I don’t know about you, but I know very few parents who really like extra stuff. Figuring out how to celebrate the holidays and birthdays were on the top of my list when I found out I was going to get to be a parent. How to make things memorable, but keep the stuff at a minimum. How to make things meaningful and not material.
We have one year under our belt so far; rather successful in keeping the “stuff” to a manageable amount. One of the keys to managing stuff, around the holidays, in our home is to stay a beat ahead of everyone else.
When trying to figure out the holidays last year I had a bit of a revelation … I can’t control other people. I can beg, plead and make all the overarching announcements I want, but I really can’t control what Henry’s grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles get him or in what quantities. We will always try to offer up suggestions like giving experiences and “Please for the love of all things good and holy no “My Own Little Ipad”, but our influence on others stops there.
There will be things brought in to our home that wouldn’t chose ourselves, but the intention is good and that’s what I need to honor as a wife, mother, daughter and daughter in law.
I might sigh at the big hulking plastic contraption that now takes up a good amount of space in my living room, which some how continues to make noise despite all my best efforts, but I can’t deny the thought that went into the purchase. Someone loves my son. A friend or family member chose that out of a desire to make my son happy. There are children around the world that would love to have such a thought directed towards them. So in the end I learn to love whatever they give.
However, we can control what we do and what we bring into our own home.
After much hemming and hawing we have arrived at a plan for Christmas (and a trial run last year). While I don’t love copious amounts of unnecessary stuff, I do love the Holidays – I love stockings, Santa, presents and everything in between and it’s been a challenge to find the right balance between memory making and stuff piling.
We could give into every whim and spend a couple K that we don’t have buying things that we’ll only have to upgrade in sixth months when the Ghost of Steve-Jobs-Past issues out the next best do-hickie the world can’t live without.
Or we could forsake the holiday as an evil pagan tradition and shut up our home to the blinking lights and toss the plate of cookies out the front door, saying “Get behind me, Santa!”
Yeah… not so much.
Instead, we’ll do Advent and we’ll do charity. We’ll do Midnight Mass and Nutcracker Ballets. We’ll do thoughtful Holy music and silly secular songs. We’ll do Santa and family and way too much food and we’ll do presents.
We’ve got a plan for that last part and this is what it’s come down to-
- Christmas Eve Pajamas – a new set of pj’s for each member of the family to be changed into after Christmas Eve service. We like to cuddle up to our favorite version of A Christmas Carol in something comfy.
- A Stocking and Santa Presents – A couple small presents and treats – perhaps a book or movie or small toy and definitely new socks and underwear. (Santa is highly practical in our home).
- The 3 Gifts – Mom, Dad and each kid will get three main presents off their Christmas list. Kids (and adults!) can make a list of more than 3 items, but will understand that 3 is what they will get come Christmas Day. We hope to tie this into the gifts of the Three Wise Men.
- While our kids are young we also take advantage and give them a variety of used and new gifts – at the moment Henry doesn’t know the difference. If someone else playing and outgrowing something means I can give my child a better quality toy and break a bit of a consumer cycle than I’ll do it. Not everyone thinks this is great – I’m not sure all my friends and relatives “get it”, but for now I’m a mother with a budget who’s trying to do right by her family.
I was worried last year that our present “limit” would amount to a scarce looking assortment of gifts under our tree but I’ll tell you – 9 presents, a Stocking, plus the gifts to and from our immediate relatives spread from under our little 4 ft. tree and across the fireplace with no hint of mean parenting or childhood deprivation.
And in my humble opinion a little deprivation might be worth the trade off in the future as I take my own advice and spend less time in the stores, less time with stuff and more time with my friends and family trying to make the HolyDay meaningful and memorable …. without the Stuff.