12.20.2012

What they wanted for Christmas this year

Last year my kids gave up their Christmas so Mom, Dad and "Santa" could donate to an important cause, one far away in Ethiopia. This year, we worked hard again to down play Santa's role and influence by strongly suggesting they need to give it up again this year and help others who need some love.

* Disclaimer
I know the previous and the following might sound high and mighty. I don't know how to talk about how much I love our new Christmas tradition without being obnoxious. So please, friends, if you play up Santa and do Elf on Shelves and all the stuff that goes along with it, great. I do not judge you. For us, Santa makes so little sense for a few reasons. 1) We have two children who have celebrated Christmas for years and years with zero mention of Santa. Are we supposed to concoct a lie about how he only visits the US and somehow consistently forgets Ethiopia, and try to come up with another lie to explain why so many books and Christmas movies readily profess he flies ALL over the world, which is obviously not true? 2) We are Christian, we heavily celebrate Jesus' birth. The commercialism and materialism that accompanies the Christmas season feels to me in conflict with much of Jesus' life and teachings.  3) Perhaps most influential of all of these is that some of the kids respond very very poorly to New Things. New things in our house and breaks from routine cause anxiety, fighting, uncertainty and tension. A day filled with Many New Things can be a bit of Nightmare on Scooping it Up Street. With all these factors combined, Christmas has steadily been getting smaller every year that goes by. If you are a family that can have balloons in your house, because this is "normal" and "fun," you may not have any idea what I am talking about. If you have children that cannot handle things like balloons because they cause raging meltdowns for hours, days or if balloons stick around long enough, weeks, you will understand why eliminating most presents (and all balloons for the next five years) on Christmas is important to us. This is what we need to do.

PS. Hubs grew up loving the Santa tradition and is not as hell-bent on just coming straight out and telling the kids he is a hoax and getting on with life as I am. He skirts the edge and dangles the magic a little. I have no idea how to do this as my parents never "did" Santa. To me it is all very uncomfortable and I appreciate his willingness to downplay and replace Santa for the most part. In summation: I will not begrudge you your Magic and Santa, as long as you let me share about our almost-Santa-free version.

* End of disclaimer

This year, our Christmas Cause hit a little closer to home, helping children in our own backyard. Some who really needed to feel joy.

The back story: Every week we have the immense delight in visiting the best library in the world.  Best in great part to the amazing, generous staff who welcome my busy, screamy, running brood with forbearance and gentleness every time we come like a hurricane through the elevator doors. Look at this place. It is like a church.
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They nurture my children.
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Support their interests and talents.
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The angel women who work here and share love of literature with our family held a book drive for children in transition. Kids who have lost their homes, are living in shelters; kids who need Christmas. Getting my children on board with this effort was an easy sell: We have at least two hundred books in our house. Maybe more. We check out twenty or more from the library each week. Daily, almost hourly we are blessed by access literature, and wanting to share this magic inspired my little ones. With care, and a feeling of responsibility, the kiddos combed through the books we have, carefully removing the newest ones  (Because we can always buy them again or check them out from the library, these kids need them more! They So got it.) We also ordered a gigantic cartload of our favorite books from Amazon to donate. This money would have been our kids' Christmas from their parents or Santa and we gave it away. The children were so proud and excited to bring their treasures to the library and tell their favorite ladies what we had for them.

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They rained literature into the arms and laps of the librarians and felt glorious about what they were able to give up, and give.
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And thus, this is how we get rid of stress during this important season. Christmas is truly calm and bright  when my children do not write letters begging for gifts and expecting them. Those things just caused chaos, melt downs, and anxiety in the past. Now, they have a good feeling of giving, and zero expectation of the day besides singing songs, making cookies and hoping for enough snow to go sledding. It will be fun to surprise each of them with (shhhhhh!) their very own clip board so they can color and write anywhere in the house and they don't even have to share! And each their own new book by way of thanking them for being willing to give so many of ours away. That is it. That is how Christmas has evolved here.

Thank you again to our wonderful librarian friends, who gave us the idea for our Christmas Cause, and of course, without whom I may never have ventured into a library again after the five or so really bad experiences at the library in our town. We are so lucky. I wish every kid had this place, these people. Another thank you to a few good friends who read about this on the Scooping it Up FB community who pitched in and donated books as well. Thank you for making our pile bigger. You rock.

Final note, if you have kids that seem to freak out every Christmas due to similar factors as some of mine, don't be afraid to just end the madness. Tell grandparents and cousins that certain gifts cannot and will not be given to the children. That this day needs to be slow, with very very few things to open. Taking this holiday by the reigns has taken a few years, and warranted a lot of conversations with the mantra in my head "Just Say No." After a few years of negotiations and explanations, both sides of the family are supportive and help the sanity level in this house. If that is something important to you, I hereby give you the nudge to make Christmas what you want for your kids.

