This was my 2 year old last year. Clearly, she needs toys. Right?
All year, I say “No.”
“No. You can’t have that princess doll.”
“No. We are not buying that Minnie Mouse shopping cart.”
I’ve had to stop taking Ellis down the toy aisle at Target because she just wants everything. Everything is beautiful and sparkly and pink and I can see her eyes getting bigger and bigger and all that want just hurts my stomach. Because I want to give it all to her. I hate having to explain, over and over, “No, that’s not how we are spending our money today.”
“These are not for today.”
She does a good job. No fits. No tantrums. Just the wide-eyed reaching. The whispered: “Wook, mama. It so parkly.” I want to take her up in my arms and say, “Of course you can have it. You can have whatever you want. Always.”
But I don’t want to say that because I don’t want my child to believe she is entitled. But I do want to say “yes.” Because that part of me–that pit of my stomach place, that just wants to hand her everything. The sun. The moon. The sparkly princess castle. That part of me always wants to say “Yes.”
I’ve never realised this, but saying “No” as a parent is almost harder than hearing it as a kid. There are times when saying “no” is easy. Another cookie? Hell no. You want my pie? Dream on. You want to pick up your brother and put him in a princess dress and smear lipstick on him? No. No. No. But other times it hurts. You want to stay at the park all day? You want to wear your princess crown to school? You want to go on a trip to find a rainbow? You want fourteen-sixteen princess dolls?
I’m sorry, no.
I see Christmas as a time of “Yes.”
I spend all year teaching restraint. I spend all year telling her that new toys don’t just happen on a Tuesday. I spend all year encouraging her to use what she has, love what’s in front of her, enjoy the gifts that are hers. And to give gifts to others. Some of the hardest lessons she’s had to learn are when we give a gift to a friend but don’t get one ourselves. But on Christmas, I get to say “Yes.” I get to take her tiny dreams of pink of ponies and princesses and I can make them appear. I only have so long before her dreams are more complicated. Before I can’t wave my magic wand and solve her problems.
I tried that her first year. I said, “I’m not buying her anything. She needs nothing.” Because of course, she doesn’t need anything. But then Christmas came around and somehow I had accumulated 20 small presents picked up here and there–on sale, on consignment, little things that I thought would be fun. Because she is little and I want her to have fun. So, this year, I’m not fighting it. We’ve set our budgets and I’m going to max out that money for everything it’s worth. I’m not even sorry.