I’m going to go out on a limb and sound like the grinch here, but I don’t want my kids to get everything they want for Christmas. I have seen so many posts in facebook of parents desperately scrambling to fill last minute requests to Santa. Kids getting every wish fulfilled. Christmas magic at its finest. But I just don’t buy it. And this will probably rub a lot of people the wrong way, especially those that have bent over backwards to make this Christmas a dream come true, but hear me out. I LOVE Christmas. I love trees and presents and stockings and carols. It battles the first swim of summer as being my favorite time of the year. But I don’t want my kids best Christmas memories to be of STUFF. I don’t want the landmark of the year to be the bike or the video game or the five nights of Freddy memorabilia. If it is, then I have failed my kids.
I remember Christmas the year I was 10 years old. I received a kids sewing machine, books, clothes, a few toys… and I remember the feeling after the presents were all opened. The feeling of “that’s it?” And feeling vaguely empty and disappointed. Which is the feeling we set our kids up for when we make Christmas all about the gifts. What happens when we get them everything the want every single year and their tastes expand and get more expensive and detailed each year? We jump through hoops to make sure they aren’t disappointed and that Christmas remains magical. But you can’t do that forever. There will come a day when the gifts you give aren’t enough or the right thing. Then what? Now, some will argue that it’s just part of growing up and that at least we can make Christmas magical while they are young, before they have to face real life. But does it really work that way? Do we cater to selfishness and consumerism throughout childhood and then expect them to snap out of it and suddenly come to the realization that it’s better to give than to receive (which kids can blithely say, but most don’t believe it deep down… a lot of adults don’t either)?
This week my six year old daughter asked me how many of the presents under the tree were for her. I smiled and hugged her and reminded her of our little recipe, “one thing you want, one thing you need, one thing to wear and one thing to read.” Her face fell a little bit. “Only four?” I felt that familiar sensation creep in. The comparison. The wondering if she would be disappointed and compare her trappings with her friends. But I stopped. I hugged her tighter and loved her deeper. We don’t limit our gifts because we can’t afford more. We limit our gifts because we choose to have a certain kind of family experience. One that is not defined by things.
As human beings, what we crave deep down is connection. LOVE. I want my kids favorite Christmas memories to be the people they connected with and the experiences that connected them. Gifts are a lovely part of that. But they should only be one dish as the feast, not the main course. I want them to remember the music and singing. The games and the laughter. The caroling and the feasting and the funny little traditions that make our family unique.
And if the gift exchange leaves them wanting, then good! I have done my job. Satisfaction and true joy cannot be bought. I am raising children who aren’t satisfied by STUFF, but crave connecting with others even more. There is not enough stuff in the world to replace LOVE.
And THAT is why I hope my kids don’t get everything they want for Christmas.
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