I don’t know about you but sometimes around the holidays I dream of simpler days. My stress starts to take over when I know I have forgotten a gift or realize the gift I procrastinated about won’t come until FEBRUARY! This means my kid will cry and blame me AND Santa that Christmas is ruined forever. (I exaggerate a bit, but sometimes it feels that overwhelming.)
The constant pressure was wearing me out, and testing my patience. I realized that December was NOT merry and bright or peaceful and calm. Peace had left the building one black friday ago. I was ready to get our family back to focusing on the real meaning of Christmas. One for my sanity, and two so my kids could practice what it looked like to truly GIVE instead of just RECEIVE.
Am I against presents? Heck no, there is nothing more special than a beautiful thought out gift underneath a real Christmas tree. One that took time and effort.
But for the last couple of years we have done our Christmas lists a little bit different for our immediate family. We wanted to try to bring back the meaning of Christmas and somehow tangibly help our kids know it’s more about PRESENCE than PRESENTS. Since we know grandmas and grandpas will be loading them up with gifts, we try to keep our lists more simple. It helps me stress less and really be thoughtful about some of the gifts on their list.
Here is the list the family writes down:
1. Want. 2. Need. 3. Read 4. Experience 5. Give
WANT: is something pretty self explanatory, something they have carefully thought about for more than 1 day. Something they really want. This could even be the one they write their letter to Santa about.
NEED: Does your kiddo have no matching socks like my little one, or needs some new pants, since they look like they are crossing the river in their high waters they have outgrown? Maybe they need a new school supply or something to help them read. These are usually practical things for my family, but it helps them realize the difference between a want and a need. (I may want the new pair of Sorel boots, but I don’t need them, as I already have plenty of shoes in my closet.)
EXPERIENCE: This one is my favorite. This is the one that the kids actually remember. We let them both pick an experience they can do with the family. This year my daughter is choosing to get her ears pierced and my son chose a trampoline park where we all had to participate. One year he picked the new Star Wars movie and Carter Mae picked getting a manicure.
It doesn’t have to be big expensive experiences, the main thing is to make it a special time to spend time being present with one another. Don't just drop your kids off or let them play, really play and experience it with them.
GIVE: The last one give - this one is the magic one. This is the one that changes our perspective. This is the secret sauce to getting rid of the "I deserve this," attitude. I ask my kids who they would like to GIVE to this year. It's different than giving a gift to a family member or friend. This is something we carefully research. We ask the kids what stirs their heart or what they are passionate about giving to.
Some ideas of how to give:
Call a local homeless shelter and see what items they need.
Sponsor a child from somewhere like Compassion International or World Vision. (my mom brings a catalog from these non-profits and the kids pick what to give as their Christmas presents from her. This year they picked mosquito nets, soccer balls, and helping girls who have been sex trafficked.
Take cookies to a local police station.
Visit the local nursing home and do crafts together.
A great book to help you throughout the entire year: Simple Acts: A Busy Families Guide to Giving Back
We have started a December GIVING calendar, to intentionally set their hearts and minds on giving. Do we do what is listed on the calendar every day? HECK NO, but we get as many as we can in. We try (key word: try) to make sure our entire family is living December especially on behalf of others instead of ourselves. The Christmas presents are awesome, but it means so much more when we have gratitude for what we get. A little perspective change when we see others’ needs goes a long way. Try it with us this year. Add your own and get the kids involved - they have the best ideas!
Grab your calendar HERE and we will send it straight to your inbox!
Happy holidays from our family to yours!