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  • Giftmas or Christmas or Both

    December 27, 2010

    I got the following comment from Lil on my previous post and it really got me to thinking:

    “My grown sister and I were talking a few days ago about Christmases past and she was saying that thinking back on our childhood Christmases, she never got THE thing she really wanted, she always got a variation or knock off of the desired object and that she never had a WOW Christmas because of it. I said that my poor mom was trying to make four kids happy on a limited budget and had done pretty darned well. But her lingering disappointment in those Christmases past made me think that maybe for my kid, the memory of getting what he really wants on Christmas, at least with one toy, is worth the expense.

    On the other hand, I have a friend and in her family of five kids, they each got one item of clothing on Christmas morning and then all went out sledding and she had wonderful memories of that!

    I guess with Christmas, we’re really just trying to make happy memories for our kids, however that is possible, with the realization of a dream come true gift, or/and a great happy time with family.”

    And I thought, you know that is a very interesting discussion point and one that is probably worthy of an entire post.

    I’m torn.

    The philosophical side of me sniffs and dismisses toys and gifts, the side that tries to ponder upon loftier things.  The six-year-old poor girl in me wants the Hollywood stage set Christmas and the IT doll wrapped in shiny foil paper and a sparkly bow.  And a pretty red velvet dress. And those sides are like two siblings in the backseat of a car on a trip to eternity, slap fighting the whole way.

    My parents never had money for the IT toy or even the knock-off IT toy and while I had a wonderful childhood, I had the impression that everyone else except us was having a Norman Rockwell Christmas and getting IT toys and new pajamas and spending money from grandma and were delirious with joy on Christmas morning.  And because of that, for me, Christmas always came with a feeling of disappointment.  And that disappointment seems to have nestled deep within me and feeds my desire to give Sean at least one IT toy.

    One the other hand….

    If you (meaning me) are focused inward then it’s easy to believe in the false-Christmas that retailers sell, the one that can never be had, and you deny yourself the joy of the season.   But if you (meaning me) adjust your expectations and focus out, then you (meaning me) can tap into the joy of Christmas and anesthetize the disappointment. To some degree.  I’m pretty sure that makes no sense to you (meaning you) because it barely makes sense to me.

    So while I do indulge my inner poor girl and buy Sean at least one thing he really wants, AD and I go to considerable efforts to counter that by playing down the gifts and focusing on the traditions that we are creating as a family and on the story of the birth of Christ as told in Luke.

    When Sean is a grown man, I want him to remember Christmas in our house as a time of joy more so than whether or not he got a Bakugan when he was seven.  I guess he can let you know in another 15 years or so.

    I would love to hear your thoughts and stories.

    36 Comments »

    1. Iota says:

      My husband always laughs at me (in a good way, of course) because before Christmas and before each child’s birthday, I go through the same opposing emotions. I will panic and say “we haven’t got them what they want, there aren’t enough presents, they’ll be disapointed”, and then 24 hours later I’ll say “there’s way too much here, we’re bringing them up to be far too materialistic, I’m going to take some of this stuff back to the store”. Then 24 hours later I’ll be swinging back to position one again.

      I think so much of our judgments of ourselves are based on relatives. We want to position ourselves on a spectrum according to where our friends and neighbors are. Or according to where we were ourselves as children. Or according to the fact that thousands of children in developing countries don’t even have enough to eat, let alone fancy toys. Or according to the emptiness that we see materialism in our own society breeds.

      I don’t know what the answer is, but I’ve found it helpful to realise that there isn’t necessarily one right answer. It’s not a question of seeing the sweet spot, and getting into it. It’s going to be a continual process of evaluating and re-evaluating, of feeling good about our decisions and feeling not good about them. For me, at least.

      This Christmas, we’ve thought about gifts of time. We’ve been intentional about playing with the children, helping them with their craft kits, and giving each other time away from family commitments to go and do something solitary and life-enhancing.

