I’ve never bought my kid a Christmas present — or a birthday present for that matter. They’re basically the same day anyway; he was born at 4 a.m. on Dec. 26. My son turns 2 this week, and it will be the third Christmas-birthday for which I have bought him… nothing. And I’m absolutely cool with that. To be honest, I didn’t really buy him anything the rest of the year either. Socks, I think? Yeah, I remember buying those.
It’s no secret that stuff gives me anxiety. I wouldn’t call myself minimalist per se (I live in a four-bedroom house for Pete’s sake) but I definitely make a quasi-obsessive point of prioritizing quality over quantity. And that tendency did not change when my son was born. If anything, it went into overdrive.
I’m not someone who’s always looked forward to having kids; I was kind of on the fence about it, and my pregnancy was absolutely awful (two words: hyperemesis gravidarum). So I was too busy barfing and whining to stockpile cute onesies or hit the bookstore to carefully curate a library for my unborn fetus. I didn’t have a baby shower, either. Of course, I recognized that I’d probably have to buy a few brand-new “necessities” for the baby to exist, right? Nope. Stroller, car seat, crib, rocking chair, carrier, every size of clothes from newborn to (so far) 3T — we’ve scrounged them all up secondhand for free.
I didn’t do anything the Christmas my son was born — anything except have contractions, drink wine and watch Transparent, that is — and the following December, we up and went to Mexico and ignored all holidays entirely. This, by the way, was definitely something of a “gift” in my mind (I gifted this baby a trip south of the border!) but somehow didn’t make the cut for the many folks who continuously ask, appalled, “You’re getting him nothing for Christmas or his birthday? Again??”
Let’s just take a look at the statistics. According to RetailMeNot, parents spend an average of $482 per year on all holiday gifts, $330 of which goes toward their own kids. That’s right; our partners, our own parents, our siblings and our friends get a total of $150 for all their gifts combined, while a kid — who probably already has a bunch of crap from a baby shower or birthdays or just being a cute human whom adults shop for — gets $330 of presents in one month every year.
I spent the 2015 and 2016 holiday seasons with nobody but my partner, my baby and the folks who happened to be chilling at Roosevelt Hospital (or Playa de Los Muertos, depending on the year). And those were some amazing Christmases. This year, we’re getting back in the holiday game and hanging with the rest of our families. But that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t want to come back from our holiday travels with more stuff. It also doesn’t change the fact that I don’t want my son growing up with the misconception that holidays are about buying — or the expectation that people will buy him things when he already has plenty.
I’ve written about this — my attempts at secondhand, quasi-minimalist non-shopping as a parent — plenty in the past, and it’s amazing how much vitriol it inspires from both sides. There are the parents who insist I’m depriving my child by putting him in $2 Vans (Vans! Such deprivation!) from Goodwill or by not buying him three different types of swinging chairs/play gyms or that he’ll be developmentally behind because he never had an “activity center.” Then there are the parents who call me a materialistic fake minimalist because I had the gall to acquire an entire secondhand wardrobe, stroller, car seat, crib and carrier for my baby (honestly, I tried to get away without a car seat; the hospital wouldn’t let me).
So yes, angry parents of the internet, you’ve got me. Because both complaints are true. I’m not a minimalist; my son has plenty of things that he could “survive without” — all of his books, for example, and three pairs of secondhand shoes instead of just one. And yes, I’ve also “deprived” my child of brand-new expensive things that I truly believe he doesn’t need. But guess what? He seems to be doing just fine.
Actually, no, I take that back. This is a kid who walked at 8 months, talked at 10 and today is still not 2 years old and yet asks whether something is “a cappella or instrumental,” shouts “Oh, c’est beau!” unprompted and miraculously knows all the words to both Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” and “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones. I may be a lazy mom who deprived my kid, never bought him anything and in general only half-assedly planned for his entire existence — but this baby is here now, and he’s my favorite person in the world, and he’s way, way better than “just fine.” Oh, and he’s not getting shit for Christmas.