LESS IS MORE, I PROMISE!
When my children were young, they were given many gifts. When you take into account grandparents, aunts & uncles, mom & dad and, of course, Santa; the number of presents under the tree seems to increase exponentially as Christmas nears. Little ones are teased by the accumulation. When can we open them??? Wind up the pre-holiday buzz with each new deposit!
As traditions take hold, I would encourage you to think seriously about what you want the season of Christmas to mean to your family. To avoid the entitled attitude the yearly deluge of presents gives rise to, think first about your family sharing love. How does that look for you and yours?
Instead of buying everything on the wish lists, you might let Santa provide the most favoritest, gotta have gift. You can gift number two on the list and a few more of the less desired items. Ask extended family to buy just one present (Oh, I know how grandparents can be!), focusing on quality over quantity. If they’re devastated, encourage them to buy whatever they’d like but then give the gifts over time to celebrate New Year’s, Valentines, etc…? Suggest that instead of numerous presents, they start their own special tradition with their grandchild by taking them to see bright lights around town, having a gourmet hot chocolate, or helping them to buy presents for their siblings and parents. Because my best friend from middle school had kids bookending the ages of mine, we started a family to family tradition of buying each other beautiful, traditional, meaningful, or just plain fun Christmas books. We did this in lieu of giving presents to each other’s children individually. Such a great collection was built which was so fun for us to see and read again year after year.
For my family, I took packages as they arrived and put them in a room where I could close the door. If one of my son’s asked, “What’s that?” I’d tell them it’s gifts for our family from ____ but it’s not time for them yet. I wanted for us to decorate together, decorate cookies, mark time on the advent calendar. On Christmas Eve day, if they were at preschool or elementary school, I’d put the presents out when they weren’t with me. If that couldn’t happen, I’d get them going on their favorite toys or games and manage it while they weren’t looking. The last option was putting them out after they’d gone to sleep that evening. It was sooo exciting for them when they saw the packages under the lights of the Christmas tree, regardless of the number. And there were many a Christmas Eve that my husband was up late putting together the indoor basketball that rang its bells and flashed its lights, the multi-use game table with foosball table, which was popular all the way through high school. So, I’m not the grinch. When I could, during the crazy Christmas consumer derby, I tried to think about what I wanted to give my children which was lottsa love, a smattering of activities together, and simply periods of my undivided attention.
Another way to share the spirit of the holidays is to buy a gift or two for families less fortunate. I also had my sons go through their toys before Christmas, or just after, and sort them in bags to give away, throw away, or keep. Taking them with you to a donation site, let’s them see the concrete way their choices are a generosity to other kids without many toys.
If you want a stronger antidote to the me-me-me virus, try putting a lot of toys in a box for later. It’s their next time box. You could start with or without their assistance. Then when they’re playing and ask, “Hey, where’s that ____?” You just say it’s for next time. After a month, two or three, bring out the next time box. If a toy wasn’t missed and there’s not much interest in it, that could go in a “give away” bag. Then, the idea is the next time toys come out and the half that had been available takes their place in the “next time” box. This certainly is something you work out for your family’s style, and I wouldn’t expect sleep-with, favorite, have-to-have toys or games to go away. I sometimes did it on my own and some toys just disappeared. Interesting to see how long it took them to notice. When they did, I’d assure them those things are in our next time box, and we would play with them another time. With my kids, if I was lucky, when they couldn’t find something and looked to me, I’d smile like “you found a secret, you’re onto something,” I’d get their smile back making sure I knew they were onto me; sometimes we’d even nod our heads and give the “I’m watching you” sign to each other. It was a good distraction from a bad, mad, rainy, boring day to bring out that next time box. Joy was had by all – every two or three months.
These are practices that met our family’s need to navigate the season without focusing on presents and me-me-me.
Sara’s education and experience: B.A. Ed; M.S. Counseling; teacher grades K & 2/3, educator for childcare providers, training in Positive Discipline and Growing, parent educator, program director of crisis nursery, including parent support, staff management & training, stay home mom 16 years with two sons born 19 months apart, medical transcription for 10 years in order to stay home, substitute teacher grades K through 12. Blogs about a wide variety of topics on survivingsara.net.