      December 27th, 2010 at 8:42 am

    2. Lil says:

      Hi and thanks for this thoughtful post. I love your sentence,”And those two sides [adult and child] are like two siblings in the backseat of a car on a trip to eternity, slap fighting the whole way.” Isn’t it the truth. We’re a child and an adult all at once and it’s important while parenting to sometimes go back and look at things from our childselve’s perspective.

      I’ll be back to read the comments on this post! Thanks!

      December 27th, 2010 at 9:18 am

    3. momof8 says:

      Growing up, after the magic of Santa was gone, after we had opened gifts and had the lunchtime feast, I always felt the let down. Like that was it–for the rest of the day–now what? I haven’t figured out how to not have that happen. With 8 kids, we have never had the IT toy, but the kids seem to be happy with whatever comes–some more than others. We try to focus on Christ during the count down to Christmas. I have a big basket of glass balls and as they give their gifts to Jesus each day–good deeds and such–they get to quietly hang a glass ball on the tree–no fanfare. Then we watch as the tree becomes more and more decorated. And to combat the now what feeling, I make cinnamon rolls for breakfast, a nice dinner for lunch and hor dourves and snacky stuff for dinner. We play with their games and toys during the day. I’m not sure it works, but I keep trying. It at least keeps me busy. Oh, and we always have birthday cake. 🙂

      December 27th, 2010 at 9:46 am

    4. Adventures In Babywearing says:

      This gives me a lot to think about. I think no matter what- if you get what you really wanted or not, there is always a disappointment after Christmas because it’s a high, then it’s over, the low.

      But also, most of all we want to teach our kids that ANY gift is an awesome gift. I don’t think we go out of our way to teach this lesson, like by not giving them what we want, but we’re all trying to get by here and it seems like if it works out to give them what they really want, we’ll do it. Otherwise we’re just doing our best and hope they will (someday) understand our intentions.

      Steph

      December 27th, 2010 at 9:49 am

    5. amy sue nathan says:

      I don’t celebrate Christmas but all our holiday traditions – both Jewish and secular usually revolve around food and traditions. Not sure my kids (a college freshman and high school sophomore) could tell you what they got for Hanukkah even last year — but I bet they’d roll their eyes if I asked them if I make them sing 🙂 and if I make latkes (ok, I buy them) and how we set the table at Passover and all about the childhood “artifacts” I put on the table and around the house. The best memories are rarely of anything that’s wrapped with a bow. But you know that. 😉

      December 27th, 2010 at 9:50 am

    6. Erica says:

      Hm.
      At my house, my husband (at 41) STILL misses his childhood Christmases of perfection and family and gathering and hanging out with such missing and nostalgia that since we got married six years ago we seem to spend time each Advent and Christmas chasing those dreams with more grieving and longing than I care to handle. I’m not sure what to do about it since while he grieves the disintigration of his larger family structures and the loss of his mother, he won’t take action to replace those traditions but seems to prefer to wallow in all his yearning. The “how are we going to deal with this positively, my love” conversation continues.

      In other news, perhaps it’s the lack of tv? My violent love of celebrating Advent combined with my tardiness of getting Christmas decorations up and going? The fact that we did work so hard this year on both the Christmas story AND the true story of the actual Saint Nicholas, (an interesting character)? Is it that the kids are only 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 and don’t know any better? Is it that my own fabulous, tight knit, loving to shop family totally picked up the slack? Meh. Everything I got my kids was hand-me-down, thrift-shop, or Once-upon-a-Child (except for the markers, and that one tiny thing) and they are THRILLED and haven’t stopped playing yet. For almost no shopping and controlled spending on my part, I’m pretty sure they think they got THE GIFTS and more, that this was a Christmas that they’ll yearn for and pine over and “why can’t all Christmases be like that one?” for the rest of their lives.

      I pity their poor spouses. 🙂
      It probably won’t stay this easy in years to come.

