My daughter ran up to me waving a book in her hand. It bore a Christmas tree on its cover.
“Mommy! Read me this!” came the shrilly, yet, adorable command.
“Sure, princess. Are you sure you want to read about Christmas?” I asked. It’s June and I didn’t think I’d be reading about decking the halls for another few months.
My daughter didn’t flinch, “Yes, mommy. You read me this book. Then it will be Christmas and then you're supposed to buy me presents.” She plopped down next to me in all expectancy of both being read to and for receiving the presents she’s supposed to get come Christmas time.
Amused, in part, I still grimaced internally, “Oy, and so it begins,” I thought.
Rather than try to reason with the three year old, in the end, I decided to set a goal: this Christmas our family will do something other than presents! But then I wondered if the decision wasn’t too premature. So I eased up a little: okay, maybe one gift per kid, from us, their parents. But what was I going to do about everyone else?
My family has always belabored the idea that asking other people not to buy gifts for your children is rude. One individual in particular took it as a personal assault insisting that to do so was somehow limiting their ability to express their love for a child fully. Considering this history my anxiety level rose, “Oy, and so that begins too, “ I mused uncomfortably.
And yet, there I was, or rather, here I am, caught between two important realities: my kids have too much stuff and other people, family in particular, really love my kids. The solution?
I thought of three potential ways of going about this quandary. First, I considered starting the Christmas letter with: “Dear friends and family: as our family grows, the two bedroom apartment keeps refusing to do so. As such, for the kids, please send cards/ gift cards or cash (we do accept Paypal) only and we, the responsible adults, will know how best to use your contributions for them throughout the year.”
No? Too blatant, perhaps?
How about placing a huge St. Vincent De Paul donation bin outside our door at the start of Advent? “Look at our new family goal for Christmas this year!” I could declare auspiciously to everyone who visited. Hm…it might serve to drive home the message that we are trying to live more by having less. But some might still see it as an opportunity to make up or compensate for our material charity by buying us new 'stuff.' Dang, goodness defeated by goodness, again!
Okay, last plan: take a mini-vacation during Christmas. Nothing deters people from shopping for you more than realizing you aren’t going to be there wildly ripping paper the day of. I don’t know why this works so well, perhaps they become slightly miffed at not being invited, but they tend to keep the shopping and food preparation to a minimal until you return. And by then, the frenzy is over and people can again rationally remember that the holiday is not about materialism.
Of course, in the back of my mind, I can’t help but wonder if I’m just jumping the gun and worrying about the commercialization of Christmas too early. What do you think? Too soon? Or is it ever?
For certain, I have less than six months to coax my little girl into a different mind frame. I did try to spin the little incident into something containing more Christian sentiments. “Abby, did you know the Christmas is Jesus’ birthday? Maybe we should give Him presents?” I suggested, but her little mind was set.
Sigh. Then again, it is June. Pass the sunscreen and blow up the kiddie pool and her little world is complete again!