gift And Opened It In Front Of My Children

  1. I’m so glad you didn’t, too! I forgot stocking stuffers for adults, but we also forgot to hang stockings for adults, too. Happy holidays to you all!

  2. What a treat it is to receive your new post in my inbox, as I wait for the Disney parade to come on TV and my 2.5 year old DD runs around ripping into her gifts. The wallet is GORGE btw, makes me want to treat myself now. Happy holidays to you and yours!

  3. I think you are completely right. It’s not always the women, in my case it was my dad, but when someone only gives, but doesn’t recieve, that’s something that kids notice. Good job on getting yourself that wallet! It’s fabulous 🙂

  4. Love the wallet! I bought myself a new point and shoot camera and put it in my stocking (Santa must have known my old one broke last week!). We deserve it. I’m glad your kids got to see you open something – it was very sweet of Sadie to be concerned for you.

  5. I am a huge fan of brightly colored wallets. In fact, my last wallet (before I swapped it out for a truly fabulous wallet that was a gift from my father-in-law on our Israel trip last spring) was one just that shade of yellow. It is still sitting in my drawer, and I will definitely come back to it when I am looking for a change. I’m glad you didn’t forget yourself too. It’s good for your kids to see you treating yourself also. My mom always did, and I think that we are better off for seeing it. Safe travels today!

  6. This is a great post and I have to come out and admit it – I’m totally guilty of not getting anything. I always say that I don’t want or need anything and everything usually goes to the kids. What really hit home for me when you write about subliminally teaching kids that deprivation is a virtue, because it is not but I’m pretty sure that’s the message I’m sending.
    Thanks for this inspiring-to-me post and happy holidays!

  7. That *is* a lovely wallet! Good lesson in there for your children. I have to tell you, we were never a ‘gift every night of Chanukah’ family. We got one gift and we were done. I wonder if anyone else does that. Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas!

  8. I have boys, so even though they are technically old enough to buy mom a gift themselves – my mom still does it for them. Someday they will marry, and if I play my part right maybe my future daughters will give me gifts. (My stepchildren gave me a gift this year and it was lovely to be thought of!)

  9. In my “shoulda married a Jew fantasy life” I figured he’d get me 7 gifts and I’d only have to respond with one in order to best respect our own heritage.

    I don’t think I quite considered the unspoken messages of gift-giving but I think you’re spot-on. (I daresay my therapist would agree.).
    I refused to cook Lizzie another egg at breakfast this morning because after plating Christmas breakfast for the other 5, I had just sat down to my own and I was sick of waiting on people. Merry Christmas. 🙂

  10. A wonderful lesson that I need to learn myself. Thank you for sharing! On a completely separate note – I feel like this is your first Yeah Write post that sounds like you do when you write your other posts. I LOVE it! You are an amazing writer and person from what I know from your writing. I am glad you show it in this Yeah Write post. Thank you for sharing yourself.

  11. That’s a beautiful wallet! I love bright colored wallets too; mine is red. Good on you for doing that! I totally agree – its important to teach our kids lessons about receiving as we’ll as giving. Hope your holidays have been joyful! (The line about Zappos & Amazon is hilarious! That’s so me too.)

  12. My husband and I don’t exchange gifts. My kids are old enough to notice this. Before Christmas I bought a few cardigans for myself on a night that I’d gone out for gift shopping for others. My oldest daughter was so excited that I’d gotten something for me even though there was nothing in the bags for her (there was; I’d just left that stuff in the car until they went to bed.) I’m glad you showed them that you are deserving of presents too.

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