If My Son Compares The Number Of Gifts He Has To His Sister, I’m Screwed

shutterstock_121336075I hate the Christmas counting games. If you have more than one child, you know exactly what I am talking about, unless you are one of those parents who makes sure each and every kid has the exact same number of gifts. My middle son wanted a very expensive gift, so he has a lot less gifts than his little sister, because crayons, coloring books, sparkle socks and fashion dolls are cheap.

Older kids are no fun. They always want video game systems, or new cell phones, or laptops, or other boring things that are expensive and pretty much wipe your Christmas present budget out except for the big-ticket item and a pair of boxer shorts. On one hand, it’s better because you know the item will get a lot of use and it’s something they really want, plus, there is a lot less to wrap. But on the other hand, it takes away the fun of finding the perfect little items that your kid wasn’t expecting, the fun little toys that make watching them unwrap presents exciting.

And then we have the math-y kids, the ones who count the number of presents they receive and compare it to their siblings. I know my son will do this, and I know when I say “Well, Santa got you _____, which is a lot more expensive than your sister and her _____ and ______ and ______.” He will apologize and say “No, mom, I know, I’m not being ungrateful..” But I can’t help but feel a bit bad that a part of him may feel slighted. I did buy him a few pairs of cute, colorful socks and I actually did wrap the pairs separately to make up the slack.

I suppose I could do what a mom friend of mine suggested that her own mother did to stop the present counting and comparing, and wrap up boxes of cereal to give my son to make up for his measly pile of Christmas swag. Plus, I know he would end up eating the cereal. But that seems like a lot of work and he is old enough to understand that his big gift would be about all Santa would be bringing him.

I don’t have spoiled kids. They are always thankful for what they have and are eager to donate gifts to those less fortunate. They are empathetic, and compassionate, and they know how incredibly lucky the are. One of them just really likes counting. Ugh.

(photo: MaleWitch /shutterstock)

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  • Michelle

    Sometimes the counting doesn’t get any better when they are grown. In my husband’s family there are 6 cousins ranging from 28-21. His grandmother keeps track of every gift she buys by price so that she spends the same amount on each grandchild. There’s always someone who doesn’t believe her and feels that they got slighted.

    • Leigha7

      It’s strange for me to even think about that happening, though I guess I can kind of understand. I’m an only child, so I never had anyone to compare to. My SO’s family (who we spend Christmas with now–well, we split between both of our families) doesn’t have a whole lot of money, so he and his brothers are lucky if they all get more than one present apiece–and honestly, they don’t seem to care. They’re more interested in getting their mom a great present and making her happy than in how much she spends on them. Every year since we’ve been together, they’ve all pitched in to get her something nice and been super excited about seeing her open it. It’s kind of amazing.

  • Justme

    My friend’s sister has three children and a large amount of generous extended family. The kids (all middle and high schoolers) have grown up knowing that Mom and Dad only give each child three presents. Why? Because that’s how many presents Baby Jesus received and they’re not better than Baby Jesus, right? It’s kind of a funny way to approach the amount of gifts you give the children – especially if you know they will be receiving lots of stuff from grandparents and other family members.

    My mom has to buy for three children, three in-law children and four grandchildren. She sets a budget for each person and then buys 3-4 presents for each. Even though all of us are grown and don’t particularly care how many presents we get or how much they cost….I think she still tries to keep it even for her own personal state of mind.

  • salemthegoddess

    We’ve been doing Victorian Christmas for years and it saves a lot of headache:

    Something you want
    Something you need
    Something to wear, and
    Something to read

    tada! four presents and they’re all meaningful!

  • Erica

    Sometimes I did feel this way towards my younger sister. But I’m pretty sure my parents tried to spend the same amount on each of us. I’d also get money instead of presents. It just felt wrong at the end when everyone was done unwrapping gifts except for my sister who had a huge pile to go. Oh well.

  • KatDuck

    My in-laws OBSESS over making sure everything is even to the point that they sent me a check for $7 because they realized they spent more on my husband than me. Seven dollars more. I’ve gently tried to tell them that it’s alright, I learned not to count years ago (as an older child who inevitably got less because of that one expensive item) but it’s important to them.

    My mom’s way, those early Chrismasses before she gave up, was to consolidate Less wrapping and the numbers still worked out! Actually, the full story of how I learned not to count was the year my got some kitchen appliances that were needed during Black Friday and then wrapped those for me to open. Turns out the thrill of unwrapping a blender isn’t really there when you’re nine. After that I just let the presents fall where they did.

  • bumbler

    this is crazy, I have 4 siblings (rough and tumble, argue about every little thing under the sun type) and we NEVER squabbled over the number or value of presents we got. Seriously, I hardly glanced at their gifts, i was too busy oogling over my own. Sounds like it’s common to gift-count but I can’t imagine being that superficial and ungrateful (and the penny counting grandmas?? What planet do these people live on??).
    My nieces and nephews (on both sides of the family) are the same way too. I buy gifts for lots of kids every year and I might actually slap a kid up side the head if they dared whine about what they got, or worse, what someone else got. The “worst” I’ve heard is “Oh, sister got a camera?? I want a camera for my next birthday!”

    • Leigha7

      I agree. Unless it’s blatantly unfair (like one kid gets a laptop and the others get a pair of socks and a pencil), why bother? And even then, it depends on the situation. If the family doesn’t have much money, it might make sense to get one kid a big gift each year, and take turns. Or maybe there’s a particular reason for getting that specific kid something, whatever that reason may be (like a laptop for going to college or something, I don’t know).

      The worst thing is, the number and cost of the presents means nothing. What matters is how much the person likes them. I babysat for a family where the one girl was just THRILLED at every present she got, especially if it involved one of her favorite things. She’d get excited over a $3 miniature stuffed animal. Her siblings, on the other hand, typically only got excited about things they’d actually asked for, which tended to be $75+, and I’m not even sure they got as excited about those as their sister did over little things. I’d rather get a few small things that I love than tons of expensive things that I honestly don’t like very much (actually, I would HATE to get expensive gifts that I dislike, because I’d feel really bad). I’m sure the same applies for most people, kids or adults.

  • britk

    My mom would set a dollar amount for each of us, and bought what we wanted to that dollar limit. We knew about it, so it was no big deal. She buys each of the two grandkids the same number of presents, and spends about the same on each one but they’re still little(4 & 6) so they don’t really even notice, lol. At my house, I have 1 kiddo and money is really tight, he is 6 and one of the things he wanted for Christmas was $100, he told me he wanted it in August, I told him to really think about it because if he got it, he’d only get a couple of other presents. About a week later he told me that he really wanted it, and it was fine with him. I did get him what he wanted, and a couple of other things, I ended up spending about $140 total. I loved watching him open the expensive present, and seeing the look of shock on his face because he couldn’t believe that he actually got it, lol. It was great!