      December 27th, 2010 at 9:53 am

    7. Jeana says:

      I think there is a tendency for parents to believe that our actions alone determine how our children remember/view their childhood, as evidenced by the person who wrote the comment. I remember magical Christmases, but my brother tended to feel like he never really got what he wanted. Part of that may be because we had a boy cousin his age who always got the IT toy, but I think part of it is disposition as well. I think there is some truth to both viewpoints, but we should remember that either way we go our kids may remember great Christmases or less-than. There’s no guarantee.

      December 27th, 2010 at 10:07 am

    8. k&c's mom says:

      These comments make for a very thoughtful discussion. I was at a gathering of adults the other night where everyone shared their favorite memory of past Christmases, and I was struck that not one spoke of a gift they got. I so loved just the time with people and my now-adult children this year. So much contentment there.

      I remember years ago when Cabbage Patch dolls were the rage, my students brought theirs in after Christmas. One little girl had an “imitation” CP doll and the other girls were not kind on the playground. I think the student was OK with her gift until the others made fun of it.

      We are so commercial driven. I notice the stores that pushed the Christmas magical gifts are advertising the containers to put it all away in now!

      * * *
      I think the greatest gift we can give our children is to teach them not to be those girls on the playground. My heart breaks for that little girl.

      December 27th, 2010 at 10:51 am

    9. Prairie Rose says:

      I think it’s more about attitude than circumstances.

      We never had much, but we were always so happy with what we got on Christmas. We didn’t even ASK for the “IT” toy because we knew upfront what level of pricetag was beyond our means, and somehow it was never an issue for us. I was surprised when I read the initial post and some of the comments about grown people who don’t have good Christmas memories because they never got THE toy they wanted, and I just think, are you serious? 20 — 30 — 40 or more years later and you’re still upset over a toy you didn’t get?

      I do share the same struggle as an adult as you, however — of, oh I want them to get what they want, I want them to be happy vs. do I really want to promote this materialism and greed surrounding Christmas?

      I grant the material wishes within reason, and try to really focus more on making positive Christmas memories for the kids through shared activities and traditions that are NOT done the rest of the year to keep them special. We only watch Christmas cartoons in December, only listen to Christmas carols in December… decorating the tree, making Christmas cookies, going caroling, constructing a gingerbread house, and other traditions that are kept special for this special time of year.

      So the DSI and the laptop and the Ipod Touch on the Christmas wishlist weren’t granted — but the $3 mood ring and the $10 tea set? All yours, baby girl! :o) And I saw lots of smiles and no tears on Christmas, so I really don’t think the lack of expensive toys ruined it for her. :o)

      * * *
      “I was surprised when I read the initial post and some of the comments about grown people who don’t have good Christmas memories because they never got THE toy they wanted, and I just think, are you serious? 20 — 30 — 40 or more years later and you’re still upset over a toy you didn’t get?”

      Usually it’s not about the toy they didn’t get. Usually the toy only represents a perceived unfulfilled need or longing from childhood. Rational or irrational, we all have holes in our lives.

      December 27th, 2010 at 11:31 am

    10. Hannah says:

      Growing up, we always had a LOT of family traditions surrounding Christmas. There were four of us kids, so we never got huge gifts, but we had so much fun on Christmas. We took turns opening gifts to make it last, we had a secret santa gift exchange with our siblings, etc. Even now, Christmas is such a special time because of the traditions.

      December 27th, 2010 at 11:34 am

    11. Fern says:

      We are not a big gift giving family. Sometimes this has made me sad–my husband was never great a giving gifts and I got tired of telling him what I wanted or getting nothing. I still get disappointed sometimes, but if I really want something I can buy it myself (but it is not the same)
      So, we sort of let gift giving go by the wayside, and sometimes I am sad about it. My kids get something they want for their birthdays and Hanukkah–but now it is often a small amount of cash or helping them pay for something that they really want.
      We do make donations to charities often–and for years that is all my daughter has wanted–to choose animals from Heifer International, or another cause she supports.
      But then, about a week ago, my 18 year old daughter said to me, “we don’t give you and dad gifts, does that bother you?” I said it didn’t. (but I did love the year she called the radio station and asked them to play my favorite song) And then she said “I’m glad we don’t, it gives us more money to help people who really need it.” What she does not understand that there is joy in gift-giving. Or maybe she does–she just has a better idea of what a real gift is.

