Do Shirts Count?

Eight presents for eight nights. That’s the way Chanukah works in our house. Each night the drama begins anew. We say some prayers, sing a song, and presents are distributed.

And I hold my breath. Praying that the children will be happy with their gifts.

A friend of mine was holding court recently. The topic was holiday presents.

Specifically, can clothes be given as presents? Now, there are no holy books with great sages’ views on said topic. So, we are left to our own wits.

My initial reaction: “Of course, it counts.”

However, my friend, whose youngest child is in 11th grade, presented his three children’s arguments why clothes don’t count.

  1. They are a necessity.
  2. It is a parent’s obligation to clothe their child.

I think my friend’s children make a point. He might have a lawyer or two in the bunch.


From this Jew’s perspective, Christmas gift giving seems less dramatic. If the children are given a slew of presents or even just a few, you can throw a shirt in or something similarly practical. The child might be disappointed, but with the knowledge that the next present is right there, waiting to be opened – hope remains.

However, with Channukah, the next present is 24 hours away – an eternity to a young child. Each night there is pressure. My wife is the gift buyer in our house. She puts in major hours scanning the internet to find the ‘right’ presents for the boys. I am both impressed with the effort and care and a bit scared. She’s intense. So, if the children aren’t happy, it is my wife who feels more of the sting.

All of this being said, when BR received a shirt the other day, and he freaked out. By the way, it was a Lego Ninjago shirt. He loves Lego.

Anyway, he was not happy and did not feel any need to refrain from showing his displeasure. Through tears, he kept repeating, “I don’t want a shirt. Why would you give me a shirt? I want toys.”

We tried to reason with him, but he was in meltdown mode. Better to back away and let him cool down a bit.

Part of me was pissed off. Doesn’t he know how much his mother works to find the right presents for him and his brother? Doesn’t he know that some people don’t get any presents? Doesn’t he know that one should always express gratitude when given something?

I’m sure he knows all of this – on some level. It is our (my wife and I) job to make sure BR and SJ grow up to be gracious and appreciative – even when they get a shirt.

So, I say yes, shirts count.

What say you?

74 thoughts on “Do Shirts Count?

  1. Shirts have to count because in my home, socks and underwear count. I mean, what in the world do you get a teenager if not clothing? An iPhone? My kids also get new pajamas each year. It’s their very first gift and they love it!

    • What you are talking about is the way I grew up.
      I think and hope that when they are teenagers they will have a different attitude towards clothes. They wont be getting a iPhone or soemthing in that price range every night. You can count on that!

  2. We had a very similar conversation at our home too…about giving clothes as gifts. Tall Boy requested new clothes, but Old Boy said clothes should not be gifts for Christmas. (By the way, my husband requested clothes for Christmas from me) My thought is the gift giver is the one who decides what they want to give. The receiver needs to be grateful for even receiving a gift. Gift giving is optional…at least in our home.

  3. I would imagine that it’s much easier to “sneak in” a few “boring” gifts like clothes for Christmas and birthdays when no particular gift is in the spotlight. My son loves clothes, especially cool shirts, but I could imagine him being upset if he were expecting a toy instead! Did we get this shaken when things don’t go as planned when we were kids?? I can’t remember, honestly. I hope he enjoyed the rest of his gifts!! I feel for your wife too.

  4. shirts should count 🙂 I used to not appreciate my mother giving us pyjamas every Christmas but now I’m older and I do appreciate pyjamas + when I open her gifts every year, I love it because I know it’s from my mom and she will always see us as her little ones 🙂

  5. We always got clothes when we were kids and while we didn’t like it, we acted grateful for it… otherwise there would be no more presents. Maybe it is different, like Laura said, when you have a bunch of presents all at once. However, Chanukah, Christmas, Birthday, whatever, gifts are just there to supplement the occasion we are celebrating; not to be the center attraction.

  6. lol…i laughed at this particularly beacuse today I caught myself questioning the same….I decided this year to count down the twelve days till christmas and do a little gift for hubby right up to the one gift on christmas eve. Well, I started with a 12 pack of beer and then i thought what in the world will i do for 11? not only a big# but an odd one. does clothes count? LOL I thought 11 pairs of socks…goodness! Clothing should count! Maybe I’ll stack up 11 pancakes for breakfast. 😉

  7. I received a package from my friend in Australia the other day and she enclosed 2 t-shirts (with really cute Christmas pics) and a DVD for my girls. I’m glad my 6 year old likes the t-shirt. My younger one is only 20 months, she’ll love anything you give her:) But I do worry as I see children in school getting i-phones, i-pads, expensive toys etc for their birthdays. So, blame it on peer pressure and also the advertisements these days on the latest and coolest stuff 🙁

    • Exactly – here is that keeping up with the Jones’ mentality. My friend got this so I cant be happy with what I got. I am not saying this is the reason BR was upset but I would not be surprised if he feels like other kids get toys – why shouldn’t he? It is hard for kids to get past a thought like this. Maturity, self confidence are important.