I hope the next few days are fairly calm and happy!

13 comments:

Sharon said...

I love how you're sticking to this, S. And, that looks truly like a lovely library, much the way I feel about ours and the ladies that work there but with a less pleasing aesthetic (the building, not the ladies). :)

Alaina Beth said...

I love this. Just let all the junk go. Beautiful.

findingmagnolia said...

I love your tradition and hope to transition into something similar. We decided to do Santa while our kids are young, but we don't do it like a lot of other families, in which the gifts are contingent on being nice as opposed to naughty. For us, that would be a total disaster. Love and generosity are shown regardless of behavior in our house, and we will not have Santa operate by alternate rules.

We find our model in the real saint that Santa is modeled after, St. Nicholas, who gave in secret to those in need, who was a true model of generosity. So we tell our kids that Santa gives because he loves to surprise people and to be generous. When they are old enough to get that Santa can't possibly be real, we will point them in the direction of St. Nicholas, and explain that we were following his example, and giving something secretly because we love giving. It is my hope that in future years, we can decide with the children who we will be St. Nicholas to.

For now, though, it's really fun just seeing Z's eyes light up when she realizes what day it is and shows up in the living room to find that Santa has brought the one thing she was hoping for.

Sha Zam- said...

I sooo love this. I also love that tsega is barefoot!

cara said...

You're an inspiration. I'm going through a transition period from being a kid who goes home to spend Christmas with her family to an adult who has a home and two small children and has to find a way to make Christmas make sense. At the moment it really doesn't make much sense to me and reading this gave me permission to let go a little bit. So thank you, thank you a lot.

Merry Christmas to your amazing, huge, unruly, beautiful family, and thank you for letting us witness your journey this year.

Cara.

Barb Aloot said...

Your kids ARE Santa. That completely rocks. I do Santa and I love it. And I love hearing about another take on it. I admire your courage to rock the boat and make Christmas what your family needs it to be. All the stuff is hard around here, and this has me thinking about how to make it more manageable down the road.

Crafty Cristy said...

You know, I totally agree with this post. For years, we have really downplayed Christmas at our home. It was the place of refuge from the chaos of consumerism. We don't decorate to the hilt and we try to make it calm for our family.

This year I had surgery and felt guilty about not being able to do the family traditions we have built. I bought a ton of gifts to "make it up" to my kids. Regret. It was a bad idea.

If you are looking for support for your decision, there is a great book that has helped me with this process: Unplug the Christmas Machine.

It's good to "hear" others doing what my heart says is the right thing to do.

scooping it up said...

Barb aloot: exactly. That is how I hope to dispell Santa next year for the older kids, by letting them in on the fun secret that THEY are Santa. That really, "Santa" is the goodness we give to others, not a person that sneaks into the house. And then support every inkling they have to surprise people with kindness, service and yes, gifts. I think it will not be a stretch nor a disappointment. I think they will have a blast with that notion. And it will help them keep the secret knowing that other kids don't know it yet. They will feel grown up and "in on it."

angela ford said...

we don't do Santa here, either. Never have. We take joy in being untraditional... for example the girls put up 4 trees in the livingroom. NOT evergreens - chokecherry and whatever. They are BEAUTIFUL and people comment on how they are going to do that next year.

Also, we have chosen to draw names and do one gift each and a stocking. Too many presents caused great grief and trial for the children especially the first year after the adoption. Young son could not even bear to be in the room while we opened our three presents each. He was screaming his head off in the bedroom the whole time. While things are much much better we've grown to appreciate simplicity.

Karen said...

You know, I am not Christian, but I am married to someone who was raised Catholic. We have had many discussions over the years about how we will approach the holidays with our children (so far, just one, 13 months) - and someone just asked me the other day what we plan to do about Santa. This is the first thing I read that made me think, "Yes! I can get on board with Christmas!" Thanks for this.

The Lost Planetista said...

We almost wrecked our car the other day due to a necessary fist bump between me and my husby when Dew Drop, from her carseat, pointed out "Hey, look! There's the Winter Man again with his big belly and long beard."

She's 4 and doesn't even know his name. Huge victory.

We're not Christian- we just don't like Santa. :)

Melissa said...

What you and your family did is absolutely awesome! That about sums it up. Good work for you guys for keeping down the commercialism and the give-mes that can accompany Christmas.

Mary Kathryn said...

I love this!! I found myself, the last days before Christmas, praying to figure out something better for next year. There were too many "Santa" threats- and you won't get this if you do that and blah blah blah along with some very very horrible behavior by toddlers. I felt blah and actually didn't feel the peace until today-- yes everyone was entertained by their new things but there was peace in my home (well, until bedtime :)