      December 27th, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    12. Kelly @ Love Well says:

      I’ve probably been thinking too much about Christmas And The Deeper Meanings lately.

      But I wonder if we aren’t all disappointed by Christmas on some level. Maybe it’s because we didn’t get the popular toy or maybe it’s because our spouse got us a gift that’s just tacky or maybe it’s because the extended family drama overshadowed everything else.

      Or maybe it’s just because it’s over so quickly.

      We put such high expectations on one day. It should be perfect, society says And it rarely is.

      Just keeping that in perspective, and reminding myself that Jesus’ birth enables my everyday, imperfect life to be joy-filled, helps me to deal with my own (and my children’s) post-Christmas disappointment.

      In the end, it’s just a day. We do our best, enjoy what God has given us and leave the rest packed in a box with the knotted strings of lights. I don’t want to carry around Christmas regret. Life is too short.

      December 27th, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    13. Allison says:

      Interesting topic of discussion. I think for me, Christmas was not so much dealing with my unfulfilled expectations as trying to deal with others unfulfilled expectations. Trying to be the peace maker, problem solver, making sure to be exceedingly overly happy with something that you don’t like. I’m sure there were happy Christmas’, but they are overshadowed by the bad ones. Life usually works that way. No matter how wonderful life is, the bad memories usually crowd out the good ones. They are by nature easier to remember. I try very hard to memorize good memories, and rehearse them to myself.

      December 27th, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    14. Happy Geek says:

      I do think about this occasionally. We do not give our kids material presents for Christmas, (their grandparents do however) instead they get a homemade booklet of coupons for experiences that they redeem throughout the year. Like swimming, dates with mommy, special suppers, etc.
      Will they resent this later? I hope not, but it is yet another thing in life I am not able to control. Which I do not like, I want to control everything. We just really want to set family above stuff so that is why we do it this way. It works for us right now, it probably won’t when they are older.
      This parenting thing is TRICKY. Good discussion AM.

      December 27th, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    15. Roxanne says:

      I already told you that my kiddos didn’t get that many toys this year for Christmas. With a twelve year old daughter, the shopping will get harder, and the nine year old boy could get Legos until he slept atop them and not be satisfied. But we played games and ate cookies and visited with family and watched movies and had fires in the fireplace and we DID SEE Chicken Wipes and so I think they were happy with their one “It” item each and the other little sundries that I picked up along the way. My Christmases as a child were never full of “it” things either–mainly family and a few things I really wanted–but I remember warmth and love, and I STILL HAVE my “Baby Tender Love” from all those years ago. She lives in my daughter’s room, and EVERY LITTLE GIRL that comes over by-passes all the other dolls to haul her around. I think it’s the hair.

      December 27th, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    16. heidig says:

      You know, I don’t really remember whether or not I got the IT toy when I was a child. What I do remember is the fun my sister and brothers had with what toys we did get for Christmas. My mom always bought a “family gift” – a board game. We always played the board game first after opening everything. And now, with 2 girls in college, it isn’t the gifts they look forward to, its that family is with us and the fun we all have together. My sister and her family are moving to TX in February and that’s all our girls could think about this Christmas – that they won’t be with us again for a long time! Don’t worry about the IT gift. Sean is a good boy and has been raised the right way. He’ll remember the traditions, not the toys.

      December 27th, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    17. Julie at Elisharose says:

      As I recall, I got a few IT things for Christmas growing up. I remember the Beautiful Crissy doll I wanted so badly and the guitar. But those aren’t the things I remember most about Christmas. I remember waking up early and tearing into everything with my siblings. I remember after our morning madness we would head to my paternal grandmother’s house and have breakfast and then lunch with all the cousins and whoever else happened to stop by that day. We’d eat and visit and climb trees and just enjoy each other and the day. After all that craziness we’d head over to my maternal grandmother’s house and have a quiet evening, often by candlelight. We’d eat pie and visit and open whatever little gift she got or made for us. Very much a contrast to the day we had had with my dad’s large and boisterous family but just as much a part of our tradition.

