I am disturbed. My son T recently finished writing his letter to Santa (signed, sealed, and mailed). But that’s not what’s disturbing. What’s disturbing is how he REFERS to the letter. He says matter of factly to anyone who will listen, “I put in my order to Santa Claus for an electric train set.” Like Santa is the pimply Domino’s order taker and the train set is the thin crust with extra cheese.
I’m appalled. Really? “My ORDER”??
This charming turn of phrase has gotten me thinking about the meaning of Christmas for kids and how our family has been celebrating it for the last five years. Between my husband and me (and Santa, of course), and our families, T has always received heaps of gifts for the holiday. Quite honestly though, I have mixed feelings about that.
On the one hand, it’s neat. (Yes, I said “neat.”) When I was growing up, our family’s Christmases were pretty slim and sedate. My sisters and I each got two or three gifts max from Santa and at least one of them was always something from the dull-as-dirt category, like underwear or pajamas. I can’t tell you how many unfulfilling, anti-climactic Christmases I had during my youth. So when I see T tear into his presents and open each with wide-eyed anticipation and watch him squeal with glee at every cool toy, I can’t help but feel a lump in my throat. Vicariously through him, I revel in the pure joy of every-kid at Christmas. Like I said, it’s neat.
On the other hand…the excess makes my stomach turn. The eco-conscious bleeding heart in me cringes at All That Wrapping Paper, and the piles of tchotchkes that will be played with a handful of times and then inevitably break or be forgotten by New Year’s Eve. I’m not trying to be a Scrooge, but you should see our house after Christmas morning. It’s a veritable mine field of toys, games, and books galore.
So I gotta wonder…what messages does this excess send to T about the meaning of Christmas? That it’s all about the stuff? That’s so not cool with me. I am NOT into raising a little materialist.
I admit, I’m as much to blame as anyone else for getting our son hooked on gifts. While I’ve always favored toys made out of natural materials like wood and organic cotton, I have bought into this scene a little too eagerly. T’s room is filled with lovely wooden toys, trains, cars, blocks, and puzzles. Sure, they are non-toxic (which will always remain a big concern of mine), but all of these eco-friendly trinkets cost a pretty penny, and he has way too many of them—so many that he doesn’t really play with any of them, if that makes sense.
This year, I desperately want to start weaning my child off his obsession with gifts, and instill in him the true Christmas spirit. In my mind, that means GRATITUDE—appreciating our loved ones and being grateful for the life that we have.
How to go about doing this is the big question. I can’t go cold turkey and deny him gifts altogether. Gifts will always remain a part—albeit I’m hoping a progressively smaller part as he gets older—of the holiday.
But what will take precedence is what we DO together as a family. We could take a road trip to the mountains. Play in the snow. Spend time baking egg-free desserts and rustling up good-smelling meals in the kitchen. Take part in more holiday festivities. (Just last week, we went to our beach town’s holiday parade, complete with giant walking robots lit up like Christmas trees, puttering classic cars, honking fire trucks, and kids driving go-carts. T was in hog heaven!) And when our kids get older, you can bet we’ll be hitting the volunteer circuit. I am especially excited about this.
How does your family deal with the excess of the holidays? Any tips for us? Should we be so concerned about all the consumerism? Or should we just accept that our kids are only kids once and let them enjoy the holiday, piles of presents and all?
Sophia savors all the joys (and challenges!) of family life with her husband and two kids in San Diego. Read more of her (mis)adventures in mothering at MamaSayMamaSo.