I see you, mama. I know that you’re worrying about disappointing your kiddos this holiday season. I know you’re wondering how you’ll pay this month’s bills before you can even consider buying Christmas presents. It’s okay. You’re not alone.
In Iowa, 13.9% of families with related children under 18 years old are considered at or below the poverty level. With single mom households, that number jumps to 40.7% (Iowa Data Center). You may or may not fall into these categories. You may have just had a rough year — a job lay-off, a severe illness in the family, a divorce, or some other financial hardship.
I grew up in a low-income household. My parents scrimped and saved and put things on layaway for months at the local Pamida. They hit up thrift stores and shopped clearance racks. I know the cheap toys and books from Dollar General were a staple under our tree as well (and they’re actually quite entertaining). While other kids were getting Nintendos (I’m old) and shiny new bicycles, our gifts weren’t quite that flashy. My mom even just told me that the year my brother was born, she did Christmas on $40 that my grandpa gave her.
As I look back with my grown-up knowledge, I’m actually impressed my parents were able to pull off what they did. I do remember two gifts — an electric keyboard and Rollerblades — that I had begged for and actually got. But, what I remember most are the Christmas memories made with my family.
Beyond the two gifts I mentioned above, I really don’t remember many others. What I do remember is decorating cookies with my mom and siblings. I remember the oranges and peanuts that we would dig through in our stockings to get to the chocolate coins. I remember driving around on Christmas Eve looking at the fancy Christmas lights in the “nice” part of town. I remember singing Christmas carols in the dark next to the “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree we cut down ourselves.
The holidays, regardless of your religious affiliation, are opportunities for embracing nostalgia and developing traditions. It’s not about what you unwrap under the tree. It’s about wrapping your kiddos up in your arms on a cold winter’s evening.
I’m not saying don’t give gifts at all. I’m just saying, if you’re struggling to afford physical gifts, it’s okay. If you love your children and gift them with attention and affection, maybe they won’t notice how little they have under the tree.
As I was in the middle of writing this post, I was struggling to wrap it up. You know — get to the point already! I happened to see this article in my Facebook feed: 35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget. The top of the article starts with the Kahlil Gibran quote,
“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
I think whether you’re struggling to get by or you’re the richest person in the world, that message truly resonates.