      I’m trying to do the same for my kid’s. We have Christmas Eve with my husband’s sister. It’s quiet and nice. Then Christmas Day is at your house. We have our little family time before the masses arrive. People start arriving at about 9. We have breakfast and then lunch. We always have all our family and usually a few strays. This year we had 27 people through here. Some are just here for breakfast, some stay all day.

      For me anyway, it’s all about the traditions, the family, and the friends. This year was a very lean year for us. The gifts were few but well chosen. No big gifts from us. I asked my son yesterday if he had a good Christmas. He looked at me for a moment and said, “What do you think?” I said hopefully, “Yes?” “Yes”, he said and gave me a hug. He’s 15. I think it was awesome.

      December 27th, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    18. Lynn says:

      Before my Mom died we had a conversation about Christmas. She had been harbouring guilt that they (Mom and Dad) hadn’t been able to give us more presents at Christmas. With 5 kids and one salary times were tough.

      She was shocked when I told her that I never was disappointed on Christmas morning. My three brothers have told me they felt the same way but just like Lil’s sister my sister felt like she never got the right gift.

      To me it has never been about the presents, but the traditions and the joy of doing things together as a family. My fondest Christmas memories are of going as a family to pick out the perfect Christmas tree. How was it possible that with 5 kids we all seemed to agree on the tree?

      I confess to buying too many toys to put under the tree when my kids were little but I hope they remember the traditions and family time more than the presents.

      December 27th, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    19. Tonggu Momma says:

      When my daughter thinks of Christmas, she thinks of our boxed Advent calendar. Instead of filling it with candy, we fill it with little objects that represent a family activity for the day. Like, there’s a Christmas tree for the day we decorate the tree. And there’s a miniature train for when we go to a local place that has dozens of trains set up. Cookies for baking day. And on and on. That’s what I want her to remember. And it’s what she DOES remember.

      We do purchase nice gifts for her. But we limit it – we follow a little poem: something she wants, something she needs, something to wear, something to read. Those, plus a stocking and one gift from Santa and we are done. It helps me more than it helps her, since I have to really, really make conscious choices. I can’t go crazy.

      It keeps my focus on Jesus just as much as it keeps her focus on Jesus.

      December 27th, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    20. MM says:

      As I read your post and all the comments, I can’t help but wonder if those that “missed out” on the IT present growing up and feel an ever-present hole, have the Love Language of “Gifts”? Or perhaps “Words of Affirmation”, as in the parents hearing and not affirming with action, made the person not feel heard or important? Perhaps those that didn’t care and just enjoyed the family time have the Love Language of “Quality Time” and their love tanks were filled, thus good memories?

      I didn’t celebrate Christmas as my parents religion didn’t permit it. So today I feel like I can create fresh traditions with my children. I’ve very purposely asked my in-laws to keep it low key for us and over the last several years, they’ve respected it and in fact, it’s spread through all the siblings and children. The grandkids get presents, but often times it’s cash to the parents. Which I’ve been banking instead of buying gifts. The kids don’t miss it and their savings is growing. They still got about 6 new toys each from all the family members. MORE than enough!!!

      As they grow I hope to instill more spiritual value into the season, but since I didn’t celebrate growing up, I want them to experience the magic of Christmas morning. I have no memories at all of Christmas growing up and to me that’s sadder than not getting the IT gift. I can’t do that to them, even if I disappoint them with the wrong gift.

      December 27th, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    21. Brigitte says:

      My parents also had very little money and 4 kids to raise, and I also still have long-term disappointment over the fake knock-off Barbie I got.

      I don’t worry about stuff for me now, but I find myself going overboard making “perfect” Christmases for my DD, but trying to make her understand the real reason for the holiday. It’s a struggle every year!

