As Christmas fast approaches I can’t help but get sentimental about holidays past. Days filled with decorating, list making and excitement as Santa’s arrival approached. Presents hid all over the house from spying eyes, the pitter patter of tiny feet scurrying upstairs as Mr. B and I patiently wait to fill stockings. Nowadays wrapped presents are in plain view, decorations are put up in quiet solitude and stockings will be filled well before bedtime arrives. The fun gifts that once required batteries and “some assembly required” now are replaced with much more practical choices that read “dishwasher safe – top rack only”.
When your children are little everyone tells you to savor the moments as they are fleeting. It’s true. Just when you think you’ll lose your mind if you step on one more Barbie shoe, Barbie’s handler is graduating college and in need of pots and pans.
So, here is some holiday advice for younger parents living in the “Santa” moment.
- Home. In our early years of raising our daughters we were up early, dressed and rushing out to see every grandparent, aunt, uncle and cousin in between. While we loved seeing everyone I always felt torn when I had to make my kiddos get dressed, leave their new toys behind and head out for a long tiring day. Finally, one year I put my foot down and we chose pajamas, cuddling under blankets with a movie and a quiet day at home. Don’t be afraid to make your own rules and do what’s best for your kiddos. Any relative who has raised a little one will understand.
- Traditions. Find traditions that fit with your family. As a child, I always envied friends who had fun holiday traditions like seafood at midnight after mass, new pajamas every christmas, or a standing holiday dinner reservation with family at a favorite restaurant on Christmas Eve. When my girls were little we started a tradition of new pajamas on Christmas Eve left by none other than Mrs. Claus herself. Santa’s gal wanted everyone to look their best for pictures Christmas morning. Upon our return from church everyone came home to find a wrapped package with new PJ’s waiting. After running in to our bedrooms we all meet up in the living room for a pajama fashion show. Now that everyone is grown we are trying out a new tradition and heading out for Chinese and a movie.
- Ornaments. Each year I search high and low for an ornament that represents a significant event or activity from our year. There’s a hot air balloon ornament from the year we took flight over Sedona’s red rocks region, blown glass from Colonial Williamsburg and the many figures from my daughters’ multiple team activities. Perhaps my favorite was a suitcase ornament with stickers from Rome, Paris and London which matched the cities visited on our European journey a few years back. Every year when they are put on the tree its an opportunity to reflect back to the awesome adventures we have had as a family or a successful season in soccer or volleyball. As my children move on to their own Christmas trees it makes me happy to know they have a box of treasured memories waiting to don their tree.
- Save. If you have a bunch of kiddos why not just wrap some hand-me-down toys for the youngest? I had a friend who told me that when baby number four arrived instead of going broke bringing more plastic into their house, she simply re-gifted some of her older children’s toys. That Little People play set can be re-gifted to the delight of the newest member of the family and your pocketbook.
- Magic. Childhood is so short lived. For the brief moment when Santa is real, reindeer can fly and elves are at work I say embrace the fun of it all. Throw carrots out on Christmas Eve for hungry reindeer and leave cookies and milk for the man with the goods. Maybe leave a boot print or two on the carpet for Santa before ringing jingle bells loudly while calling out, “Santa was here!” and waking up the whole house. If you choose to let the elf out of the box, have fun with it! You can go Pinterest crazy or simply move him from room to room so he can report back to the big guy at the North Pole. FYI there is no need to spend the $40 for the Shelf Elf. Find a cute little guy at a discount store or flea market and make it your own. I have friends who have an angel and a snowman that wander all around their abode every December.
- Create. I’ll admit I am not much of a baker but I can rock a gingerbread house kit like no one else. When my kids were little we used graham crackers and fluff to create little houses. Today we get the kits from IKEA and spend time decorating together with new husbands, cousins and boyfriends. Stressed out college kids and grumpy overworked dads all get into the construction of their masterpieces and everyone is belly laughing when the first roof caves in.
- Appreciate. My girls have been blessed with grandparents, aunts, uncles and close friends who spoiled them silly at Christmas. They became easily overwhelmed with the holiday and couldn’t really appreciate all the wonderful gifts they received all in one day. Years ago, I started collecting several gifts from the big day and putting them aside. On a random Saturday, snow day or occasion where the words, “I’m bored” were uttered, I would visit my gift stash and grab one of the unopened gifts. The girls appreciated the gift so much more and were kept busy for hours with a “new” craft or building activity.
- Connect. My children were too old to start this tradition but I hope they will consider it with their own kiddos someday. Christmas is more than the big guy in the red suit and unfortunately while we do a good job with the presents we forget to stop for a moment and remind our children of His presence. A friend told me about their tradition of each child receiving three gifts each Christmas morning symbolizing the three gifts brought by wisemen for baby Jesus. As her children grew older the gifts grew to three themed gifts like a basket of horse riding gear, a basket of new clothes and a basket of toiletry items. I always liked this idea because it keeps spending in check and connects the holiday back to the “reason for the season”.
- Give. There are lots of opportunities to give back this time of year. Turn this into a meaningful discussion about those less fortunate and, especially for youngsters who no longer believe, give them the opportunity to be someone else’s Santa. Whether its a food drive, donated toy or the opportunity to serve, your children will learn that it is truly better to give than to receive if given the opportunity.
Christmas is a magical time for young children. Just make sure you’re not too busy checking off your to-do list to fully enjoy it. Wishing you and your family a blessed Christmas and a peaceful New Year.