Balancing Wants and Needs

With Christmas approaching,  my relatives have asked what my children want for a gift. I have dutifully passed this request on to each of them, only to get the response, “I don’t really need anything.” Well isn’t that great news? I suppose that means I am doing my job so well that they have no outstanding basic needs. Except I look at them and notice that they are each growing out of their favorite clothes, t-shirts or soffee shorts. When I suggest adding those to their list, they only shrug and say they will think of something.

I wait for a few days and then get handed lists with extravagant wants on it- a pet rabbit, a pair of pistols, a giant furry beanbag and a livescript pen. Now I suppose those could be categorized as wants, but are they realistic? Why do I ask them to come up with their wildest wishes and then crush their hopes by saying these are too expensive or not acceptable?

Balancing our wants and needs is always a delicate act. My son needed snow pants and a ski jacket. He would have liked one from The North Face. We settled for a non-brand name that would serve the purpose without breaking the bank when he outgrows it in a few months and needs a replacement. My daughter wanted some beautiful, dressy tops but she never wears them to school and she needed shirts for cold weather. We compromised on some classic  tops that look nice and match her conservative style.

In todays’ economic climate, it is important to be able to distinguish the difference between want and need and to work out acceptable solutions. If we want to eat out once a week, we need to cook sensible meals at home the rest of the time. If we want to replace furniture in the house, we have to evaluate how badly we want it and if it is really necessary. As much as we would love to buy presents for everyone on our list, we need to assess how practical that really is and what we could get that is worthwhile on a budget.

So while I don’t mean to put the Scrooge in gift-giving and am not suggesting handing out socks and underwear, this holiday season is going to require a lot of creative thinking on my part. I would not tell my relatives not to buy my children’s wish list items (well-except for the rabbit), but now I must try to come up with some clever ideas which they may not have thought of themselves or even recognized that they would want- something with a measure of practicality as well as pleasure. This gets more challenging by the year since they are no longer into kid toys and don’t read books. I prefer not to buy gift cards, they seem so impersonal. Maybe some family board games would get them excited…what would they wish for?

Doesn’t a wish imply something out of the ordinary? Oh no, I think that brings me back to square one.

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