Well, as a parent, it’s time to think about Christmas.
Ugh, but who wants to when the weather is so beautiful and warm?
Well, if you’re a planning parent- which I am finding myself increasingly becoming- one must think about the dollazzz.
Some parents who, in my mind, are extraordinarily wise (my sister is one), start putting the dollars away as soon as January and then begin gift-hunting as soon as summer hits.
I like this idea because I have found myself in the opposite position:
Using latest paycheck to divide among my gift-receivers and scrambling to find gifts for all within the month of December. This is what I did before I had kids. …I didn’t give many gifts, and I still got stressed out!
When we had our first child, my husband and I decided we’d follow a gift rule for all of our subsequent children:
Three gifts each. With a set max spending limit per child.
Here’s our reasoning:
First of all, financially speaking, it can only help maintain a conscious level of spending. I grew up with beautiful Christmases. My sister, brother and I never got a new puppy or a pony, but we never felt left wanting. In fact, my favorite part of the gift opening was the stocking stuffers- it still is!
I know that some parents actually open a credit card to pay for their gifts. “…spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need…” says the Dave Ramsey inside my head.
So if we know before the month of December what we are willing and able to spend, that’s a plus in the long run, and monetary stress off of our shoulders.
But why just three???
This idea I obtained from my cousins who follow it with their children:
-Because baby Jesus received three gifts. (gold, frankincense & myrrh)
-Because I want our children to have a Christ-centered Christmas.
-Because, as a child, being given gifts with no limits can inflict emotions of greed, selfishness, jealousy & envy and negate the spirit of giving and love that’s supposed to resound in our hearts when we say “Merry Christmas!”
We also don’t do Santa.
“OHHH MY GOSHHHH— YOU’RE NOT DOING SANTA!?!? YOU’RE TAKING THE MAGIC OUT OF CHRISTMAS AND THE MAGIC OUT OF BEING A CHILD!!!!!!!”
This is what I hear from the peeps who don’t understand our decision.
(This Christmas photo is pretty magical to me)
My answer: no I’m not.
A.) Magic is not an important part of the kind of life I want our children to depend upon.
Imagination, creativity, freedom to dream, explore, experiment and dance silly are integral parts of childhood and are encouraged by myself. But magic? No.
B.) To be encouraged that characters with supernatural God-like powers exist: that they are GOOD (the Good Witch of the East/Wicked Witch of the West, anyone?) and that these characters will grant us material, earthly possessions if we are “nice” is not in-step with my ideal of Christian teaching to our children.
The only “magical powers” I want my children to trust in and rely on are the ones that derive from God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
So one may safely assume that we don’t do Easter Bunny, tooth fairy, Halloween or any of that other hallmark, gift-y materialistic-y nonsense.
I realize I use those words harshly, but I’m trying to stick a point.
I grew up believing and trusting in a Santa and an Easter Bunny… But I also never understood the real meaning of why we celebrated these holidays. I never experienced real joy in celebration of these holidays in my heart until college, shamefully. I am a late spiritual bloomer and a bad listener, I suppose. My parents really did try to tell me. But my dad did not convert to Christianity until my early high school days. The foundation was not as firm with me as it is my little brother who’s 6 years younger. I can’t blame my parents, they were on their spiritual journey! As am I.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable or harmful to teach our children the real reasons we celebrate Christmas or Easter. If I’m concerned about the ultimate attainment of getting my children to Heaven, can I start centering their focus on Christ too soon? I think not.
Happily, Catholics do celebrate a Saint Nicholas. And this is the “Santa” our children will grow up knowing.
(Our happy Christmas boy, last year)
I’ve written once before about how we don’t celebrate Halloween in the way society celebrates it. Glorifying the spooky, the gruesome, the witches and vampires is, again, not in step with how I want my children to be reared along with Christianity.
Mostly, because I acknowledge there is evil present. Real evil. If glory isn’t given completely to God, who, is it then given to? Again, as Catholics, we happily celebrate the real lives of saints who, as human as you and I, lived their flawed human life, in struggles & turmoil, triumphs and blessings but always turned to Christ to lead their steps, always giving all glory to God.
I remember, after being told that Easter Bunny and Santa did not exist, my young mind trying to work out the confusion of who exactly that magic came from, whether magic is real, and who should I trust or look to for miracles?
The answer is obvious to me now. But I feel that as a parent, if I keep it very simple until they’re old enough to understand, I will continue to teach that God alone provides true and worthy miracles. That if my children are finding themselves wondering if “magic” is coming from anyone other than God, they need to stay away from it. It’s why we don’t encourage zodiac/astrology reading, fortune telling, palm reading, ouija board or anything involving a spiritual realm that has no full foundation in Christ. I wrote about that a few months ago, here.
(Oddly enough, I played the Wicked Witch of the West in our high school musical, The Wizard of Oz…. goodness, it was a blast!)
I don’t think this will take the excitement out of Christmas morning. I still get excited and I’m on the opposite side of our kids now!
I think, however, it will add a sense of true gratitude and love.
I never knew, growing up, in my Christmas present high, to look at my parents and say, “You gave me these things? You did this for me? Thank you. Thank God for you, Momma and Dadda.”
It was always “yeah, yeah, baby Jesus was born, but CHECK OUT MY NEW IPOD!” …of course iPods n’éxistais pas 20 years ago… But you know what I mean.
No, I don’t have some high expectation of overly reverent, saintly children who open their toys and run them down to the homeless shelter and then run back to church to sing praises to God.
I mean, I’d be thunderstruck if one of my little boys did that. I’d be proud to tears. But I know they are kids. I know. I was one.
I’m hoping I can lead them to be better human beings, though, than I AM.
The way I place importance upon material possession in times when those materials honestly have nothing to do with the reason for celebrating, can help them become better human beings, I believe. And teaching them to trust in the miracles and powers of God alone will aid in leading them to Heaven, I hope.
This is the way we would like to raise our children.
But I’m not writing in blood.
And I’m certainly not writing this to point judgmental fingers at parents who wish to raise their children differently.
I know friends who grew up with little to nothing and now take great joy in giving to their own children what they could not be given in their own childhood. Many parents take Christmas -in a true Christmas spirit of joy- as an opportunity to give to their children and to others.
I write this not to justify my thinking, but for others. For others who, like me, need the idea. I genuinely appreciate a different idea. Sometimes a simpler idea. Sometimes an idea that makes me uncomfortable about my own decisions, makes me think a little deeper. And if the idea is backed with good, God-centered reasons, I feel relieved to convert from the societal norm. Parents are placed with great pressure to keep up with what our neighbors or other family members do or have. Whether we want to admit it or not, I’m sure we’ve felt it from time to time. So there’s my idea. With my reasons for it. Until I find a better one :)
Care to share yours?
Also, the stocking? I count that as “bonus” :)