On Black Friday, the Christmas season officially begins.
And so I’m always reminded of my dear Grandma Victoria, for whom my eldest daughter is named. One year when I was very little, she apparently arrived from Ohio on Christmas Eve to find the presents for us five kids spilling out from under the tree far onto the living room floor. (My dad had a flair for excess.) Anyway, having been a mother of young children during the Great Depression, she was nothing less than horrified. Much later, it was revealed that that particular Christmas she decided we kids had "more than enough" gifts, and so she packed up her own presents which she had intended to give to us, and took them right back to Toledo with her, wrappings and all.
Guess what? Apparently we all survived just fine.
So, this year, can we please just not worry about giving a "great" Christmas (read: super-materialistic) to our kids in these increasingly frightening economic times?
So many people I know in this horrific economy have lost their jobs, are in fear of losing their jobs or, like me, are just cutting back dramatically in all areas of spending out of concern for whatever the future holds. But with Christmas coming, how often do I hear from parents who tell me, "I want to give my kids a ‘great’ Christmas! Only, this year, I have to choose between paying the bills and giving them the gifts they want!"
My advice? Get over it. And pay your bills first.
For what it’s worth (and admittedly that’s an entirely separate question), I hereby give parents everywhere "permission" to let their kids know that this Christmas will be different, and less extravagant — maybe far less extravagant — than unusual. It might even be barely there, so to speak, on Christmas morning.
Moms and dads, your kids are going to be just fine anyway! I promise.
In fact, it may be a blessing to our kids. A little adversity, a little denied (forget just delayed) gratification may enrich them in other ways. How about understanding that the family may be experiencing some difficult times, and that’s when a family pulls together and helps each other out — and the kids have a role to play in this?
So, for instance, I’ve already told my kids this Christmas will be different. I’ve explained to my 7-year-old that even Santa has to think through a lot more carefully what children will be finding under the tree this year.
So often, kids just want to know what "the program" is — and then they adjust to it just fine. I was explaining all this to my 12-year-old recently and she said, "well mom, already we don’t get ridiculous Christmases at our house, we get ‘thoughtful’ Christmases, and that’s better."
Full disclosure and before anyone gives me too much credit: Last year’s "thoughtful" Christmas gift was a long-promised trip to Disney World for the whole family. This Christmas is going to be really "thoughtful" in a whole new way. Let’s see how she holds up after that. I digress.
One suggestion? How about doing a service project as a family this year, or adopting a charity to give get our kids motivated to helping others in this difficult time, perhaps overseas where the difficult lives of children are almost unimaginable to us in our materialist age?
We parents don’t like to say "no" to our kids. (Sure, I talk about using "no" as a complete sentence — but I don’t like to do it anymore than anyone else.) But sometimes when we say "no" to them, without guilt, we say "yes" to growth in their very souls.
What a wonderful gift!
(Betsy Hart hosts the "It Takes a Parent" radio show on WYLL-AM 1160 in Chicago. Reach her through betsysblog.com. For more stories, visit scrippsnews.com.)