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Challenge: Reducing Holiday Stress

How I’m Teaching My Daughter to Be Grateful This Christmas

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It was early in the morning, and my daughter was watching cartoons on the couch in the living room. She was wrapped up in the big fleece blanket, munching on a bowl of Cheerios, when the commercial flashed across the screen.

It was a Disney Princess Dream House, and it was everything. I saw it briefly as I made my way into the kitchen to pour another cup of coffee. “Mom! Mom! Mom! A Princess House! We have to get the Princess House!”

Have you ever heard a plea along those lines? It’s a common refrain among children but the reason it shook me is that up until now, my daughter has never really begged me for anything. Sure, she’ll ask for a lollipop when we’re checking out at our favorite diner, or she’ll nag me all afternoon with a request to ride her scooter on the driveway, but a Princess Dream House? Never.

Something in her switched that morning. I asked her if she wanted to play with her Barbies, or let me read a book to her. Suddenly, it was as if everything she already had wasn’t good enough. She did not want to play dolls. She did not want to read. She didn’t even want to crawl under the dining room table with me and make a fort. That was how I knew something was up.

I became annoyed for a second at her lack of gratefulness. We’d spent a pretty penny building up her toy collection and she had a little brother upstairs who’d be itching to play with her as soon as he woke up. Couldn’t she see that what she had was plenty?

Then, I remembered my own reflections just the day prior. I have a cousin who is building a home on a family farm. She’s picking out paint colors and Facebooking about buying chickens and it’s basically every rustic decor inspiration board come to life. I read all of her posts and looked around at my tiny house by the road. We can see cars zoom by from our living room window and my paint is already chipping off the baseboards, worn down from too many Big Wheels bump-ups.

I’m so grateful for my home, but I can’t always keep that nasty bug of Comparison from sneaking in. And when he does? He brings his friends Jealousy, Resentment and Materialism along with him.

Around this time of year, the bugs seem to be out in full force. And just like I can never seem to dodge the flu, I can’t keep them from invading either.

No wonder my daughter coveted that Barbie Dream House. It’s in our very makeup to want the things we can’t have, especially when they’re pink and shiny and shaped like a castle. My dream castle just looked a little different, but the concept is the same.

Growing up, I was never one to set my sights on a material possession and work for it. The reason? My mama would take us shopping and make a beeline for the discount sections. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of us in the very back of shops at the mall, sorting through circular metal racks for shirts that cost $4, or pants that were no more than $7. We’d hover under overhanging signs that read Hot Deals and we’d bargain with the cashier for an extra discount if we saw an item that had a hole in it or any other minor flaw.

If there was something I saw that was reasonably on sale, we’d buy it. Yet, if it were full-priced, my mom’s famous tagline was “If it’s not on sale, we don’t need it. We’ll check back here in a few weeks to see if it’s moved to the sale rack.” Of course, we wouldn’t go back in a few weeks, but that was OK. I’d miraculously forget about whatever item I “had to have” as soon as we left the store anyway.

That’s the thing. We want something so badly when it’s right in front of us – when it’s on our iPhone, or on our television or right before our very eyes. Yet, if we take a step back every now and then, we often forget about what we wanted and can see more clearly the beauty in what we actually possess.

So this year, I’m doing my part to show my children how very much we already have. Contentment is the goal, especially when we’re already so richly blessed. So we talk about the 15 million children in our country alone who are struggling with poverty. We buy gifts for our local Angel Tree and we love to give every time we hear that familiar Salvation Army bell outside of Target.

It’s not much, but she’s little. We’re taking baby steps and talking about how to share. I read once about a woman who passed away. A girl my age who knew her recounted overhearing her say the most beautiful thing one day after Sunday School.

The woman was sitting with two small children, teaching them how to give freely to one another. “We break our part in half,” she explained. “And then we have two pieces. And we always give our friend the better piece.”

Isn’t that so beautiful? Isn’t that such a goal? To give so unselfishly that we don’t mind if our friends have it a little better? To be satisfied with our piece, no matter the shape or size?

I’m taking my kids out Christmas shopping today. We’ll inevitably run across that prized Disney Princess Dream House. She’ll probably see it and lunge out of the cart to grab it. My hope and my prayer though, is that when she does, she’ll think of a friend who could use it more than her.

That just might convince this frugal mama to buy two.

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