In America, Christmas gift-giving can in a lot of ways be characterized by one word: Frantic. Think about it; all across the country people are waiting in frantic lines at frantic stores buying gifts from frantic employees. Then they drive home in frantic traffic, frantically wrap the presents, only to be opened by another frantic person on December 25th.
I feel frantic just thinking about it.
And somehow I don't think they had frantic in mind when Christmastime was dubbed the most wonderful time of the year.
Now, lest you be misled, I must first say that overall, I LOVE the holiday season. I LOVE Christmas. I also love giving gifts; especially to my daughter. (And hello, who doesn't love self-giving). But this year, my husband and I are approaching a stage with our daughter where she is actually starting to understand this whole gift concept -- as opposed to simply trying to choke on the wrapping paper like last year. And because of her enlightenment, I am looking at Christmas in a whole new light as well.
What does all this frenzied holiday brouhaha say to our little ones about Christmas and the true spirit of giving? How can we teach her it's not just about getting everything you want around the Christmas tree? And how do we do this when society shouts otherwise and even her semi-perfect parents are prone to getting sucked into the Christmas buying vortex? (Just ... can't .... stop .... clicking .... and ....buying ... Amazon Prime ... free shipping ... ).
There have been a lot of parenting blogs circulating around cyber space regarding similar topics. Some parents have suggested giving away a toy in order to receive any new toys for Christmas. Some have suggested having a limit to the things they can put on their "list". Some have suggested throwing out the list completely. And still others suggest throwing out the gifts completely and giving their children an experience such as a trip or adventure versus a tangible gift.
I have to say these are all good thoughts. Well done thou parents of cyber space!
I'm going to take this a step further though. There is a popular saying that was first muttered by a man named Jesus who, coincidentally, is the guy who is said to have kicked off this whole Christmas thing, and he said; "Don't value and hoard things that can be destroyed by things like rats or fire, but instead store up where they cannot be destroyed; in heaven."
No matter where you fall with how you feel about this Jesus character, I think we can all agree that's pretty sound advice. Things break. Things get stolen. Things get lost. Things burn up. So, instead of getting all frantic and placing the utmost value about the stuff around the Christmas tree that will likely be destroyed someday (in our case by a 150-pound dog or bolting toddler), maybe we want to get crazy about the stuff that will truly last forever.
My daughter is only two right now. And I don't think she is going to grasp this concept right away. Let's face it, I have seen how greed can body-snatch my hazel-eyed, angel princess and turn her into a snarling, gnashing green-eyed monster. Mind you, again, she's only two. And all of us at any age have that same greedy monster. (Think 50-percent-off-boots-with-free-shipping type greed. Mmm. Mmm. Exactly).
So, my challenge for myself as a parent is to not feed that already powerful green-eyed monster that is waiting to body snatch us all. Especially not at Christmastime.
As I was writing this, I remembered a friend that accomplished this beautifully with her kids. Her question to them when Christmas came around was not "what do you want for Christmas?" It was, "what would you like to GIVE or DO for someone for Christmas?" The emphasis was never on what they received rather it was on what they gave.
Poof. My mind was sufficiently blown.
This is Christmastime come to reality. Gift-giving not out of obligation or the expectation of something in return. And gift-giving of one's self; not purchased from a frantic place, from a frantic employee, or out of a frantic heart. Sincere giving mirrored after the very first Christmas story.
This is the type of giving I want desperately to teach my daughter and by teaching I mean showcase it in myself. The true sacrificial giving that has the ability to take the frantic right out of Christmas and put the wonderful, beautiful part right back in.