I feel guilty about many things. I hate reggae. I find Zadie Smith largely unreadable (too much dialect). I find Homeland largely unwatchable (that Carrie is a complete and utter moron. You don’t make a pass at Mandy Patinkin, darling. You throw yourself at his feet and beg him to break into song). But none of it compares with how guilty I feel each time I realize that despite my best efforts, my children have turned into craven materialists. If you pulled each of them aside and asked them how to define “love,” I am quite certain that each – from the snarky ten year old to the chubby little two year old – would say, “Love is presents, lots and lots of presents.”
When you live away from grandparents, often a visit does mean presents. My mother in law used to come with a bag covered in small pockets, in which she’d tuck little presents for the children. Upon her arrival she’d plop down the bag and let the kids have at it, pushing each other aside and tearing the bag to pieces in their search for loot.
I knew it had gotten especially bad when a friend of mine (let’s call her Vanessa) came to visit. My two boys snuck into her bedroom, dug through her luggage, and came running out with several large, wrapped tampons. “Look! Vanessa even wrapped our gifts!” I snatched the bulky white torpedoes from their little hands and promised them chocolate if they’d busy themselves in another room.
Eight nights of Hanukkah present an especially big challenge. We certainly don’t do presents every night, but we like to do something – go skating or to a Hanukkah party, and last year we felt especially smug because we added a charity component. Still, the kids have gotten it into their warped little minds that eight nights means eight opportunities for their parents to show them just how much they are loved.
We’ve never done a wish list – the whole idea seemed horrible – but this year I wanted to get a sense of what the kids, especially the two older boys, expected. What did they ask for? Bennett wants something called a “mechanical snapping machine,” an iPhone5, a laptop, a camera, a camcorder, a magnetic dartboard, and a football dummy. Oh and a pair of football gloves that when placed side by side form the logo of the Denver Broncos and that also happen to cost $100. That’s $50 bucks a glove for those of you less math savvy than myself. What in God’s name is a football dummy, and why do you need one when you have a brother?
Speaking of, Efram wants a robot, a laptop, an autographed San Francisco 49ers football helmet, which he informs me costs $1,274, something called a “Galaxy S3,” a tae kwon do sparring set, and… a football dummy.
I give these kids allowances to teach them to the value of money, I often have them do extra chores to make money for things they want which I am not prepared to buy, and they still expect me to shell out $100 for a pair of gloves, one of which is all but guaranteed to be lost within 24 hours?
I asked Frances what she wanted and she muttered something about overpriced American Girl paraphernalia. She does not enjoy making decisions so she left the entire enterprise in my hands.
I also asked Fiona what she wants, to which she replied, a washing machine and thong bikini. Frankly, I don’t know which is worse. Clearly these are not my genes at work – on both counts. And while I would imagine that to some the thought of doing laundry in a thong has its appeal, neither has any appeal to me, and they most certainly should have no allure to a four year old. I ran out of steam and will not be asking Sidney what she would like for Hannukah.
If my four year old wanted a household appliance and slutty beachwear (thank you, France), what would my two year old want – an iron and some pasties?
I won’t be finding out.