You read that right, this year I'll be telling our 3 and 4 year olds the truth about Santa. The decision came pretty quickly after watching this video this morning. In case you can't head over and watch it right now, it's an Ikea commercial that shows children being asked to write two Christmas lists- the first is to Santa and the second is to their parents. You'd think the contents of these letters would be similar, but they couldn't be more different! The first lists include physical items such as games, instruments, and even a unicorn. The second letters however, include more intimate desires including spending time together, getting more attention, having dinner together, being tickled, playing together as a family... etc.
"Imagine! You want to
give them the best you can,
and the best is yourself!"
At the end of the video, the kids are told they can send only one of their letters out and are asked to choose between the letter to Santa and the one for their parents. Can you guess which letter they unanimously chose? You guessed it! It's the one to their parents. These kids value quality time and fun with their parents over the extravagant lists of toys from Santa. Woah! If you don't have the chills or tears or both, then you're probably not a parent haha. I'm not sure how true this video was, but I know that the message they portrayed is absolutely valid and so important!
I have been struggling for months with how we are going to celebrate Christmas this year. I had a few things in mind that are essential- not getting into debt, getting the kids involved in giving to the needy, going through an advent plan as a family, not feeling guilty about receiving unwanted gifts.. But I still wasn't 100% sure how we were going to tackle the issue that is Christmas gifts. I knew that if we were going to not be giving any out, we needed to inform our friends and family of our plan so that they wouldn't be spending time and money on us expecting something in return. And that's the problem right there!
Christmas has become
a time of guilt instead
of a time of grace.
I don't know about you, but it doesn't take much to cause me to feel guilty! Especially around this time of year.. God forbid you forget to get a gift for someone and they show up with something for you. My eyebrows just took on a nervous expression just thinking about that scenario!! The giving and receiving of temporary physical gifts has taken over this season that is supposed to be about the incredible eternal gift that Jesus gave us 2000 years ago- the gift of His life! He gave us the opportunity to spend our lives with Him by coming to earth as a baby and spent His time with imperfect people, sinners, people like you and me for approximately 33 years. As a Christian, Jesus is my example & I strive to be like Him in everything I do. In all unsarcastic honesty, my kids aren't asking for 33 years of quality time. I think it would be accurate to say they'd be happy with an hour of undistracted time with Mom and Dad a day. Why is that so hard? Do I really want to buy them more things to distract them so that I can have time to myself while missing the ages and stages of my kids that, once outgrown, I'll never get back? Again, woah.
God in all His power probably could have created something to send down here instead of His Son. A quick and easy gift. Last minute, DIY salvation available for all, day or night. It would have been convenient for Him & it may have even been more convenient for us. It wouldn't have been the same though. The intimate time He spent with us proves His amazing love for us. Would we as Christians feel as loved if God had simply left a gift for us to open, watched excitedly as we opened our gifts, then after a few days went back to whatever it is He does up there, expecting us to remain occupied with an amazing gift but no one to share it with? It's an extreme comparison to make, but I don't think it's inappropriate.. He is our Heavenly Father and we are told to imitate Him. Eph. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. This verse is specifically referring to walking in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us.
He graciously gave us the
ultimate gift of time with Him
here on earth and in Heaven.
As I sat there pondering the message of the video, I realized that our generation has done a fine job of raising children whose expectations of Santa are often unrealistic and do little but promote stress and disappointment. Kids stress about choosing that big toy or game or whatever it is for their list while their parents are most likely stressing about how they're going to afford that big item. Unfortunately so many families experience disappointment on Christmas day when their high expectations of gifts are unmet. Sometimes is out in the open and sometimes it's just an inner heart sinking feeling we get when we are disappointed. Either case, this is so sad!! This season of love, giving and appreciation has become a season of thinking we deserve to get whatever we want.
True story-- When I was little, like between the ages of 5 and 8, my parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I was quick to tell them. That year my heart was set on a pink and white polka dotted bathrobe. Well, Christmas came and it was time to open my gifts. When I opened my gift and saw the robe, my excitement turned to utter disappointment. The robe was striped-- not polka dotted. I have been told my family that I screamed and cried and pretty much ruined that Christmas. I can't even imagine the anger and frustration that resulted in my parents because of my selfish reaction. I'm sure they were hurt. They spent hard earned money on that robe and were so excited to be getting me something I had been looking forward to..
I wonder if my expectations would have been different
if I had known what my parents sacrificed for us to have a
beautiful, family-filled Christmas that year?
Now I'm going to make a third list. A list of ways I can prove my love for my kids through gifts that will promote spending time together. I want them to experience the joy of opening gifts on Christmas morning and to keep experiencing joy as they play with their new things with the people they love and admire the most.
Betsey (age 4 1/2)
-a bat & a ball. She's pretty good at hitting already!
-board games & treats. Hmm.. she does share my appreciation for chocolate. :)
-watercolor paints, a giant notepad & aprons for both of us. She has been wanting to paint so bad. I have been saying no because of the mess and clean up time. :(
-books. We've read the same books for years. Need some new and exciting ones!
-a stool for them to reach the kitchen sink and help out with cooking. Aprons would be handy for this as well!
Beverly (age 3)
-a mommy & me class. she loves all things dancing, singing and gymnastics. She would be ecstatic if she got to do those things with me in a class!
-a flashlight. So many reasons! They're just fun.
-dress up clothes. Maybe some for me too to get myself playing with them. :)
-a soccer ball. She's quite good at running and kicking the ball!
...I have to admit, making these lists isn't easy. It's so much easier for me to think of all the things I can get them that will make my life easier, like movies and toys. I already know I'm going to need to remind myself that those things aren't bringing us closer as a family. This Christmas I am going to tell my children the truth about this beautiful season of grace and giving, do my best to help them appreciate and love people, and try to bring as much joy and quality time as possible into my home.
I'd love to hear your ideas for family-time promoting gifts! Please share your ideas in the comments. Maybe it'll help a child spend more time with a parent or family member this year! <3