I Refuse to Feel Guilty About Giving My Kids a Traditional Christmas
By Natalie Romero
Photo © brandimarkham/Twenty20
Dec 12, 2019
This piece was written before 2020, when the world changed.
It starts just after Halloween with the Switch Witch. The Switch Witch helps parents who are worried about their kids eating too much sugar by showing up the day after Halloween, ridding the house of the trick-or-treat stash and leaving a little present in its place.
It doesn’t end there. Birthday party invites are going out with instructions stating in lieu of a gift, please bring five dollars. Or maybe it asks not to bring a gift at all.
Find out how an eco-conscious mother is balancing the gift-giving of the holidays with her beliefs here.
Parents are being bombarded with messaging that makes us feel guilty about buying our kids Christmas gifts. Everyone has an opinion on the price limit of gifts from Santa or about why more families should adopt a no-gift Christmas or why kids don’t need toys under the tree.
I’m here to say bah humbug! No candy on Halloween. Birthday party invites specifying what a guest can and can’t give as a gift. No presents wrapped under the tree on Christmas. To me, it feels like we are ruining special occasions for our kids with all these rules. And I think we are removing the opportunities for them to learn about moderation, expectations and being grateful for what they receive.
I Love The Holidays
Holidays are a big deal for me.
I love the traditions, decorations, food and moments of celebrating with friends and family. And yes, I love gift-giving.
On Christmas morning, my house is filled with the magic of Santa from the early morning hours. I love to hear my kids squeal with excitement when they get a glimpse of the presents under the tree. It fills me with joy to see them scatter about, showing each other their stockings and guessing who is getting each present under the tree. And, frankly, I refuse to feel guilty about it.
I'm Dreaming of a Thoughtful Christmas
It’s not about the number of gifts under the tree, how big they are or how much they cost.
I believe it's about the thought that goes into each and every package. Because there is something meaningful about gift-giving and I want my kids to understand that.
My kids don't just love receiving presents — they love giving them, too.
I like that they are learning the feeling of happiness that comes from giving someone else a gift.
The year my son’s teacher organized a Secret Santa in his classroom was his favourite. He put so much thought into the gift he picked out for his classmate and proudly told me how happy she was when she opened it.
Neither of my kids like giving gift cards to anyone, even their teachers. They love the idea of picking out something that has meaning and wrapping it up with a pretty bow. They save their money to buy each other a little present every year and wrap it up themselves, carefully placing it under the tree. It brings them just as much joy as getting a gift.
I like that they are learning the feeling of happiness that comes from giving someone else a gift. I like that they have learned that the price tag on their gift isn’t a reflection of how much they love someone and that the thought they put into a gift goes so much further than their wallet ever can.
The Art of Appreciation and Giving Back
We live close to our immediate families, which means that at birthdays, Easter and Christmas our kids receive gifts from many people. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. But they have learned to appreciate what others have given them.
They understand the time, thought and money it took someone to give them a present. They show their thanks and appreciation for each gift no matter how big or small.
We have open conversations in our home about how fortunate we are that we have the money to buy gifts and fill our bellies. We spend the entire year, not just Christmas, giving back to our chosen charities.
We have open conversations in our home about how fortunate we are that we have the money to buy gifts and fill our bellies.
We raise money for our local children’s hospital, we donate to our local food bank and we fill stockings for families whose children will spend the holidays in the hospital.
My children even come with me to my regular blood donation appointments and have both expressed their eagerness to be able to do the same. They are learning that we all have ways in which we can help make this world a better place and how important it is to give back.
This 10-year-old's Christmas wish list needs to be seen to be believed. Check it out here.
Not Just Gifts
I recognize the problems that can come along with overdoing it during the holidays. There’s the environmental factor of non-recyclable wrapping paper and having an overwhelming amount of stuff. I work at keeping my kids expectations in check and make sure they know what is within our family’s budget. And they’re reminded often that not everyone wakes up to find gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. We try to mitigate these issues and are becoming more and more aware of our footprint, but I think we can do that without outright cancelling the whole thing.
This evening at dinner my kids asked if we would be making gingerbread houses this year. They both said it was one of their favourite holiday traditions. Their Christmas joy isn’t wrapped up in presents. They find the joy in spending a Friday evening curled up in front of the fireplace watching Christmas movies under blankets with big bowls of popcorn. They find joy in having our whole family over for Christmas dinner, carols playing in the background.
My kids do a lot of good and kind things, so that makes me feel OK with a little indulgence on special occasions.
They find joy in putting up the tree together, reminiscing about each ornament and where it came from, never once worrying that our ornaments aren’t colour coordinated and our tree isn’t going to make it into a home decor magazine. They find joy in their Grampy’s cranberry sauce and their mother’s turkey. They find joy in baking Christmas cookies and sharing them with everyone from neighbours to their school bus driver.
Gifts are a part of their Christmas joy but they aren’t the whole deal. My kids do a lot of good and kind things, so that makes me feel OK with a little indulgence on special occasions. More importantly, I think there are so many things they learn from both giving and receiving gifts. So you’ll definitely find gifts under our tree this year.
Some may be thrifted and they will be wrapped in eco-friendly wrapping, but they will be there.
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