      December 28th, 2010 at 8:13 am

    22. Kathy says:

      I can remember most of my Christmases – many with the IT toy or item. But for me, my Christmases I miss are the ones with my mom (who died when I was 26) and my dad (who recently left us to head to be with mom) and my mother and father – in law who were killed in a car accident last week.

      It is the people and those traditions of being with them on the day to celebrate our King and Savior, Jesus.

      December 28th, 2010 at 9:13 am

    23. nicole says:

      Wow, you do give us lots to ponder. As I think back on my childhood I remember enjoying the presents AND the family time. I don’t recall a Christmas where i really, really wanted a big item and got it. But I also don’t remember not getting something. Maybe I was gifted with a good sense of perspective and practicality at a young age. We got our girls (8 and 9) American Girl dolls this year. I never thought I would drop that kind of cash on a present (we had help from both sets of grandparents). But they’ve asked for them for the last 2-3 years. This year has been a big year and they have handled some of their new responsibilities so well. We wanted to recognize that. Also, they could have been asking for an iPod or a cell phone or something else that we would certainly not get them. I will do what I can to keep them young, because they are young and should act that way.

      I think most kids will focus on presents when they are young because that is tangible and immediate. But when they are older they will realize that the family time and togetherness is really what made the holidays special. So keep doing what you’re doing AM, I think you’ve got the right balance.

      December 28th, 2010 at 10:48 am

    24. Louise says:

      Growing up, my dad had to work seven days a week. The very best part about Christmas was that he was home, all day, and we could all spend it together. Plus, he would always take my sister and me each out one evening before Christmas to do our shopping, so we had that special time with Dad. We did occasionally get the “IT” gifts, and those are special memories (especially the first year my sister had a job and a car and went absolutely INSANE buying presents for everyone!), but for me, Christmas has never been either a religious holiday or a gift-giving extravaganza, but a time to celebrate family.

      December 29th, 2010 at 7:26 am

    25. Donna says:

      I remember too many lean and disappointing Christmases as a kid unwrapping things like shampoo and tissues and pencils! Therefore, I try very hard to buy my three kids fun and special things that I know they will love. I go for the WOW factor because I want their eyes to light up, and them to feel like they are worth my buying them nice gifts… and because I didn’t get that feeling when I was a kid. I know now that my parents just didn’t have much money, but I wish they would have tried harder to make Christmas special!

      December 29th, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    26. Pat T says:

      Hmmm, yet again AM , you’ve made me think. We try
      to walk the line of giving the IT gift (within reason), and
      creating and enjoying tradition. My 2 little ones
      have December birthdays, my daughter the 14th and my son on Christmas Eve. December usually becomes too much. We try to counter the gift giving with traditions. We sled and build snowmen
      when there is snow, bake cookies to share, make advent wreaths and
      our advent calendar has slips of paper with activities like family
      game night, family movie night, make a craft, go to the library, etc.

      We go to the pagent mass on Christmas eve, and make a paper Chain of “good deeds”. This year, on my sons birthday, Christmas eve morning,
      a dear friend passed away. She and her husband have 2 little girls. Her passing put a whole new perspective on focusing on the people and traditions in our lives, the important stuff. It was a mixed emotions holiday but I hugged my children a little harder, told my husband I loved him more often and turned to God more than usual.

      As a child, those IT gifts were Barbies or the Velvet doll. I usually got that It gift but it was never an extravagent expense. We also got socks and slippers and other necessities. But the memories were those of playing skunk with extended family or 500 rummy at the dining room table and getting dressed up for midnight mass. I hope those are the memories my children remember when they’re grown.

      December 29th, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    27. Susan says:

      364 days a year we maintain a household of gratitude, simplicity and being content. We rarely just go out and buy stuff. My daughter has never known a trip to Toys R Us just for fun. She has chores around the house, we volunteer at a night shelter together as a family and we have a household budget that requires her to work on a weekly basis in order to be part of the family AND to earn some spending money.

