Dad of four share advice around gift giving
When it comes to buying presents for the kids, Sam Cummins recommends the 'buy now, pay later' philosophy.
It seems the older I get, the more I understand one of the world’s more immutable truths; that every decision I make is a trade-off between experiencing pleasure now and the potential for pleasure in the future.
This trade-off is most obvious at the bar or the buffet – what’s one more pint, or one more helping? Salut! However, the payback here comes hard and fast. With the bar it’ll be tomorrow, with the buffet, perhaps just two hours. Speed and confidence may work in the moment, but the following morning when you’re brushing your teeth with sunglasses on, slow and cautious starts looking mighty appealing.
It’s easier to make good decisions when we know we'll have to pay for it the next day. But what about when the pay-off isn't for, say, 15 or 20 years? Well, with so much data floating around out there now, we no longer have many excuses for making bad decisions.
This is because people called actuaries (statisticians who mostly work for insurance agencies) can, with some degree of accuracy, predict things like what that extra rasher of bacon every morning is going to do to your life expectancy (spoiler alert – it’s not good.) Does Grandma own a dog? Then she can expect an extra two years of life, but not quite so long if she owns a cat. Amazing!
This Christmas you’ll have to make many decisions on what to spend your time and money on.
And if you’re reading this, it’s likely you not only have to make good decisions for yourself, but also your own little person or people. You'll also be wanting to set a good example and encourage them to make good decisions themselves.
In my years of parenting, I've discovered that great presents not only provide joy now, but they also increase the chances of joy later.
However, I've also discovered that finding this joyful balance is not always easy. Let's talk presents.
★ Cheap plastic toys may provide much pleasure in the moment, but that’s about how long they last as well. One moment. And throwing out a bunch of broken plastic toys on Boxing Day is a really quick way to take the shine off Christmas.
★ Nearly as bad are scooters for any kids over the age of eight. Mainly because they’re impossible to store, and they swing around and hit your shins whenever you pick them up! Also, because now you’ve got a kid who rides a scooter. Okay, okay, at least they get kids playing outside, which leads me on to screens.
★ A screen will provide both you and your child immediate joy. Because the child has a screen to look at, and you no longer have to look after your child – Steve Jobs is. Win-win! That is, until you have to take it off them. Then it’s serious lose-lose, because – believe me – hell hath no fury like a child who loses their screen halfway through Ducky Song. And this dance will continue until the child is 14, at which point you will give up.
✔ Any musical instrument. Yes, it might suck for a short time while they get the hang of it, but if your child sticks at it, their future selves will thank you for it. So far my kids have mastered guitar versions of Wild Thing, Should I Stay Or Should I Go? and Summer Of '69, and it’s awesome.
✔ Sunscreen. It saves 'em now and they’ll sure be thankful in the future. Throw hats in too. Who cares if you have to shell out more for one with a horrible surf brand on it? Your kid will be stoked and they’ll actually want to wear it.
✔ Drawing or craft stuff. Because encouraging your kids to be creative may be the only way to help them get a job in the future. The robots are on the horizon!
So, as this year's present-buying panic descends on your family, maybe think of gifts for your offspring that will bear fruit in the future, rather than just thinking of the look on their face when they tear into the wrapping paper.
Sam Cummins is a funding and policy manager living in the Bay of Plenty with his wife and four sons. Most of his spare time is spent trying to figure out which of his three older boys is yelling ‘Dad!’ Often it’s all of them, and all at the same time.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 52 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW