In December, you won’t catch me near a mall.  For one, I’m not a fan of crowds.  For two, holiday shopping seems to bring out the worst in some people – cranky, self-absorbed and rushed are not great combos for most.  And lastly, I am thoroughly disgusted with the consumerism of the holidays.  Do we need more “stuff”?  Really?

Whatever happened to love, peace and joy?

For us, the holidays are all about family time (and good food).  The present-giving side of things is secondary, or at least, we try to make it that.

So in comes one of my parenting theories that I call KEEPING IT SIMPLE.  I believe that kids can be happy with simple pleasures, and that we as parents ruin it with the “more is better” approach.  Yes, I think that we as parents are the prime cause of greed in our children.   Just think for a moment.  Who buys more and more stuff, bigger, and more expensive gifts every year?  Who makes birthday parties elaborate (and expensive) events, almost like trying to “out-do” the previous year?  Unfortunately for most parents, the answer to that question is best answered by looking in the mirror.

I think that it is us, as parents, who get so caught up in wanting to give them things that we ruin the tendency in our children to be happy with the simple pleasures in life.  I have seen kids ecstatic over stickers, not to mention rocks, sticks and bugs – and yet, we seem to think they NEED the latest toy.  They HAVE TO HAVE something.  And so we get it.  And then we wonder why our kids don’t appreciate how good they have it.

I contend that what kids want MOST is quality time with their family, to feel safe and heard and loved.  The stuff is secondary – and yet in our busy lives, sometimes it is easier to come by than time.  And this seems to be especially true if we inundate ourselves with media, commercials, and too much time in the malls.  (One reason, amongst many, why we have not had cable TV in our home for years)

I asked Ethan: “If you could get every toy you could ever imagine, but mom and dad would be working all through the holidays, and you’d hardly see us – which would you choose?”  His answer, immediately forthcoming was this: “I’d rather have time with you. But I’d like one toy.”  How’s that for honesty?

I also contend that kids WANT to use their imaginations, and that we have become so accustomed to giving them toys and gadgets that entertain them – with minimal creative input on their part – that we unwittingly destroy that most-glorious, time-occupying, magical-world-creating power of imagination.  In essence, we have forgotten the magic of a cardboard box.

With all of this in mind, we have tried to keep our family traditions simple.

Santa brings one gift per child.

We do the stockings.  And that’s it.

We buy one toy each for our 3 nieces (and one newborn nephew!)

We make gifts for family.

  • For us, this includes an annual photo calendar (which Apple makes really easy)
  • The kids make a gift every year (this year’s is still a secret, but you’ll hear about it later!)  These have included framing their finger paintings when they were little, personalized blankets and shirts made with fabric paint, hand painted ornaments, and pottery (a more costly trip to a do-it-yourself studio that was my option on a busier year).

And as a side note – I personally exempt grandparents from any limitations.  In my opinion, they have earned their right to spoiling their grandkids in whatever way they choose. (of course, that’s easy for me to say when Dean and I have parents whose choices are always ones we are happy with)

As for Dean and I, we do simple stockings for each other.  (My only request is a good book to read)

And so when I get asked, “Are you ready for the holidays?”, I can say yes.  Ask me any time of year.  Keep it simple, and you’ll always be ready.