Photo Credit: Niki Favors Photography
’tis the season. The season for cheer to be spread, gratitude shared and love given to those around us. No matter what your beliefs and traditions consist of, one thing is sure, magic is in the air.
The use of social media allows us to spread kindness like wildfire, connect with friends old and new and, in some ways, reminds us of those living seemingly perfect lives. Unfortunately, despair weighs heavily during the holidays. Should people post less about their happiness in case others are facing a tough time? Don’t get me wrong, much of social media is masked. I mean come on, when you and your spouse have a fight do you update your status? No. It’s human nature to expose the good and hide the bad.
I’ve read a few posts recently that discuss the Christmas spirit, minimalist gift giving and even give advice to parents about how they should gift to their kids (“tell your kids that the more expensive gifts are from Mom and Dad, and that smaller items, such as socks are from Santa.).
First, Christmas spirit is about being surrounded by family, friends and loved ones. Whatever your belief system is, we can all agree that quality time with loved ones is the most treasured gift of all. The material items are meant in kind gesture, but the traditions we carry are immeasurable.
To the minimalist; I am on board with you, but not in the way you think. The reminder of the three wise men each bringing one gift to Mary holds value that should be passed along to our families. Trust me I’m all for tradition and bestowing knowledge of religion on to my children. I was raised Catholic, and even if I choose not to practice this religion today many of the traditions stick with me. I like to think and tell myself that I too could embrace the three gift “limit”. This year? Not a chance. Who am I kidding, three gifts? I couldn’t narrow down my girls’ stocking stuffers to less than three pairs of socks.
I saw the Pinterest post of three gifts that build a snowman, and as my kids get older I think this would be perfect – one gift to use, one to read and one to wear. Sweet and simple.
So, why did I say I’m on board, but not in the way you think? Two reasons; I’m not limiting my children’s gifts to three to teach them to be grateful. I do my best to instill gratitude and appreciation in my children all year round. If I give them more than three gifts their attention span may get carried away, but their appreciation for what they have will never fade.
Secondly, I have no concern with keeping up with the Jones’. I don’t worry that gifts need to be justified, too big or too little. I also have no obligation to anyone. Why do so many of us allow society to dictate such uneasy feeling?
Our family has different values than others and that is enough of an explanation to cover why we may give/receive more or less than others. While others may feel the need to compare their lives to those they see on social media, I am perfectly happy with what our family has been blessed with.
What is important is that you and your family feel fulfilled. This means doing what pleases you and yours. There is no need to overcommit and feel obligated to attend every event or collect every toy from the list. These actions will not lead to fulfillment.
I’ll admit most of my shopping was done well in advance, for my kids that is. Yes, I splurged on a couple bigger items such as a doll and an interactive stuffed plush. They may get tossed in the toy box in a couple weeks only to be played with when I shoot down my toddler’s request to watch a TV show.
You know what’s different about the gifts under our tree? They are books, spelling puzzles, counting challenges and clothes. The toy box where things get lost? It’s full of blocks, magnets for building, puzzles, letter recognition tools and counting cards. Have you caught on to my theme yet?
They’re resources. My kids may not NEED all the extra flash cards in order to learn. However, I value learning through play and if my daughter chooses one technique over another I’m going to have options available.
What you will not find are electronics, and battery operated light and sound gizmos.
And guess what? I don’t go overboard to keep up with anyone else. My kids will be overjoyed with what they receive. They will understand that other children receive different gifts from their families and Santa.
Lastly, I do my best to instill gratitude and kindness. Not only do my daughters receive, they’re thankful. At the end of the year I have them collect some gently used toys that they no longer play with and we donate to those less fortunate. I do this for them to learn a valuable lesson, they don’t need as much as they have.
I’ll close with this. Remember the true meaning of the holidays. What they represent. The hustle and bustle of shopping, sales, and needing to have the perfect gift for your husband’s boss’s wife do not need to be on the list of priorities. This isn’t meant to sound selfish, rather a reminder of the invaluable time that should be spent with family, the joy in creating your own traditions and instilling the value of giving over receiving.