Monday, November 24, 2008

Tightening the Reins

I know that many of you are probably much more organized than me, and have your Christmas shopping almost done, or maybe have been done for a long time now. I usually start thinking of my list around Thanksgiving, and then will gradually do my shopping over the next few weeks, with a last-minute sprint a few days before Christmas. I could say I work best under pressure, but I'm sure I could also just chalk it up to a majorly phlegmatic personality-type (meaning, slooooow to start).

Each year as Abigail gets older, I find myself asking "How much is too much?" Or even "Is one too little?" Last year, Paul and I decided to get Abigail one present. Really, just one. Well, her birthday is four days before Christmas, so we got her one birthday present, an electronic pink keyboard, and we got her one present for Christmas, a flip-out Disney Princess couch. We figured at two years old, she had not yet gotten into the commercialization of Christmas, and we would not appear Scrooge-y.

Saturday, Abigail and I went to run a couple of errands. I had to pick up something from a friend who works at the mall, so while we were there, we did a little "window shopping." We went into the Children's Place, and she immediately took to some sparkly pink and silver belts on the back wall. She tried them all on, with quite a bit of flair, and asked with each one, "Can I have this?" We do our best to not indulge her frequently with such questions, so I explained to her that she could start making a list of things that she would like for Christmas. I then told her that Santa would bring her one special gift just from him, and Mommy and Daddy would get her other gifts. Then I started to worry that, even at not-quite 3 years old, she was starting to want too much. But will we stick with the one-present rule? I guess I kind of figured we would find one "nicer" gift, and then get some little things like books or crayons or something.

My friend Theresa gets their four kids three gifts each. She tells them that Jesus got three gifts, and they don't need any more than what Jesus got.....which I think is a pretty cute response. I used to work with a girl in Muncie who came from a family of, like, eight kids or something. Her mom used this little ditty when Christmas shopping, which I love:
Something to wear,
Something to read,
Something you want,
Something you need.
That way each kid knew they would get four gifts (maybe plus one from Santa?). As a mom, of course, I love to buy clothes for Abigail, but I know that clothes do not top most kids' lists. So, that would cover one item of clothing. A book always makes a nice gift ("What Snowmen Do at Night" is a great winter story if you were wondering). They they could choose one thing they really "want." And the need....well, that could be new underwear or another shirt. It could be new Princess sheets for her toddler bed. It could be a lot of things.

Last year I told this little poem to Paul, and his reaction was "Four gifts? She doesn't need four gifts!!". I guess for a two year old who doesn't know any better, no, she didn't need four gifts. And "need" is very relative of a term. No, she doesn't "need" four gifts. But no kid needs any of the 48 things that they see on commercials and ask for either. I kind of think four gifts sets the limit ahead of time, and they can be much more selective of what they want.

What about you? Did your parents have some sort of guideline for buying you gifts as a kid? Do you have guidelines for how you buy? I could use suggestions! I want to set the standard early. It can be hard to explain what gifts Santa brings, too. My parents always "allowed Santa" to bring my brother and me one gift apiece. But my friend Angi's parents "allowed" ALL of her presents to be from Santa and they "didn't get her any!" So when I would go to her house, I would be confused why Santa brought so many to Angi and only one to me. It's a tough, Christmas-y world out there. I could use all the help I can get.

Edited to add: I discussed this with Paul tonight, and told him again about the little poem and how much I like it as kind of a guideline. He made a change that I like very much. He wants us to instill in Abigail early that just as she gets gifts at Christmas, she needs to give too. So, we are going to have our little poem go like this:
One thing you can wear,
One thing you can read,
One thing that you want,
One for those in need.
Then we will help her choose something each year to give. It can be picking out a gift for Toys for Tots, or for a baby at the Baptist Children's Home in southern IL. It might be giving some money to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to help send missionaries out into the world to tell about Jesus. It might be some diapers or a baby blanket for the Crisis Pregnancy center in our area. Oh, you know the ideas are endless. But I am excited that we can start teaching her early on that giving is a part of Christmas, and that she can help!


debra said...

