So back to our Christmas. Year round, we have been striving to be purposeful and to focus less on things. We don't really have TV, we don't watch many movies, we monitor the music we bring in, and we try to limit the number of toys our kids acquire, but it sometimes feels like a losing battle. Some people have told us they think we don't give our kids much in the way of gifts, but lately we have been feeling the weight of the responsibility to set expectations and focus for future years. To that end, this season the girls helped me pack our shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child and chose the toys we donated to our church's Christmas outreach event. At the event, Mirabella made crafts with the children and helped one of the mothers select toys for her kids. We are trying to set a precedent of focusing on others. We plan to deliver homemade gift baskets to several neighbors on Christmas morning. As for differentiating between Christ's birth and Santa's loot, we have talked very little of Santa. We have agreed to allow him into our home, but we are limiting his role. We do not bring him up. We have avoided books and limited movies about him. We do not venture to the mall. We read the Christmas story frequently. We have carved time into our new traditions on Christmas Eve and morning to read and talk about it, and Santa will only be bringing each child one gift.
A co-worker-- upon hearing my take on Santa, why my kids don't watch commercials or need Power Wheels or haven't seen Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Squeaquel, or why they don't eat many treats or know much about computer games-- accused me of trying to control everything. I can see how it could be mistaken for that. It's not, though it certainly is relatively easy to control outside influences at this point. I know it will only get harder and that the foundation we set does not guarantee a certain outcome. But I still believe it's our responsibility as parents to set the stage, to communciate what we, as a family, consider to be of value. Worshiping God, serving and treating others with respect and compassion, loving each other-- these are our core values. And it's not that any of the other things-- including the trappings of a big Chrismas-- are bad, but for us, I fear that they get in the way.
I can't control the fact that Mirabella's birthday falls three days before Christmas or that we have a large and loving family that joyfully lavishes gifts on my children. But I can model thankfulness. I can show that we value experience and time together over things. I can talk patiently with Mirabella about why she received one birthday present (in addition to a party and special day with one-on-one time with each parent). I can try.
I read enough about simple living/homemaking/mothering to know that, compared to many, I am only dabbling in simplicity; there is so much more (and in some cases, less) we could be doing. Which is why I am working hard to quit comparing and focus on doing the best I can by my family.
Merry Christmas to you and yours. May it be filled with love and all the simple wonder it deserves.