      • I guess it’s just a phase all kids go through. I’m sure when they are older, they’ll realize that the thought is more important than the gift. You said it, maturity and confidence are important but for the time being you just have to be patient 🙂

  8. Shirts can be made to count, expensive shoes count, but underwear and socks don’t count. As a Nana, I tend to find the coolest, loudest toys I can find. Payback.

    May your Holy Week be sacred and blessed.

      • Yep, that’s me, the mean Nana! The good thing is my son loves to play with loud toys too, so he and his kids have a great time racing remote control cars and crashing them into each other. etc. The last time it got loud in their bedroom, I went to check it out. Both kids looked at me, then pointed at my son, and in unison said, “Dad started it.” Riley hid the pillow behind his back that he was using to pillow fight, and tried to talk his way out of it. The kids thought it was hilarious that Mom busted him.

  9. This is such an awesome topic! So many angles to take – I may just steal it and do my own version! So, so good! Hugs to all of you – I’m intense like you describe your wife and I have had similar feelings to those you describe. Sometimes it’s hard to give and receive! Great post!

  10. BUT it wasn’t just a shirt — it was a LEGO NINJAGO shirt (my son loves that show too!). I totally get what your wife was doing. It’s not like she was getting him a button down to wear to services but something he would like. IF it helps, I bought my son a special shirt like that 2 years ago and he loved it, last year, he got a special UGA shirt with the whole schedule on the back. He loves UGA like I do, I had to order this thing online because you can’t find it anywhere. He has NEVER worn it. I didn’t get the crying but I bet he was thinking the same thing.

    Maybe it has something to do with their age — I think BR is close to my son’s age.

    • You would think htat would matter – wouldn’t you? Yes BR will be 9 in APril, so the boys are close in age. The funny thing is when he was telling my mom about the presents he got, he mentioned the shirt a couple of times. I have a feeling when it comes times to wear the shirt (short sleeves), he will be completely fine to wear it. Of course, he doesn’t care what he wears – other than socks. Darn sensory issues!

      • If he talked about, I’m going to make a guess that he likes it. Maybe he was having an off-moment when he got upset. But I do wonder if its an age thing and wanting to have something physical to play with, something they can hold in their hands. My son can spend hours playing with little football helmets making up his own football game. The little helmets cost me $20 and he’s played with them for years.

          • I get that. My son still throws a tantrum when he can’t get his homework right or he can’t get something to work. I don’t like the reaction either but maybe that’s the way they process things.

            Maybe he gets this from school – like he sees some kid act like this and get his way so he figured he’d try it at home.

          • I wonder to what age is it reasonable to expect these tantrums to occur. When will they stop and process things in a more reasonable way? Of course, some adults don’t process things in such a reasonable way.
            I don’t think he gets it in school but truthfully, I don’t know.

  11. I never thought about the wait between presents for Chanukah. That would kill my kids! When I was young I read the “Little House” series, and the girls in the books usually got an orange and maybe one rag doll. One Christmas they got a cup, which meant they didn’t have to share the one they already owned anymore. That changed my perspective on Christmas forever, and I shamelessly beat it into my own children.

  12. I’m behind on my reading! Speaking of behinds, I used to get underwear every year. It was a sad year when I realized I was a grown up and didn’t get underwear from my mom anymore and had to buy my own. So, one day, they’ll appreciate clothes, this just wasn’t the year apparently!

  13. Good morning,
    I did not know it was Chanukah. I love that time, even if I am not jewish, and I love presents!!!! So let me see here, what kind of toys would I like to have? I think I’ll start off with the iPad Mini for the first day, the MacAir for the second day, the iPhone 5 for the third day and I can go on and on. 🙂

    I too, like BR and SJ don’t consider clothes as being a toy. My husband can confirm that. It is not that I am ungrateful, but I like buying my clothes myself. You want to light up my eyes, give me an electronical gadget, and I am all smiles from head to toe.

    So, I can understand the boys, even though you, and especially your wife, went to a lot of trouble trying to pick out the right toys for them. A little story just popped in mind from my childhood. I was seven years old at the time, and in school we had chosen names from a hat in our third grade class. No one knew who pulled his or her name. Well, I went shopping with my mother and chose a toy for the name I had pulled. It was a boy and I chose my toy very carefully for him.

    When I went to school on the day of exchanging gifts, I was given the gift from the person who had chosen my name by the teacher. It was two pairs of panties, and I cried like a baby. It hurt me terribly, that I didnot receive a toy. I was the only one in the class that did not get a toy, and I was not to be cheered up.
    Later on, I found out who had pulled my name because the mother called my mother to apologize. She thought since we were poor and could not afford some things (we were five children) that she was doing my parents a favour by buying under clothes for me. My mother tried to explain to me that the lady wanted to help me, but that did not change my mind. I still cried and for the rest of the year, I went out of the way of her son. In fact, I refused to pull names when I went to the fourth grade. Was I unthankful? As an adult, you may say yes, but as a child I just wanted to have a toy because at that time, toys represented something special to me as a kid.

