My Christmas morning as a child didn’t always involve presents. It wasn’t that my parents were trying to simplify Christmas and focus on experiences over presents, but it was because they had no means of buying anything from the long wish list we would make every year. I clearly remember there were tough years when we wouldn’t get a single present. Sometimes my father in his attempt to bring us something would wrap the gifts his customers would give him. Sometimes they gave him a cool gift but most of the time it was a box of chocolate or a pen set that didn’t work or stinky cologne that they probably didn’t like themselves but didn’t want to trash. He would diligently wrap up each little trinket and put it under the tree for his kids. I received lots of broken pen sets for Christmas.
When I became a parent and Christmas rolled around, I found myself remembering my childhood; the joys, food and the unfulfilled wish lists. So, I plunged into creating a magical Christmas experience for my baby who would’ve been fine with being in my arms and a banana in hand. I wasn’t an over the top spender because we try to live within our means but between our gifts and all the gifts from family he had more gifts than I did in all of my childhood years put together.
After our first Christmas morning, I had an uncomfortable feeling and I realized I didn’t want to repeat this kind of Christmas morning. Though I struggled with my desire to give my child more than what I had as a kid, there wasn’t a Christmas in my childhood missing fun, laughter and a stranger (whom my dad met and invited to join us for Christmas dinner).
Though we didn’t have much we enjoyed the gift of laughter, lots of love and the real meaning of Christmas!
That’s exactly the kind of legacy I want to pass along to my children. Gifts are fine but I don’t want them to be a distraction from what really matters.
8 Things Children Don’t Need to be Happy This Christmas
1. They don’t need everything they ask for on their Christmas wish list. Note, it’s a “wish” list, not everything has to be granted on a wish list. In fact, get rid of the wish list or we regularly explain to our children that they will not be getting everything on the list. The list is to give us some ideas on what they want, it doesn’t mean they will get everything on it.
2. They don’t need tons of stuff. We had a yard sale a few weeks ago and it was such a reminder to me that we have way too much stuff. I kept telling myself afterwards we DO NOT need more stuff. They have more toys than they can play with. With three boys in our home, toys multiply by the dozen as the year goes by. This years we are following this three gift rule: something they want, something they need, something to read.
3. Entitlement. They don’t need us to feed into the “Give me, give me” mentality. Our boys use their “give” money from their allowance and jobs they’ve earned to buy a gift to someone in need from our community. To buy gifts that are not “junky” or broken pen sets, lol. I share here on things to consider when giving to a charity. We’ve bought gifts and donated them, we’ve also done something like “operation Christmas box” and I’ve heard of families donating money to organizations like Heiffer international or Samaritans purse international. We also make sure that our Christmas advent calendar is not only filled with activities where it’s all about them but activities where they are encouraged to think about others, in our family, in our neighborhood and community. Christmas doesn’t need to be all about them presents are a privilege not right.
4. They don’t need stuff we can’t afford. Thousands of families all over the world, start the new year in debt because of the lavished Christmas gifts and trips they enjoy over the holidays. One thing I learned from my childhood was that my parents preferred to not give us a gift for Christmas even though that hurt them so, than to teach us to go into debt for the sake of a Christmas gift. I carry this with me and the rule in our home is if we can’t pay for it at the end of the month, than we shouldn’t put it on our credit card.
5. They don’t need our “neighbors” Christmas. They don’t need for us to compete with our neighbors, or friends on gifts, lawn decorations, ski trips or what not. The more I observe our world arounds us and counsel young tweens and teens I realize LONG for the presence of their mom and dad. They make act like their too cool for you or too awesome to care whether you’re around or not but they NEED you. Have fun decorating your house, baking cookies or what not but don’t let that stress you so much that you take the joy out of it.
6. They don’t need to rush from one activity to another. Our daily life is already busy they don’t need to be rushing from one Christmas party to the next Santa event in the horrible holiday traffic. Last year because I was in over my head with homeschooling we didn’t do as much. We stayed home a little more and said “no” a bit more–it was hard for me but it was a bit more restful. Stay home and color with your child or whatever quality activity you both enjoy. Before you think you’re teen is too old for coloring, you’ll be amazed how many teens in my office choose to color as their activity. Tell your child or kids and say today we are staying and home and working on this fun project for just you and me or read some of your favorite Christmas books and share the stories from your childhood that revolve around that book. You’ll be amazed at how special they feel even if they don’t care for your choice activity.
7. They don’t need the perfect gift or the perfect Christmas. It’s okay if you can’t find the perfect gift. Really it’s okay, so don’t stress yourself out going from store to store shopping for the perfect gift. Some of my best gifts have been those that were lavished in love. One of the things I enjoyed during Christmas as a kid was making presents for each other. I don’t remember what they made me but I remember how special it was. So for the past couple of years in our family we’ve have made a stocking stuffer gift for each other. Nor does it have to be a perfect Christmas the commercialized Christmas cheer is not always our reality. Problems don’t stop, people are still laid off, people are hurting. So help your children see that the Christmas cheer is more than the image of a perfect Christmas that is sold to us in movies. Oh, Christmas is so much deeper than that.
8. They don’t need something else reminding them of what Christmas is NOT about. We are constantly bombarded with messages from the media, peers, magazines, billboards, commercials… on what Christmas is not about. Let’s find ways to counteract those messages with the truth of what Christmas is really about. Let’s find ways to whisper and interweave these messages into our families holiday season. I do this with our Christmas advent scripture reading, by serving in our community as a family, sharing fun memories on weekend mornings instead of rushing out of the house to the next thing.
If you know me personally or followed along my blog long enough you know that I love to celebrate and this holiday season we ARE still celebrating but I’m learning to enjoy it from a more relaxed frame of mind and focusing on what’s important: love, presence, laughter and sharing the true meaning of Christmas with my kids.