I sat down to write a post about chores and how to navigate that tricky aspect of child rearing, and ended up writing this post about Christmas. I think what happened was we went to town last Saturday and, once again, I got amazed and stunned by the…..stuff. And at that point we hadn’t even had Thanksgiving yet! I know. We say this every year!
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Christmas. The gifts, the gratitude, the unwrapping (well, not the midnight wrapping so much). The food and family. Parties. The TREE!! The music is incredible. But, along with all of that fun, the holiday has a flip side. It can bring out some major wanting, and impulsive urges in the best of us.
A Good Christmas
Redirecting old programming can cause discomfort and doubt. That duality, the joy/angst sandwich, can leave anyone with lingering emptiness after the holidays are over and taint the memories, kind of ruining Christmas, if we let it. Children are especially vulnerable to these disappointments.
So, what makes a “good” Christmas? Think of it as not only a celebration of magnitude, but also put a little time into thinking about what you want your children to learn from this holiday. The permanent lessons. Be specific. Ponder it. Write it down. Then make a real plan to build your Christmas around your goals.
Some Christmas-y Thoughts
Teach your children about charities, nonprofits, and volunteering. Tell them why this is important – that we often do things for no personal gain in this world. Find a volunteer activity you and your children can begin, and will continue indefinitely. Collaborate with your children. Decide, and then, together, put it on your brand new 2015 calendar for once a month or so. And don’t let anything take its place. “Mom, we can’t have a playdate next Wednesday. Remember? That’s the day we volunteer!”
Help your youngsters select a couple of their toys that are truly in good shape. Wash them with soap and water and dry them. Give them a little paint for creativity. Oil, tighten, put a new ribbon around its neck. This is not the time to discard things that really need to be recycled. It is a time to give up something they still sort of care about. Discuss the memories and take pictures of the toys after they are ready to go. Then start an album for these yearly pictures and make a big deal about adding the new ones.
Donate some good books to the violence free shelter in your town. There are kids in those shelters, more than usual during the holidays.
Visit a Senior Center to play games with elders and listen to their stories. Teach them some new games. Have you played FLUX?
Volunteer at a no-kill shelter to walk, pet, talk to the hopeful little critters. Take a bag of food. Sometimes they just need a little human contact to get through their ordeal. This does NOT mean you are obligated to come home with a new fuzz every time you go, though.
Give each child some money for a budget if they do not have their own. Make a simple list of gifts. and supplies for making some. Help them make, select, pay, wrap, and give from their own budget. And if there is money left over in their budget, have them give it to the bell ringers or animal shelter. Frugality on this one translates into generosity, not personal gain.
Make sure every child gives their own present to their family members. From a very young age. Not just one you bought for them to give. They have little money and their gifts should reflect their personal economic standing, not yours. Help your youngsters design a plan for their giving and make sure their plan gets done. Get creative and put effort into handmade, homemade, inexpensive, free gifts that show your child’s personal touch and creativity. And watch for the grins on Christmas day.
4. Ideas for Giving
Make a crackly cat toy on a braided yarn string for someone’s kitty – noisy paper in a ball with yarn around it,
Make a pop-up card for Grandma – she will love this, and will treasure it forever
Teach your child how to root and plant a cutting from a house plant that likes indoor light. Concentrate on one that will survive, rather than one destined to die once the holidays are over. Together, learn about the light and temperature in its new home and what kind of care it needs. Help your young horticulturist write up an info card to go with her gift.
Help your child think of three favors he can do for three people. Help him make three cards that tell about the favors and why he chose that favor for that person. You know, you might need to help make sure the favors get done, and in a timely manner.
Put together small fruit baskets. Fruit is so delicious and some people feel awkward about receiving sugary gifts that they can’t or won’t eat.
Build one of those tiny library boxes to put outside your home and start maintaining it together. Check on it. Replenish it. Put notes in it for the borrowers thanking them for their patronage.
Teach your children to bake something besides sugary sweets. What about small freeform loaves of whole wheat raisin or herbed bread? Don’t know how? Bread is easy and fascinating to make, and one recipe will make several small loaves. Think how this emphasizes that holidays can be about healthy food.
5. Shop Wisely
Stay out of the car, malls, and box stores for, say, 50% of your shopping. Try it. Look for smaller local, unique shops and resale stores if you need to buy something. Stay home and make things while you listen to holiday music, or any music you like for that matter.
6. Thank You
Teach your little elves to write actual ThankYou notes to everyone who gave them a present…..even immediate family…..even if they have said thank you already…….and mail them! Get out those new art supplies they got for Christmas and go for it! You know how nice it feels to open an unexpected thank you note – don’t you?
What new and unusual traditions can you and your family dream up? Quirky things that really solidify memories. Stories you will all tell for years, even when you are very, very old. “Remember the year Dad gave each of us one sock and we had a scavenger hunt to find the other one?” You would never forget that one, would you?
So, have fun and have an unforgettable holiday! What special memories or events can you share with others here? I would love to hear about gifts or ornaments you have made with your children.