We spend Christmas with my extended family every year, and it’s really nice. The only thing that’s a problem are the presents. My brother and his wife give their kids a million presents on Christmas morning, and my husband and I give each child a few. When the kids were younger, it didn’t make a difference, but last year my children were very confused about why Santa gave more presents to their cousins. It put a bit of a cloud over the day for them and I felt terrible. My inclination this year is to go hog-wild and get our kids a ton of stuff, but it doesn’t make the best sense financially. Would it be okay to ask my brother and sister-in-law to tone it down a bit on Christmas morning, at least when we’re all together? They could always give my niece and nephews more gifts after the vacation is over.
Don’t go into debt just to keep up with the rest of the family. Come February, you’d hate to have to say, “Oh, I know you have to sleep with six layers on because the heat got turned off, but suck it up and go play with that Wii you got for Christmas. So what if we don’t have electricity? Use it as a ramp for those remote-controlled cars Santa brought. Oh. Well, we can’t afford new batteries. Go suck on this old candy cane until Daddy gets paid again.”
If your kids are young enough to believe in Santa, they’re not really old enough to understand money. If it’s important to you that your children feel they’re getting the same quantity as their cousins, then just go to the dollar store and get a ton of stuff there. (I recently had one of my first meaningful forays into a dollar store, and was surprised and amazed to find that everything there really does only cost a dollar! I always assumed that everything cost around a dollar. Not just a dollar! Neat-o.)
But if this is your only opportunity to spend the money and get things your kids really need, and you don’t have the cash to spare on frivolous things, you can talk to your brother. Don’t ask his wife. She’ll probably be a bitch about it. (I don’t even know her; I’m just guessing.) I think if you’re close to your brother, and he’s a nice person, he won’t mind going easy on the presents in front of your kids. It’s not going to be an easy thing to ask, and will probably hurt your pride a little bit, but it’s better to take a chance than to spend Christmas day feeling inadequate and guilty.
(I do realize that some people will say that Christmas isn’t about gifts, that kids need to learn that they don’t always get what other people have, and on and on, but fuck that. Christmas day is not the time for an economics lesson.)