Im not sure I will be much help. lol. We have decided forgo Santa all together. We finally just decided that within the past few months. It was a hard decision for us since my nephew and Kolt are so close in age and my brother is really into Santa with Gabriel but I am thinking this is what will work best for our family. I think Jesus has enough competition during Christmas. As for a limit. I guess I just look at my budget and see how much I have to spend on little man(I really can't ever see myself spending a huge amount on gifts though). I usually get him 3 or 4 small things (hotwheels, pjs, a train) and one larger thing... This year though, I have seen what has been bought off his registry and I might only get him one thing. He will have plenty even if I don't shop for him but I love buying him gifts. I am thinking he would really like a magna doodle so that is the gift from us I am considering.

nickmal said...

I love your little poem!!!

As parents we know that Santa Claus is a representation of the real meaning of Christmas, the spirit of giving. Christmas is ultimately about being able to give from the heart and not just giving material things. Santa Claus history reveals the story of Saint Nicholas, a religious bishop, who was well known for his generosity towards children and the poor. It is believed that Saint Nicholas entered homes through a window and left gifts for the children as they slept. During the Christmas season, we continue this self-less tradition of giving that Saint Nicholas began. By keeping the Santa Claus spirit alive our children learn the value of giving through special moments that make a lifetime of treasured memories.

Santa's kind and giving spirit touches everyone and he is able to bring back the never-ending nostalgia of childhood for adults too. As adults, we try to keep Santa Claus alive for our children to keep the innocence of their youth as long as possible. The smiles we see on our children's faces when they sit on Santa's knee and the anticipation of Christmas day allow us to somehow live vicariously through the eyes of our children. We may be adults but we're still a little kid at heart.

Remember this Christmas carol?

"Christmas isn’t Christmas ‘til it’s Christmas in your heart
Somewhere, deep inside you, is where Christmas really starts
So, give your heart to Jesus, you’ll discover when you do
That’s it Christmas, really Christmas for you.

Jesus brings warmth like a winter fire, a light like a candle’s glow
He’s waiting now to come inside, like He did so long ago
Jesus brings gifts of truth and life and makes them bloom and grow
So welcome Him with a song of joy, and when He comes you’ll know….

That Christmas isn’t Christmas ‘til it’s Christmas in your heart"

And my personal favorite was written in 1897 by newsman Francis Pharcellus Church:

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Kylene said...

I never really knew how much my parents actually spent on us, but I know they set a certain limit, like $50 or $100, probably got biger as we aged, since things we wanted were more expensive, so maybe for Abigail you could spend whatever $40 or $50, I don't know. As for Santa, we always got a doll when we were little, sometimes a "big" item for all 3 of us, and then stuff in our stockings.

Stacey said...

We never had any set rules about # of gifts, but usually money was tight and gifts were few. Now that we're grown we all go overboard with giving! I guess that's not really a bad thing, right? I don't know.

Anyway, I wanted to comment that I LOVE children's books and I have Snowmen at Night, and Snowmen at Christmas. So cute! :)

Stacey said...

I just saw your update and I think that is a fantastic idea! What a wonderful lesson for your daughter year after year.

debra said...

Love the new and improved poem! I think that is one thing we really want to instill into Kolt as well. We recently started going through toys to get rid of old ones and give them away in preparation for Christmas. We have talked about letting other kids have them so they have nice toys to play with and I *think* he gets it on a very simple level (he had no problems picking out toys to give away). I have also started letting him pick out and make gifts for people. This really started when Michael was in Iraq but we are about ready to have a crafting frenzy to make ornaments for family for Christmas. He is really excited to make special gifts for his mimi and papaw!

Jessica said...

I heard from a friend a year or two ago about giving her kids 3 gifts from Santa because that's what Jesus got. I think she said that her and her husband then gave each kid one gift from them. I really liked that idea and was planning on instilling it with Layla. However, I absolutely love your new version of the poem! It looks like Jeremy & I have some discussing to do. Luckily we don't really need to decide this year.

Jessica said...

I just mentioned this to Jeremy and he had a good question...would this apply to everyone (i.e. mom & dad)? If not, how do you explain that mom & dad can get each other whatever they want and the kids follow the poem? Something to ponder. I'm not sure I'd want Jeremy buying me an article of clothing, nor would he enjoy buying me one. haha.