Have a Socialist Christmas

Those familiar with my writing recognize that I tend to be more curmudgeonly around Christmas.  Today I will enter the virtual confessional and confess that I have allowed myself to become lax in my own ideals.

When my Irish twins were under 4, they didn’t have toys of their own.  The toys they had could be used by either child.  Half a decade later or about 6 months ago, I instituted the rule banning fighting over items worth less then 50 cents.  This rule does surprisingly need enforcement among the big kids, but it also sees enforcement with the presence of a 3-year-old.  Needless to say, desire for property seems to be intrinsic to children as witnessed by the Toddler’s Creed.  (A sample verse: “If I want it, it’s mine.”) 

And naturally enough, this comes up around Christmas.  Christmas is all about giving property, at least Christmas as celebrated here in the old US of A.  When the children were younger, this was easier.  They would forget what presents they had received within a couple of weeks, so if the kids wanted to play with trucks one day and play house the next, everything was fine.  Those first Christmases were spent in a 450 sq. ft. apartment, so there wasn’t the space to clearly delineate yours and mine.  Now my children have separate bedrooms and their own play room.  We have a wealth of space for sorting out what is yours and mine.  (1800 sq. ft for those really curious.)

As we approach Christmas this year, our older children are very much aware of the property exchange occurring.  We have never been very extravagant with gifts.  We were what I considered outlandish one year and spent $225 between the three children.  This year we’ll be somewhere in the ballpark of $75-150, probably closer to the low end.  I would be quite satisfied if this were the extent of gift giving, but those that recall my post from last year will remember that my extended family will more than indulge my children’s desires.

So as we roll around Christmas here, I’m curious how VN readers are raising their kids and how they treat familial property and gift giving.  No, I don’t really care about your political views.  You can be a thoroughgoing socialist in your house and libertarian in politics.  You can even be a property oriented household and a communist in politics.  I must confess though that despite my efforts at not having property within the house, even my household has witnessed itself follow the cues of our property obsessed culture.

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  • Kurt

    The nephews and nieces have organized and are negotiating through collective bargaining for their gifts. :)

  • Cathy

    I don’t have children. I buy my nephews practical gifts but nothing extravagant. My gift exchange with the adult members is the same. Gifts are practical, not extravagant, and are my way of showing appreciation. We are working-class people, so I buy something they need or possibly a gift certificate for dinner out. I find enjoyment in doing something nice for people I care about.

  • http://the-american-catholic.com DarwinCatholic

    Being of the belief that households should run along lines somewhere between an absolute monarchy and a constitutional monarchy, our rules for child property are not utterly consistent.

    Over all, all toys are held as being used in common, even if they were given to a specific girl initially. The rule is that you can’t take a toy away from your sister if she was actively playing with it — even if the toy technically belongs to you.

    However, exceptions are made under the following circumstances:

    1) Consumable toys such as coloring books — here taking another child’s toy and using it up without permission results in mandated restitution.

    2) Toys which are being mistreated by the interloper (particularly age appropriate toys being made off with by a younger sibling).

    3) “Special toys” which were put away in a private place but then absconded with by another sister. This last is subject to some interpretation, but given that we have three children of more or less reasonable age (the one year old just toddles about and doesn’t engage in major disputes) who all share the same room in close quarters, we’ve found that each girl needs the privacy of having a few closely held “treasures” (such as a particular doll) which can’t be taken by the others. However, if you leave your treasures lying around in the open, you don’t get to object to others playing with them.

    The number and value of Christmas presents is usually pretty tightly constrained (2-3 presents per kid, total spend per child in the 50-70 range), though I’ve considered going a little higher this year because some old stand bys (the set of wooden blocks, the duplos, the general population of plastic dinosaurs and toy knights) have been so thoroughly decimated over the last six years that I’m thinking of replacing them and figure that the kids would enjoy it more if they get to unwrap them at Christmas rather than having them just show up later.

  • http://www.catholicpeacemaking.com Nate Wildermuth

    I like to make gifts rather than purchasing them. I particularly enjoy making games for the family, which become the property of the entire family.

    The trade-off is that you’ll probably need to give up your day job.

  • David Raber

    Kathy, you write, “I find enjoyment in doing something nice for people I care about.”

    I see you are a socialist.

  • Cathy

    Mr. Raber:

    You are wrong. I am not a socialist and never will be. I don’t understand how you get socialist out of that comment.

  • David Raber


    That was a joke, but I see you detected the edge to it.

    Don’t you think that loving concern for those close to us translates into something like “socialism” on the national political level?

    Who is my neighbor?

  • Cathy

    Mr. Raber:

    The idea of a joke crossed by mind. Thanks for the humor.

    I see it a bit differently in that Socialism forces us to direct our resources in a given manner. Without Socialism, we have the freedom to give out of love in the manner we choose.

  • ben

    We spend between $15-$30 per child. We have 9 kids and we try to limit the family to $200. The rule in our house is that a child has exclusive rights for a month, then the toy belongs to whomever is playing with it until they are finished.

    We take toys away if they become fodder for fights. Our kids know they will lose the toy alltogether if they fight too much. If a praticular toy is in high demand (even within the 1 month exclusive period) we will enforce turn taking with the kitchen timer. We have had a lot of success with this. There are a lot fewer fights if a child knows he will get his turn within 15 minutes.

    When shopping, we try to buy gifts the kids can play with together. For example, 2 of my boys are getting 1 walkie-talkie each this year. I have no doubt that they will both be thrilled. For these two, there is no one they woud rather talk to anyway.

  • David Raber

    Cathy, you write that “Socialism forces us to direct our resources in a given manner. Without Socialism, we have the freedom to give out of love in the manner we choose.”

    And the government forces me to wear a seat belt here in Michigan when I drive my car, for my own good and for the common good, and the common good is served, as statistics on traffic deaths show.

    We live in a fallen world, and governments, even the best of governments, will inevitably use compulsion, forcing us to behave and “direct our resources in a given manner.”

    We could argue about whether this or that degree or type of “socialism” does more harm than good, but as a Christian I am not going to protest if the government takes some of my resources to help my neighbors, and in a democracy we the people do have the ultimate power to make our government act “in the manner we choose.”

    And to you and all: May you have a blessed Christmas and a happy new year!

  • Dan

    “This year we’ll be somewhere in the ballpark of $75-150, probably closer to the low end.”

    Probably over each of the past four or five years, we have spent a total of $75/year on X-mas gifts for our three kids. Kids seem to be quite happy with simple gives, though they do see their friends with iPods, Wii, etc.

    To be honest, I have become to detest the secular Christmas season, and I do let it dampen my prayer and spiritual life too at this time of year. X-mas itself is quite simple, it is just all the hustle and bustle over the weeks before that wear me down.

  • Cathy

    Mr. Raber:

    You are entitled to your opinion. I did not intend my post to advocate any sort of politcal theory. I was simply answering your question.