      Therefore, it does not pain me to impart some PURE joy on Christmas morning that comes from getting something completely unexpected. We all have fun and there is no harm in that! She has learned how fun it is to do that for others as well.

      She easily returns to the normal every day life after Christmas and it doesn’t turn her into a greedy money sucking pit. It’s just fun. Why not have fun ?

      December 29th, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    28. Rena says:

      Only for the past couple of years have I participated in the tradition of Santa as a parent. As a child, yes, there was Santa. I remember only a few years specifically. One in which I got the Barbie Town House (1977 edition, not to be confused with the 2010 edition my four-year-old got this Christmas), the other when I was a little older when I got a Grease album. To share with my older sister. I didn’t care.

      We grew up with little. A family of six plus aunts, uncles, cousins, cast-aways and eventually, a granddaughter of the oldest–my sister, teenage mom. Years later, I would learn from my aunt that it was she who bought that Barbie Town House. At first it stung. I don’t know why. It hurt me for my parents. Of course, I was grateful for them that she was there to help at that time. Albeit, they put a roof over her head.

      My two oldest daughters are now 20 & 18 (this Jan). My ex-husband and I made a decision when they were young to teach them that Santa was a fun, but make-believe part of Christmas. I don’t regret it. Two years ago when my youngest (now four) was only two and old enough to participate, it all started. Santa. Marriage is compromise. This was important to my husband for his only born daughter. I blogged about (Santa’s Presents and Christ’s Presence). I don’t regret the compromise, though I’ve struggled with the whole thing.

      In the past two years, though, I’ve learned so much. And I’ve blogged about that, too. (What I Learned This Christmas) It’s so easy to get distracted. It has been for me whether I included Santa or not. When my husband and I married nearly 13 years ago, we decided the girls (two oldest) would get three main gifts. The Magi presented Jesus with three, although he was likely two-years-old then. So we tried to simplify. But then there were the stockings. We kinda’ went overboard and it’s been a theme ever since. We do enjoy the stockings, though. I think they’re my favorite part.

      With the youngest and the newfound tradition of Santa for me, we tried to keep it simple. How hard does it have to be at her age? Yet, somehow, we got a little crazy. Photos of an overstuffed living room were proof. Of course, my oldest is married and she, the son-in-law and baby boy currently live with us. But the reality of just how much we had before us hit me hard.

      I want to give. I can set new limitations. I can determine. THREE gifts only, whether from Santa or not. We insist on some gifts being from us because we want her to understand our giving in this. But I can scale back and set a limit for next year. Less in the stockings, set a dollar limit. OR . . .

      Or, I can listen. I can let Him lead as I should every other day before Christmas. I can simply let Him lead. Listen, and obey. And then I cannot go wrong.

      Oh Lord, help me to listen. Help me to obey.

      December 29th, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    29. Chris says:

      My inner poor kid struggles mightily with this, because while I totally get that Jesus is the reason for the season, my brain (the brain that remembers being poor as dirt as a kid and never getting the IT toy, and also never asking for it because i was a terribly astute child who realized we were poor as dirt) is always a little sad when we’re having a year where the packages are few.

      My kids are older now, the youngest 12, and have always been fine with whatever we have, and as they’ve gotten older, I can see that the traditions and love at Christmas, Christmas Eve service, the annual gathering at our friends, the Bivens, searching the tree for our favorite ornaments, Christmas cookies, and the like are going to be what they remember most about Christmas.

      But it’s not them, it’s me. I put myself in this pressure cooker where I think I have to make faerie magic and mountains of gifts…

      I was especially anxious this year, quite sure there would be disappointment, determined to just get through it, and that anxiety stayed with me right up until Christmas eve night, when I looked down our pew and saw the faces of everyone I loved the most in the world, all happy, healthy and well loved…

      and it was like God quietly leaned over and whispered “see? this is what is important. the other stuff? that’s gravy”

      So, from here out, I’m going to just not play into it. I know what is important, and more importantly, my children know what is important.

