Friday, December 10, 2010

The Perfect Christmas

I grew up dreaming of a Little House on the Prairie Christmas. I remember an episode where there was so much snow on Christmas morning that they had to crawl out an attic window to dig out the presents hidden in the barn. That's what I wanted. 10 feet of snow. And the presents, of course. Like most kids, I was in it for the presents. And the sweets. My vision always included a huge pile of gifts under the tree and an endless buffet on the table. I sang right along with Julie Andrews when she crooned "Brown paper packages tied up with string. These are a few of my favourite things."
As I grew older, my vision of the perfect Christmas evolved. In fact, it took a right turn shortly after my husband and I became parents. At first, we got caught up in the vicious work-more-to-make-more-so-we-can-do-more cycle. That didn't last long. We started downsizing our careers to spend more time at home, ultimately changing our lifestyle pretty drastically. The chains of materialism started to fall away, and the joy of spending precious time as a family became increasingly important.
We're not trying to earn a spot at the right hand of God by acting pious, and we don't expect the kids to be selfless or denounce their worldly possessions. Far from it. We'd have more if we could afford more, I assure you. Money still makes the world go around, and everything seems to get more expensive every day. Our kids want things just like every other kid. Jonas' wish list would be as long as my arm this year, if only he'd sit at the table long enough to write it down. We have everything we need and lots of what we want, but part of me still wishes a jolly old elf would arrive on Christmas eve with a big box of money.
The unfortunate reality of not living with a big paycheck is that we can't afford a sleighful of brand new store-bought presents. We struggle with other people's perceptions of us but, more importantly, we worry about our kids' perception of themselves. We compare ourselves to the Jones' more than we should, and we don't want our kids to feel like they are less worthy than people who have more - or holier-then-thou because they have less. We don't want them to feel left out or left behind, and we don't want them to think that they did something wrong, or are somehow inadequate, just because we don't say yes when they ask for something.
What we don't want most of all, is for their self-worth to be tied up with their net worth. They aren't perfect, but it doesn't take much to make our kids happy. They don't have to have the newest, biggest or flashiest toys on the block, and they don't toss their old stuff aside just because a "better" model comes along. They take care of the toys they do have and sincerely appreciate it when they get something new. I'm so proud of them when they treat a homemade gift, or a hand-me-down, with the same respect as something new from Toys R Us.
Now that really is one of my favorite things!
"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."
Dr. Seuss
(How the Grinch Stole Christmas!)

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