I’m one of those people who secretly doesn’t mind when stores start decorating for Christmas right after Halloween. I LOVE Christmas. The reasons are rooted in my childhood, my Faith and are now bursting at the seams with my husband and five children. We start celebrating the day after Thanksgiving when the tree and decorations go up.
Truth be told, it can be a roller coaster ride to get to Christmas in one piece when the excitement can so quickly turn to impatience. I only have 6.5 years of parenting under my belt, so I will not pretend to be an expert. But I have learned many lessons about Christmas that I offer as a small gift to my fellow Moms:
- The Magic starts with you. It’s hard to be generous in all things when we are already giving everything we can each day. But taking the time to select Christmas themed books or movies, for example, has a surprising impact. Whatever this holiday season means to you, make sure you find ways to reinforce it daily – otherwise TV commercials and school bus chatter can turn it into the materialistic nightmare we all fear.
- The Green Eyed Monster. Having lots of children in a close age range means they have similar interests. This is a blessing when they play well together, but it is also fertile ground for jealousy. I’ve come up with a ‘saying’ in these moments: “Be happy for yourself, but also be happy for others.” Pause and talk about how they feel when they receive a new gift. That happiness is something everyone should have, and even when it’s not our turn, we find happiness for them.
- Sharing. The jealousy issue relates to sharing in a way. I used to over-emphasize sharing. I wanted all my children be nice and share all the time. I’ve lived and learned this is not actually what I want…Now with gifts there is a one-day rule. The recipient just started enjoying this special item and so they can choose not to share for the first day. After that, they do need to share if they are done with their turn. I used to set timers and keep all things equal. I’ve come to realize that I want them to have ownership of things, of themselves. They should share their toy when they are done OR simply out of kindness. There are better results this way. The kids know they have ownership and control, so not only do they feel empowered by that but it also increases their desire to share and show goodness. It’s coming from them as opposed to me forcing their hand.
- Changing Minds. My kids change their minds about everything all the time. Milk. No, juice. No wait, water. Multiply that by five, it gets really old. My husband and I try very hard to give one or two choices and end the discussion, but it’s a constant struggle. This is no different with Christmas lists. My husband is the shopper so he would be perfectly happy to buy them anything and everything they rattle off, but I am more practical than that and am big on Christmas Magic. Santa is supposed to bring that ONE special thing you want most of all. In order to lock them in we started a tradition of writing Christmas lists to Santa. The weekend after Thanksgiving they make their final decision and put it in writing to Santa. Then the kids put their letters in the mailbox to the North Pole and the job is done. (Side note: The town of Colchester happens to be very adorable and the post office writes BACK to each child!)
- Stars on Santa’s List. We used to be heavy users of Santa’s List to threaten good behavior out of our children. That somewhat has lost its sway since Christmas is a month-long season and waiting that long for a consequence diminishes its effect. We now dish out and take away ‘stars’ on Santa’s list for good and bad behavior. It’s immediate and effective. They are very proud when they earn stars and quite devastated when they lose them. (These are not actual stars, it’s just something I say…).
- Giving and Receiving. When I was a new parent I was worried about having greedy spoiled children. I wanted to provide well for my children and make their wishes come true…but I also feared what it would mean to give them everything they want. Luckily we as parents grow as the children do. Kids get excited about a lot of things all the time – so it’s actually easy to say ‘no’ on a daily basis and keep them grounded. But I also came to realize how important it is for them to receive gifts. It is a source of joy, excitement and happiness. Seeing that special toy from Santa on Christmas morning is one of the happiest moments of the year for them. That is the feeling to talk about, the joy they feel receiving a gift….and that is how the importance of giving is then taught. They know how special they feel to receive a gift, so now they know how special someone else will feel when they give a gift.
- How much is too much? Me and my husband have swung both ways on this: endless mountain to rather stingy. As ever, it’s a balance that works for you. One year there were literally gifts left under the tree for a couple of days after Christmas. The kids were so enthralled with their new favorite things they did not care about those extras. Just food for thought!
- Acts of Service. At least once during the Christmas season we find a way to give our time in an act of service as a gift. Last year we helped deliver Christmas cards at a nursing home. Just the presence of children brought incredible joy, let alone their sweet conversations. Hoping to do that again this year.
- Tradition. This is a funny animal to me. We have traditions, but they are always evolving. My best advice here is to make them your own. Cherry-pick from childhood, family traditions or your favorite holiday movie – but make them yours and not dependent on someone else’s.
- Joy. Celebrating the magic among the madness. Having one child, or two or ten…it’s always a little crazy. Let those free spirits reign and see the world through your children’s eyes. Seeing a shooting star as Santa’s sleigh and striving to teach goodness and giving is what makes this the most wonderful time of year.