    As I grew matured, my understanding broadened, but maturity takes time. It never happens over night.

    Thank you for sharing this. It brought back a memory from the past that hurt me, and today I let it go.

    Shalom,
    Patti

    • You are such a techie!
      Thanks for sharing your story. I don’t blame you for being upset. Every other kid got a toy and you get stuck with undergarments. It is also a bit embarrassing.
      Yes, sometimes I have to remind myself that despite the fact we work with them and try to teach them right from wrong, etc., not everything sinks in and it takes time.

  14. Ages and stages. If you’re raising them well rounded and well mannered, there will be a day he graciously says “thanks for the shirt” even though he hates it. I’m sure you’re doing that.

  15. I couldn’t imagine when our son grows up and is aware of the whole gift giving during holidays and has a melt down over a present. You handled it better than I would have. If it were me, that shirt and scooter would be gone, lol.

  16. Hi, I read all the comments and being the person in your blog that opened the discussion about clothes being considered a “second rate” present (see second paragraph of blog above) I have a suggestion that has worked in our house over time. It is true that kids, especially at a very young age, are hard to reason with but this is an opportune time to begin the education on gift giving.
    First I must say that this discussion must be given at least a week BEFORE the holidays & never
    at the time the gift is given & their expectations are not met.

    When your all sitting down liesurely, perhaps at a family meal together, you bring up the topic of gift giving. You may begin by saying that with the holidays coming you can get ONE big gift or a lot of
    LITTLE gifts and what would you want? (with Chanukah it’s easier to say,” Do you want 8 little gifts
    (one every nite) or ONE BIG gift?”) If they respond they want a lot of little gifts, you explain
    that some gifts will be better than others, some gifts they may like very much & some gifts may be ones you just need, like clothes but you’ll get a lot of gifts so don’t be angry when you get something you didn’t expect.

    If they decide they want ONE big gift, tell them that it will be something that will be BIG & SPECIAL you picked out for them, and you hope they’ll like, but maybe they won’t and they won’t have any other gifts.

    Then add, that when someone gives a gift, they always try to get something you’ll like & want and
    feel really good, when you like what they got you . But also remember, if you tell the person who gives you a gift, that you don’t like the gift, it hurts that person’s feelings & they may never want to give a gift again. (This should be said in the third person so as not to attribute these qualities
    immediately to you as parents, unless they’re smart enough to apply it)

    Finally, on the holiday, if your child throws a tantrum and hates the gift/clothes, you can always offer it to their brother or sister or maybe suggest a friend you know who is poor & might appreciate the gift. Remind them, that they don’t have to keep it, because it’s only ONE gift & they got lots more gifts this holiday, that they do like. You can always end with a question that keeps them thinking-
    Such as: Maybe it’s better not to get ANY gifts next year because I don’t want you feel bad if you don’t like what I got you?
    Or, Did you remeber to get your brother or sister a gift?
    Or Do you kow someone else who might LIKE this shirt we can give it to?

    Hope this was helpful. Happy Holidays

    • Firstly, thanks for inspiring the blog. Secondly, thanks for the lengthy and thoughtful response.
      I think you make some excellent suggestions. If I can boil it down – ultimately it comes down to communications. hopefully, communicating will assist in managing expectations. I like your suggestion about keeping it third person. I think is better to make it less personal. I also like one of your last notes – about not getting any gifts so you wont feel bad. That should give the child perspective. Nice.

  17. You are speaking my language! Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. Of course, the other way that us Christian parents get to bail on this scenario is that they’ll blame Santa, not mom and dad.

  18. I love the article… there won’t be any kind of comment, agreement or disagreement to other comments… it would sound ridiculous since I don’t have kids.
    I only can repeat: I love the blog post – it’s written well and it made me smile.
    Happy Holidays.

  19. I’m not sure if I should be laughing…but I am. You painted a hilarious picture of your son on his scooter in the house crying about his shirt while enjoying his new scooter. We give our kids practicle things….for Christmas. Electric toothbrushes, socks. Some times, I wrap the gifts in old cereal boxes. One time, I gave the kids a box of cereal. They opened the box thinking there was a present in it….and it was a box of chex mix. Then, we gave them the real present. Ahhh….memories. Does that sound cruel? Hilarious? or both?

  20. Very tricky when they don’t like the gifts you give them. I always tell my very vocal 7 year old that he doesn’t have to like every gift that is given to him, but he has to be polite about it anyway. He is free to complain loudly later in private to myself of Daddy, but it’s not OK to demand toys or any other gifts because sometimes, you just need shirts, and presents can be stuff you need as well as stuff you want 🙂 –
    I don’t say this to him, but this is what I always think…”In the ‘old’ days, the only time of the year that people would be able to have new anything might have been Christmas or Chanukah and getting a shirt or some item of clothing would have been awesome”…coz toys and computer games didn’t even exist! Sadly little kids don’t really get that, so there’s not much point lecturing them about it.

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