When I became a parent, I was so excited about all of the first that I would get to experience with my children. I anxiously looked forward to their first Easter, birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I, like so many parents planned each of these milestone events with a lot of grandeur and fanfare. There were so many things to consider and coordinate like menus, outfits, costumes, party themes and invitations.
The event themselves ultimately became so large that they begin to eclipse the reason behind the celebration and the experience for my children. At the time I didn’t recognize that my actions were not singularly focused on my children, as I believed that I had carefully planned around the theme they wanted, purchased the toys they selected, and invited all of the right guest. I truly thought I was doing what a good parent would and should do.
About nine years ago during the Christmas holiday, my boys unsuspectingly made me keenly aware that special occasions had become more about my perception of what a good parent should do for their children rather than creating special moments and cherished memories for them. Initially, my intentions were purely to make sure they had a great experience by providing the best of what I could offer.
Yes, that included getting great gifts from Santa, decorating, baking, and making special care packages for their teachers. However, somewhere along the way, that morphed into ensuring that everyone also recognized what great parents we were by hearing how great a Christmas the boys had. Looking back, I can clearly see that I was just as excited about the adults hearing about what Santa left, sharing Christmas morning photos, and retelling the tale of smiling faces on Christmas morning as I was about sharing the moments with my kids.
We had established a tradition in our home in which the boys had to give away some of their toys before receiving new ones for Christmas. So every year we cleared out their toy chest and donated items to Goodwill. The items that were still new and in the box from the previous Christmas were taken to local shelters. We would also select an organization to purchase and donate children’s gloves, skull caps, ear muffs, and scarves to.
Each year I was amazed, because the boys seemed genuinely excited about giving to others. They never once gave away a toy begrudgingly nor did they try to hide or hold on to a toy. Once the boys and I delivered the donated items, they were allowed to make their Christmas list for Santa. We told our kids that although Santa was responsible for making the toys, mommy and daddy still had to pay him for making and delivering their toys. I felt it was important for them to know that the toys they were getting were not free and that we had to work hard to pay for them just as we paid for everything else. That particular year we gave them a limit of selecting only five toys each.
Well to our surprise neither of them were able to come up with five toys they really wanted. It seems that giving them a limit forced them to really think about what they wanted and be very selective in their choices, rather than just write down everything in the Toys R Us catalog. We asked repeatedly if their list were complete and even gave them back a couple of times so they could add to them to no avail. Although, their Christmas lists were light, their hearts seemed to be full of excitement about decorating the tree, baking cookies for Santa, and eating with the family at our annual Christmas breakfast.
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