The Three Present Rule

Three GiftsIn our household, we limit our kids to three Christmas presents from Santa.  When I tell people this, I get shocked expressions and the emphatic “WHY?”  My stock answer is this:

If three presents were enough for Jesus, it’s enough for my kids.

It gets me laughs and I need like that.  Of course, I’m absolutely serious.  Like most Christians, I struggle balancing Santa and the gifts with the true meaning of Christmas.  I love that kids believe wholeheartedly in Santa, in magic.  My two-year-old just learned what Santa does.  Her eyes light up whenever she sees Santa on television or in books.  “Santa bring me toys.”  I ask her what kind of toys Santa’s going to bring her.  “Pretty toys.”  **Swoon.**

But I want my kids to know why we celebrate Christmas.  I want them to appreciate the true gift of Christmas, not just what ends up under the Christmas tree.  So we correlate the gift-giving with the Three Wise Men.  It works.

Three Wise Men and Mary and Jesus

Image Via MorgueFile

There are other benefits to the Three Present Rule.  You know how some kids make their Christmas lists miles long?    You know how some parents get nearly everything on that list?  You know how kids will play with those toys for about two minutes before getting bored with them, tossing them in the toy box, never to see the light of day again?

My kids don’t do that.  They consider their lists very carefully.  When the Stacking Cups in the JC Penny Catalog caught my oldest son’s eye a couple of years ago he almost included them on his list.  In the end, he realized they were PLASTIC CUPS–perhaps the dumbest waste of one of three presents from Santa.

Cup Stacking Speed Stacks

Image via EveryStockPhoto

My children are not greedy.  They choose presents they really want and don’t ask for every stupid thing they see on television or in stores.

The Three Present Rule has its drawbacks.  What if they choose the hot toy that everybody wants and nobody can get?  With a small list, it’s not easy to compensate by getting them something else.  Not to mention the fact that Santa shouldn’t have limitations.  Thankfully, this hasn’t happened to us yet.  The advantage to having weird kids (they have weird parents, they were doomed from the start) is they aren’t all that interested in what everyone else wants.  Two years ago, my son asked for a spinning top.  What?  (Actually that gift makes sense to an autistic child.  Spin and spin, over and over and over and over again.)  Bam!  $2 gift and the kid was happy.

Unfortunately, the Three Present Rule isn’t always cheap.  Last year, we had to buy 3 Nintendo DSs.  Thank goodness for a Black Friday sale on used and refurbished gaming systems.  This year I had to find a laptop.  Again, Santa does not have limitations.   For younger kids, the Three Present Rule is cheaper, but the older the kids get, the more expensive the gifts.

The biggest problem with the Three Present Rule are the other kids who have no such limitations.  It’s not easy to explain to my kids why their friends get dozens of presents and they only get three.  I’m always afraid they’ll start questioning the existence of Santa Claus when they compare their Christmas with everyone else’s.  It’s no different from having to explain why some kids get more extravagant gifts.

 “Why did Johnny Spoiled Rotten get $50 in his stocking and all I got was some chocolate and a stupid paddle ball?”

paddle ball

Creative Commons

We do the best we can.  Specifically, we take the fall for the fat guy.

” Santa Claus honors our wishes when it comes to gifts.”

Eventually, the kids will stop believing in Santa Claus.  When that time comes I hope they’ve learned a few things.

  1. Christmas is not about presents.
  2. Quality over quantity.
  3. Greed is NOT good.
  4. The value of a dollar.
  5.  Their parents love them and are doing everything in their power to raise happy AND sensible adults.