      I will try to remember I wrote this 12/01/2011.

      December 30th, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    30. Cyndi - The Adventures of HarryJack says:

      We struggle with the same issues. It warmed my heart immensely when one of my sons said it didn’t matter what toys they got…it was just important to be with our family. Those moments are fleeting but I hope they are setting the tone. Of course they had a gob of toys, but I was really happy that the other son JUST noticed that Santa didn’t bring the one thing he asked for during his visit. Like you said, we’ll know in about 15 years….

      December 31st, 2010 at 11:09 am

    31. bobolink says:

      I am the single mom of four and a few years ago I realized my happiest Christmas memories weren’t the things, but the memory of time together. That year I gave each kid a date with me and that was awesome. Last year my youngest began his love affair with maps and geography and told santa: “By the way, I have a life long dream of travelling. Just keep that in mind.” So, we went around the world in Chicago restaurants. One kid picked the country and then kept the journal of the meal. I think we’ll keep this up this year. Time together is most valued IMHO.

      December 31st, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    32. Leslie Maddox says:

      My sister loves to tell the story about the year that I didn’t get a Scrabble game. When asked what I wanted for Christmas, all I could think to ask for was a Scrabble game. I was certain that I would get it since it was such an inexpensive gift. Well, interestingly, it seemed like I got everything BUT a Scrabble game. I was happy with my gifts and not at all heartbroken that I didn’t get the game, but commented on the lack of Scrabble game out loud because it seemed like it would have been such an easy win for my parents. Should have kept my thoughts to myself because my comment only pegged me as ungrateful.

      I read something recently about getting kids just three gifts every Christmas: something they want, something they need, and a surprise. We’re going to try that. Our little one is only 17 months old so he couldn’t ask for anything, but we still stuck to the three gifts. I’m sure it’ll be more difficult once he’s talking.

      * * *
      I think you shoulda’ gotten the Scrabble game. 🙂

      January 1st, 2011 at 1:00 am

    33. Bill McNutt says:

      I remember magical Christmases, and Christmases where I got THE gift I wanted.

      But I left childhood with the utter conviction that it is better to get fewer toys, that are genuine, name brand items, than more toys that are cheap knockoffs.

      Sorry Mom, but they’re NOT just as good, and any kid over the age of five can spot it.

      January 3rd, 2011 at 9:36 am

    34. Jackie says:

      I regret not doing what you are doing with Sean. We always made sure that Blake knew that Christmas was about Jesus but I wish we would have read about the birth and so forth. (I know he was actually born in April)

      You and AD should be pleased with the way you are raising your boy. He is a healthy, happy, smart, joyous, sefless, and remarkable young man. He learned this from two very good examples. 🙂

      I hope you have a blessed new year!

      January 3rd, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    35. rrmama says:

      Oh AM how this has struck me. I can remember one Christmas in paticular. And reflecting back on it makes me feel so terrible. Not because of what I did or did not get but because of the way I acted. I can remember the words spoken years ago just like they came out of my mouth five minutes ago. They are burned there permantly. I only hope I am no longer that little selfish girl from so long ago.

      January 3rd, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    36. Thea says:

      Go all out. My parents did not have it rich, my Dad was a teacher and my Mom a stay-at-home Mom. I was sent to a private school and most of my friends Dad’s were laywers and doctors. My parents were very much aware that they were getting far larger gifts than me at Christmas, so they did everything in their power to get me everything I wanted. There is not a Christmas that I remember where I did not get everything on my list, except for the year that I asked for a unicyle. But I do remember the trouble my Mom went through to actually try and get me one, she even went to the bicycle store and asked if they could make one! When I was a kid, I was always happy. Kids don’t understand the value of money at that age. Now as an adult, I understand how hard they must have had it, and I appreciate the gifts even more. I will do the same for my kids, I will be the one fighting for that last IT toy in the store! I would do anything to make them happy, because I know they will remember the effort the most.

      January 11th, 2011 at 9:49 pm

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