Lower Expectations = Stress-Free Christmas

Think her mom ran all over town trying
to find the season's hot gift?
People think kids need presents for Christmas--and lots of them--hundreds of dollars' worth per child. Parents even let the kids dictate, to a certain extent, what they want, via a wish list. Many of these same kids are ferried around, allowed to dictate the dinner menu, and have parents who do almost all the housework. Parents are relegated to a serving role while kids are coddled. Is it any wonder, then, that Christmas is a financial and emotional drain? What if I can't find the hot toy on my kid's wish list? I'd rather run from store to store, or overpay on eBay than disappoint my little princess!
Does this come to your house? Cancel it.
But, we can teach our kids that it's not about me, me, me, and model it ourselves by not demanding the latest gadgets or fashions, a bigger house, or faster car. We can practice contentment, using our resources instead to take care of our own financial obligations and to care for the legitimate needs of others. And we can teach discernment with advertisements, such as, "Yes, that remote control helicopter with built-in video camera in the Toys R Us ad looks really fun, but it doesn't look well made, and it would probably break after it flew into a wall, and all we could do is throw it away, and that wouldn't be a good use of resources," or, just promptly recycle the ad. And point out that, "Yes, your friend Suzie has some really great American Girl dolls with all the fancy accoutrements, but     (list trade-offs here, such as day care, stress, less leisure time)         in order to work to pay for those fancy toys and a big house to fit them in."

Remember simple Christmases, by
buying this plate you don't need.
If we teach children right, we needn't worry they'll be deprived. It's loving, caring parents they need, not a bunch of fancily wrapped packages that become outgrown, broken landfill fodder, or clutter bound for U-Store-It. Remember  Little House on the Prairie, how the Ingalls girls delighted in oranges in their stockings?

Kids need to learn to care about others. I have a friend who lets her kids decide, in lieu of a bunch of presents, which non-profit organization to donate to each Christmas. Kids can have such big hearts when it's cultivated and modeled by the adults in their lives.

We get our son one or two gifts for Christmas, from a garage sale or thrift store. He remembers what they were. He enjoys them, more than a toy we might buy last-minute from the store, throwing something mildly appropriate into the cart amidst a throng of last-minute shoppers, just so he'll have a haul as big as his friends'. Raised this way, he does not expect a Christmas-morning windfall. A kid with other expectations will need to be told ahead of time that family priorities are changing--not because times are tight, necessarily, but because excess consumption doesn't really provide lasting satisfaction, and it does not fit with the family values.

But a parent who isn't stressed, who doesn't need to work overtime, and who teaches values that matter is the best gift of all.

1 comment:

I'd love to have your comments and reflections!