When I think of the holidays, I daydream about walking in a winter wonderland, roasting chestnuts and singing carols. The reality is I am walking in a Wal-Mart wonderland, emptying my bank account and trying to hold on to my sanity! The TV is blaring with all the latest toys and gadgets as we count down to Christmas and three-year-old Davis is already starting with “Mommy, will you buy that for me?”
I am sad about the simple traditions getting lost in a sea of tinsel and wrapping paper. When I think back to my own childhood, I don’t remember the presents I received. I do remember the warm, cozy feel of Christmas like the smell of the Christmas tree, the lights and sipping hot chocolate while watching Rudolph. It was all so magical. It seems that Christmas now is all about the presents and no longer spending time with family. As November hits, we have one big long to-do list, a host of social obligations and not enough time to pause and enjoy the season and each other.
Every year, I try to slow the crazy Christmas train down. Last year, Paul and I accepted fewer social invitations. We reduced the number of presents for the kids and we booked family time into the calendar. It was a good start. The goal was to create the “feel” of Christmas and all of the warmth and magic as opposed to the gift list.
Since Davis has been born, we have given him gifts only on his birthday and Christmas and even then we limit them because the rest of the family spoils him rotten.
We have ensured that every birthday and holiday, for all three kids, there is a gift of giving done in their names. We have adopted animals for WWF, given the gifts of care and education (Unicef) and donated to relief efforts around the world. Our family sponsors a child from Christian Children’s Fund. Paul and I are really trying to instill the idea of giving as well as getting. It is hard when the kids continually receive a mountain of gifts but we hope that the excitement about giving will be as big a part of the holiday tradition as the tree and turkey!
We ask the kids to make a present for each member of the family using odds and ends around the house. As well, the 12-year-olds are given a ‘dollar store’ budget so they learn about selecting thoughtful gifts for all of us. Davis will be asked to draw pictures for all of us and then wrap them himself. This year, for the first time, he might accompany his sisters in the dollar store.
As Davis grows up, it will be interesting to discover what Christmas means to him. Will he remember winter walks and looking at the houses decorated at Christmas or will he only remember that Santa gave him Elmo last year and this year he would like Go, Diego, Go! Every year, it is about small steps to make our own family traditions and teach the kids about giving – we can only hope that they will remember the good stuff. On that note, I hear that Toys R Us has a sale on Thomas the Train this week. Gotta go!